The Crawford Machine Dedication

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, March 5, 2019

    What started as an idea between colleagues to quietly recognize a friend became a small ceremony on January 11, 2019 when the Crawford Machine was dedicated in honor of Robert Crawford, master optician at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences. Robert Crawford spent the majority of his 50-year career as a master optician at OSC. His position was part craftsman part art form. Crawfordfabricated some of the largest and finest telescope mirrors in the world.

    Crawford came to OSC from NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory)  around the same time as “The Crawford Machine,” a 60 inch capacity Strausbaugh Machine (the manufacturers name), used for grinding and polishing large mirrors. The machine came to be known as “The Crawford Machine” because Bob was the first person to operate the machine when it was purchased and because he knew so much about its operation. While the machine is placed in storagewhen not in use, it is kept as an essential piece of equipment. Even though it was built in 1963, this type of machine is still preferred for the fabrication of certain kinds of precision optics.

    The machine was taken out of storage recently for work being done on a project. OSC staff, while using the machine, began to share fond memories of Bob since they were once again using “his” machine. Then the idea came about—adding a plaque to honor Robert Crawford’s memory and to officially name the machine. News of the idea spread until it had evolved from a gathering of a few close friends who work at OSC to an opportunity to bring together Crawford’s colleagues, friends, and family to recognize and honor his contributions to the field.

    The dedication brought around twenty people together including his wife, Joan Crawford and children, Jennifer and David. Two special plaques were added to the machine. One, a picture of Crawford working on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Telescope Primary, and a second plaque in the form of a machine builder’s plate reading “The Crawford Machine, Robert Crawford, Master Optician, University of Arizona, Years of Service, 1964-2014.” Now the machine will stand as a reminder of the hard work and dedication Robert Crawford put into his role as master optician.

    Daniel Caywood, Optical Fabrication Facility Shop Manager, said of Crawford, “He was the employee everyone wanted working with them. He was universally respected for his competence and because he was so easy to work with.” Robert Crawford passed away in 2016 and is fondly remembered at OSC.