24 Inch (.61 meter) Telescope for Air Force and University of Hawaii

One of the first telescopes at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. It has been decommissioned. For more information visit the University of Hawaii website

Photographs below are from the archives of Dr. Dale Cruikshank, formerly at the Institute for Astronomy UH Hawaii, and now at NASA Ames.


The Beginnings

Arnold O. Beckman, a California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California alumnus and now the successful founder of Beckman Instruments and Helipot Corporation, became a benefactor furnishing Boller and Chivens startup finances to be able to acquire machinery and equipment.

Harry Boller and Clyde Chivens formed their partnership in 1946 naming it Boller and Chivens. The company was founded to design, manufacture, and install high quality precision instruments.

Boller and Chivens leased one-half of a lower floor of a building at 1018 Mission St in South Pasadena, California, to begin their company. Arnold Beckman would stop in at least once a month and inquire if every was going well and inquire if any funds were need to continue in the business.

Boller and Chivens continued affiliations with their Alma Mater, Cal Tech, and it gave them a multitude of contacts for many of their first endeavors in their new business.

Boller and Chivens started contracting jobs that were outside the range of the normal job shops that started up after WW II.

Boller and Chivens then became involved with jobs that were highly scientific in nature.
The business continued growing with more and more customers. Boller and Chivens then leased the other half of a lower floor of the building doubling their shop area.

With more added growth, they constructed an added area for office space and an engineering annex at the rear of the building.

Next, A Major Expansion

A Major Expansion

By the early 1950’s Boller and Chivens had completely outgrown the 1018 Mission St. property so they then purchased Arnold O. Beckman’s Helipot Division’s building at 916 Meridian Avenue, South Pasadena, California. Helipot Division was moving to Orange County, California.At the 916 Meridian Ave. Building the Boller and Chivens now had room for private office spaces for both Harry Boller and Clyde Chivens, secretarial office space, an accounting office, a reception secretary, and a purchasing office with an adjoining office for manufacturing work planning and scheduling.

•A separate engineering section was acquired.
•A precision machine shop area with precision lathes, vertical-mills, drill presses and surface grinders which had their own large area for all precision machining.
•A larger area was reserved for heavier machining such as large lathes, mills and drill presses. The larger parts for telescopes and other products were machined in this area.
•A well-equipped tool room was there for both types of shops.
•A complete onsite Weld Shop for ferrous and non-ferrous materials.
•All shop-manufactured and vendor supplied parts were directed through a well-appointed technical inspection room.
•All machined parts went through a complete inspection before any outside processing such as plating, anodizing or any specialized outside processing was made.
•All finished parts and incoming vendor supplied items were inventoried and placed in assigned storage cabinets for each individual project.
•From small parts to all large fabrications there was an on-site paint booth for all finish coatings.
•Final products had their own semi-clean assembly area.
•Several areas for large and small assembly were available.
•A complete electrical and electronic assembly area was created.
•A dedicated shipping and receiving area

Types of products would include such contracts like oil well deep hole research instruments, Motion picture editing instruments; Aerial photo reconnaissance instruments and multitude of many other scientific devices were manufactured and assembled.

Boller and Chivens was now recognized as a mainstream scientific instrument machine design and developer in this type of industry.

Next: The First Introduction to Astronomical Telescopes

The First Introduction to Astronomical Telescopes

The Telescope is a 120-inch (3.0 meters) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in California. At the time of installation it was the second largest telescope in the World. The largest at the time was the enormous 200 inch Palomar Hale Telescope. Later the Lick telescope was named the C. Donald Shane telescope.

The inauguration of Boller and Chivens into the telescope and astronomical instrumentation field occurred in 1956.  William Baustian, an alumnus of California Institute of Technology and a good friend of Harry Boller and Clyde Chivens, was then the chief engineer for all mechanical aspects of the telescopes and dome activities for the new Mount Hamilton 120-inch telescope.

Bill Baustian recommended that the Boller and Chivens Company should become involved in the competition for the manufacture and installation of the Right Ascension and Declination slow motion drive machinery for the telescope as well as an Automatic Dome and Slit Positional Transmitter device.

Boller and Chivens was successful in obtaining both of these two contracts. These contracts now became the Boller and Chivens Company’s first introduction into the major optical telescope field.

Shortly after the Lick Observatory contracts,  Boller and Chivens teamed with Josef Nunn Associates to design and manufacture a 36-inch fork type telescope mount. The telescope was initially called “A Light Bucket.” It is unknown where this telescope is now located. It would be the earliest complete telescope manufactured by Boller and Chivens.

