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Biographical entry Beames, Ken (1900 - 1989)

New South Wales, Australia
Engineer and Astronomer


Ken Beames was a foundation member of the Sydney Amateur Astronomers (now the Astronomical Society of NSW) and built the Linden Observatory on his own land in the Blue Mountains, NSW. He was also creator of many superior telescopes including the 24'' reflector which is housed at the Observatory.


After serving in the Middle East during World War I, Ken Beames returned to Australia and studied to become a fitter and turner. He also studied electrical engineering and once graduated began working in an electric motor factory. Beams attentions soon moved to astronomy and he began building telescopes and other optical equipment. In 1948 his newly created brass reflecting telescope made it on to the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald - the key newspaper of that time. Two years later Beames created the 24'' reflector telescope, which was the largest privately owned telescope in Australia.

When World War II broke out, Ken Beames set to work manufacturing high quality equipment for the Australian and British troops. His products included rifle sites, periscopes, reflectors, sighting telescopes and munitions. Beames constructed his own grinding and testing machinery, and even built a furnace to make his own glass from sand when usual supplies of lens-making glass ran out.

Once the war ended, Ken Beames returned his energies to the field of astronomy. He bought a large block of land in Linden, New South Wales and set about constructing an observatory. It took around 40 years to complete and included some outstanding equipment including the 24'' reflector telescope. Beames left the Observatory and its equipment to a trust to ensure that the site be preserved to promote the study of astronomy. It is now jointly managed by the Linden Observatory and Museum Association. It is thought that through out his lifetime, Beames created at least 450 telescopes.

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Orchiston, Wayne, 'Ken Beames: Australian telescope-maker extraordinaire', Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 107 (2) (1997), 83-7. Details


Annette Alafaci