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Clark, Alvan 1804-

Optician; born at Ashfield, Mass., March 8, 1804, a descendant of the captain of the Mayflower. He showed a genius for art in early youth, and became an engraver and portrait-painter. In 1835 he relinquished engraving and set up a studio for painting in Boston. He was over forty years of age before he became practically interested in telescopemaking. Owing to the extraordinary acuteness of his vision, his touch, and his unlimited patience, he was specially skilful in grinding lenses of enormous size. Just before the Civil War he produced object-glasses equal, if not superior, to any ever made. One, 18 inches in diameter, then the largest ever made, went to Chicago. It revealed twenty stars, hitherto unseen by mortal eyes, in the nebula of Orion. With his sons, Mr. Clark established a manufactory of telescopes at Cambridge. They have produced some of extraordinary power. In 1883 they completed a telescope for the Russian government which had a clear aperture of 30 inches and a magnifying power of 2,000 [183] diameters. It was the largest in the world, for which they were paid $33,000. At the time of his death, in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 19, 1887, Mr. Clark was engaged in making a telescope for the Lick Observatory, California, having a lens 36 inches in diameter. After his death the business was carried on by his sons.

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