“Meet me in the woods behind the observatory at midnight, or you’ll never see your lens again.”
– An 1872 ransom letter to Samuel Langley
, then director of the Pittsburgh Allegheny Observatory. As writer Marina Koren
relates in her survey of astronomy crimes, the telescope lens had indeed been stolen. “Langley refused to pay the thief’s ransom, believing that it would spur ‘lens-napping’ at other institutions.” The astronomer managed to retrieve the lens—but not without a few scratches.