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The Journey to Palomar


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Product Details

  • Directors: Todd Mason, Robin Mason
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: G (General Audience)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: November 18, 2008
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001FSDP30
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,999 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

The film traces the story of the Chicago-born astronomer George Ellery Hale, considered the father of astrophysics, as he struggles personally and professionally to build the greatest telescopes of the 20th century at the Yerkes and Mount Wilson Observatories, and finally the 20-year effort to build the million-pound telescope on Palomar mountain beginning in the 1930s. Hale's observatories revolutionized our understanding of the universe.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. Rydzinski on November 4, 2008
Having seen this film 3 times now (most recently at a screening in the dome that houses his final creation, the 200" Hale Telescope) I am glad to finally be able to add it to my collection!

Journey to Palomar takes us along on the journey that was the life of George Ellery Hale. From a small boy up through the building of four of the worlds largest telescopes. The film makers also included some awesome information about the future of large telescopes. Thanks to Hale, we have a better understanding of the universe around us.

I consider this film a must see for anyone interested in Astronomy, and a great starting point for the rest of us. It shows us that one person through drive and determination can make a difference.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Stodder on April 30, 2009
This is a beautiful documentary that tells a compelling story about how some very American traits -- individualism, salesmanship, sensationalism, competition, even greed -- became the basis for one of mankind's greatest scientific achievements, mapping the universe.

George Ellery Hale was born to privilege, but in Chicago, where even the wealthy and influential need a combination of sharp elbows and charm to get ahead. He applied what he learned in order to get support for the Yerkes Observatory from a dastardly streetcar tycoon, for Mt. Wilson from the ultimate captain of industry, Andrew Carnegie, and finally, for Mt. Palomar from the heirs of Rockefeller.

That Hale was driven by a passion for science, not personal wealth or glory, makes the story more fascinating. The man literally ran himself ragged in his quest to build telescopes that first proved and then added to Einstein's theories, eventually suffering from stress-induced hallucinations. As is said in the film, Hale had "the American disease" -- a nervous breakdown caused by ambition and overachievement.

At various points, there were serious doubts about the viability of Hale's ideas. The sequence at the Corning glass factory, illustrated by some amazing archival footage, is a good example. It was unknown whether glassmakers could produce a mirror of the size and perfection that would be needed to make the telescope work. The sequences demonstrates American ingenuity, but also shows the high degree of frustration and disappointment that must be tolerated along the way toward an engineering breakthrough.

The film effortlessly shifts between the drama of how the telescopes got built and what they taught us.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 22, 2009
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I had the opportunity to see this documentary presented in its near final cut at Caltech in the presence of most of the living members of the Hale family. It's an excellent effort, and well worth watching for anyone interested in telescopes or the history of astronomy. Also a good choice for inspiring a child interested in astronomy or engineering.

For nearly a century (93 years by my count) the largest productive astronomical telescope in the world was one of Hale's creations. (The Yerkes 40", the 60" and 100" on Mt. Wilson, and the 200" Palomar telescope, named after Hale.) He also established the the Yerkes, Mt. Wilson, and Palomar Mountain observatories, co-founded the Astrophysical Journal, was instrumental in creating the modern Caltech, created the greatest solar telescopes of his time, invented the spectroheliograph, and conducted research in solar astronomy. This documentary is good introduction to the amazing man Hale was, and the unprecedented accomplishment the "Hale Telescope" represented.

A documentary can't, of course, give you the depth of information that a good book can. If this DVD whets you appetite for more, turn to "The Perfect Machine" by Ronald Florence for more about the 200" scope, or "Explorer of the Universe: A Biography of George Ellery Hale" by Helen Wright (sadly out of print, but available used) for more about the remarkable man.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stargazr on November 17, 2008
This documentary is just brilliant! What George Hale did for astronomy is mind boggling. I urge all of you reading this not to miss this enoromously important film. There is a book too, it's called The Perfect Machine by Ronald Florence.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nick on February 16, 2009
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This DVD is a must for anyone teaching Astronomy and the history of US observational Astronomy weather as a Home-schooler or in a classroom .It presents the Stories of the Palomar and the Yerkes Telescopes and George Ellery Hales obsession with building larger and better Telescopes in order to push forward Mankind's Knowledge of the Universe in a clear manner. As with all PBS Home Video's it's good value for money and a valuable addition to a home or school collection
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DC Holland on August 17, 2010
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I am an amatuer astronomer and just loved the history of Palomar Observatory (actually worked with the 18" and even touch the 200"). You really get a sense of what it took to complete such a huge endeavor back then. Hale was a wonderful man. Also have the book 'The Perfect Machine' about building the 200". Would like to see other stories about Lick, Mt. Wilson, Yerkes, etc. Turn of the Century Astronomy, got to love it. Thanks
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This is a very well made, 90 minute biography of George Ellery Hale, the well-born, brilliant, driving solar astronomer (or astronomical entrepreneur) who was responsible for the building of the successively larger observatories: Kenwood, Yerkes, Wilson and (postmortem) Palomar. I would only add that the theme is interpreted through the dry scientism of the current era and that, in a rather amorphous way, the spirituality, for want of a better word, that was the motivation behind Hale and his coworkers is lacking. One ends wondering why it was all done. A second criticism I would have is that the comment is made that Hale had hallucinations, in telling others of the little elf who bedeviled him. If you read about Hale in depth, you'll find that the elf is simply his personification of his episodes of depression, much as Abraham Lincoln personified HIS depression as a black dog. He did not hallucinate this critter. (Overall, it would seem that Hale was most likely bipolar, with his energetic pursuit of observatory building the result of his manic phases - and that he was not a schizophrenic, the mental illness more typically associated with hallucinations).
Finally, amateur astronomers will relish the brief segment of Russell Porter, the fellow amateur who participated in the design of the Palomar telescope and building and who left us such pleasing drawings of these.
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