The theft of the copper cladding that forms the dome to the Zeiss telescope at Auckland’s Stardome observatory would have upset Edith Winstone Blackwell.
Edith believed in giving back and was well known in the first half of last century as a philanthropist.
It was Edith who established a charitable trust in her own name and the board that ran the trust is the one who gifted a substantial sum toward buying the Zeiss telescope for the people of Auckland.
In fact, the primary fixed telescope at the observatory is named after her.
Edith Mary Winstone was born on July 28, 1877, the only daughter of George and Mary Winstone. George was the brother of William Winstone who founded Winstone Ltd - initially as a cartage business.
Highly educated, she was one of the first girls to attend Auckland Grammar.
She married Joseph Henry Blackwell in 1932 and set up the trust in 1950.
Fundraising for a public observatory had begun in 1948 and by 1956 a great deal of the funds had been raised - in part due to the donation from Edith.
The One Tree Hill Borough Council granted a lease to the Auckland Astronomical Society - and the observatory was opened in March 1967.
The EWB Zeiss telescope was once used to assist NASA with the moon landing.
It was part of a network of instruments around the world used to manually track the missions during the time Houston did not have radio contact with its astronauts.
It is the largest publicly accessible telescope in the North Island and is estimated to have shown over a million people the stars.
Along with the telescope, a room at Auckland University is named after her. A $4.5 million donation from the Edith Einstone Blackwell foundation kickstarted the fundraising campaign for redevelopment of the Leigh Marine Laboratory on Goat Island.
Edith was awarded an Administrative member of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 1954 but did not live to see the opening of the observatory she had championed. She died on September 15, 1956 and is buried in Waikumete Cemetery.
Picture by Alexander Andrews.
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