Porter caught what he would call Arctic fever when, in 1892, he attended a lecture by Robert Peary, who described his latest explorations in northern Greenland, which he had proved to be an island. The next year, the scientist Frederick Cook came to Boston to advertise a summer cruise up the coast of Greenland. Porter negotiated passage on Cook's voyage by offering to serve as surveyor and artist.
This would be the first of Porter's eight northern adventures over the next 15 years. The first ended above the Arctic Circle, when the small steamship was first damaged on a reef and then collided with an iceberg. The crew was rescued by Eskimos and returned to Boston by fishing boat.
It all began on August 17, 1920 when fifteen men and one woman signed up to learn how to grind their own mirrors and make powerful reflecting telescopes. Most of the men were machinists, tool makers or pattern makers at the Jones and Lamson Machine Company in Springfield. The lone woman was a school teacher.
Their instructor, Russell W. Porter, was well prepared to guide them through the demanding though rewarding steps which required them to work to accuracies one-thousandth as large as they were used to in their daily precision machine work. Porter had spent years on the Maine coast teaching himself the art and science of building telescopes. This practically nonexistent hobby he took up to satisfy a drive which had slowly grown during his eleven years as an arctic explorer with Perry, Cook, Fiala and others. That drive was to learn more about astronomy.
Today the Springfield Telescope Makers are still going strong at their world-famous Stellafane Observatory. And Porter went on to play a pivotal role in the construction of the 200-inch reflector telescope at Mt. Palomar:
Famed artist Maxfield Parrish was quoted as saying the following about Porter's drawings: "If these drawings had been made from the telescope and its machinery after it had been erected they would have been of exceptional excellence, giving an uncanny sense of reality, with shadows accurately cast and well nigh perfect perspective; but to think that any artist had his pictorial imagination in such working order as to construct these pictures with no other mechanical data than blue prints of plans and elevation of the various intricate forms is simply beyond belief."
I've known about Russell Porter ever since I was a kid. And now you do too!