The Minnich Telescope
The Minnich Telescope was given to the students of the University of Nebraska by Commander Charles Bell Minnich (1915- ) B.Sc. E.E. 1937 UNL, formerly of Palmer, Nebraska, so that students might see our sun close-up in the daytime and experience the beauty of our universe undiminished by the cold of the winter night.
The main lens of this telescope, six-inches in diameter, was made by Commander Minnich's grandfather, Charles Sumner Minnich, M.D. (1859-1926). He was the country doctor for the Palmer, Nebraska area, and a man with both a love and a talent for the stars and things scientific. In 1905, the kindly Dr. Minnich made a twelve-inch diameter telescope lens to help fulfill the dream of his friend, G.D. Swezey (1852-1934), the first Professor of Astronomy at the University of Nebraska. That dream was to create a first-class telescope and observatory for the students of the University of Nebraska. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Minnich and the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University, a beautiful 12-inch refracting telescope came into being.
Now, all that it needed was an observatory to protect it from the elements and facilitate using the telescope for teaching and research. The elegant and thoroughly complete observatory was designed by Professor Swezey. Funding for the observatory was approved; then withdrawn almost immediately due to unexpected increased costs of another building just being completed. This, as it turned out, was the end of Professor Swezey's dream; although he tried for many more years to keep it alive. The 12-inch lens so carefully made, languished in storage for about six decades, and then disappeared. To this day, the whereabouts of the missing lens is a mystery.
Some eighty years later, through the new Minnich Telescope made possible by the generosity of Dr. Minnich's grandson, Commander Charles Bell Minnich, the students of Nebraska were finally able enjoy the Minnich family's contributions to astronomy at the University of Nebraska.
Commander Minnich is a UNL graduate in electrical engineering, who has worked for much of his life in the aviation and aerospace industry where he specialized in industrial radiology, electronics, and metallurgy.
Commander Minnich has a passion for both astronomy and the sea, which he has combined as an astronomy lecturer on ocean cruises and by his quarter century of involvement with celestial navigation in the United States Power Boat Squadrons (concerned with civilian boating). He is a retired rear commander of the organization and chairman of the Navigation Committee. He has written monthly articles on astronomy and navigation for Ensign magazine, a text, "Introduction to Astronomy," and has rewritten the, "Advanced Celestial Navigation Course." His contributions to astronomy continue with lectures on, "Astronomy at Sea," given on the Royal Viking Line Pacific Cruises.
The Minnich Telescope was dedicated on May 5, 1988. It is our sincere hope that this new Minnich Telescope would have pleased Dr. Minnich and Professor Swezey.