‘As the metropolis of the great nation of the south, [Melbourne] possesses means and appliances, wealth and energy, with which no place on this side of the equator can enter into competition… [The telescope] is a noble object, to which some portion of the apparently inexhaustible wealth of our gold-fields may be worthily devoted.’
– Melbourne University professor William Wilson, arguing in 1856 for the erection of a large reflecting telescope in Melbourne.
The decision to commission the Great Melbourne Telescope reflected the wealth and confidence of Melbourne and the colony of Victoria in the 1850s and 1860s.
In turn, the Great Melbourne Telescope came to represent Melbourne’s ‘greatness’ to its citizens. Engravings of the telescope appeared in newspapers and magazines in Britain, Europe and America, projecting Melbourne’s confidence abroad.
When a visiting journalist in the 1880s dubbed the city ‘Marvellous Melbourne’, the locals seized on the phrase.