This contract and plus another contract to build and deliver a second 36-inch reflecting telescope, again designed by Josef Nunn Company, launched Boller and Chivens into the modern telescope era.

Next: Additional Growth

Additional Growth

Boller and Chivens, after several more years of growth, was again required to expand their assembly and electronics areas so they purchased a building across the street at 915 Meridian Avenue and moved their Engineering Department to this new building.

More space was again required  so we expanded the rear of the building to include additional engineering space. Boller and Chivens Program Managerial Staff now moved to the front of the 915 building. When Boller and Chivens acquired the Microdensitometer program, it occupied the rear portion of this building.
An additional building on the Southwest corner of Meridian Avenue and El Centro Street was acquired. This building would house a needed publication and reproduction facility and a newly formed special precision instrument machine shop was added and a large area was acquired for additional special assembly.

At this time Boller and Chivens had the opportunity to purchase outright a company that was producing a large complex electromechanical instrument called a Microdensitometer

A Microdensitometer group was then formed under the umbrella of Boller and Chivens with their own specialized sales, engineering and production of this new product line.

Acquisition of this additional building now gave the added room necessary for this new Microdensitometer group.

Next: Open Houses

Open Houses

Frequent open houses were held for visitation and public display of Boller and Chivens products. Completed 40 inch telescope on display above.

Larry Burris, sales director for P. E./B & C telescopes, facing left-center.
Hank Brockschmidt, west coast director P.E./B & C operations, on left-rear of Burris

Clyde Chivens, in center of photo, speaking to gentleman in yellow coat

Next: Aquisition by Perkin Elmer

Acquisition by Perkin Elmer

Perkin Elmer purchased Boller and Chivens in 1965. It was now known as Boller and Chivens Division of Perkin Elmer.

Soon after the acquisition of Boller and Chivens by Perkin Elmer a fourth building was purchased to house the additional Executive Staff to operate the expanded division. Boller and Chivens Division was now located on the four corners of Meridian Ave. and El Centro St. It was a very busy place with several large telescope projects under-way in their assembly area.

Telescope Assembly at Boller and Chivens in its Productive Years

Pictured from left to right: John James (inside secondary mirror cage), Clyde Chivens, Hank Brockschmidt, Larry Burris, and Bill DeBoynton (at the 40 Inch right ascension drive)

Next: Final Relocation to Garden Grove

Final Relocation to Garden Grove

In the early 1980’s, the Boller and Chivens division of Perkin Elmer combined with the Perkin Elmer’s Applied Optics Division that was located in Costa Mesa, California. The division was named, Applied Optics Division of Perkin Elmer. The Applied Optics Division had for a number of years been grinding and polishing all of Boller and Chivens’ telescope mirrors up to 40 inches in diameter. The Applied Optics Division also had many government and non-government contracts for producing all types of small and large optics from many exotic materials.

Due to the combination of these two divisions, one last expansion was made. Don Winans, in 1979, was assigned the project for designing a building with an architect combining the South Pasadena Boller and Chivens Division with the Costa Mesa Applied Division into one operation.

Perkin Elmer owned 40 acres of land in Garden Grove, California. Another Perkin Elmer division occupied one-half of the 40 acres and the other half was then growing strawberries.

A 108,000 square foot building was specially designed for occupancy for combining the Boller and Chivens Division and the Applied Optics Division. The new building housed all the optical grinding and polishing machines.

The new building had a large anti-vibration optical test tunnel and a full optical coating facility.

A large assembly area including a pit for assembling large telescopes with a rolling roof section for testing telescopes was included in its design for the continuation of Boller and Chivens’ astronomical instruments and telescope production. Unfortunately this area was never used for its intended purpose. The last telescope that Boller and Chivens ever produced was delivered in 1980.

The Boller and Chivens’ expertise involved in the design and manufacturing of professional astronomical telescopes ended in the late 1980’s with the sudden demise of Boller and Chivens’ telescope marketing director, Larry Burris. Unfortunately no more telescopes were ever made with the Boller and Chivens’ name plate on them after the Perkins Elmer move to Garden Grove, California.

When the new building was completed, new government contracts came in resulting in the manufacture of military optical devices such as navy aircraft heads-up displays, Abrams tank periscope mirrors, and Star Wars design activities.

In the following years, Perkin Elmer East Coast management decisions negated seeking any projects that might contain any profit/loss possibilities from acquiring any major telescope projects.  This resulted in the ending the Boller and Chivens reign of more than forty-years for supplying most of the world’s superior astronomical instruments.