We describe the high resolution echelle spectrometer (HIRES) now in operation on the Keck Telescope. HIRES, which is permanently located at a Nasmyth focus, is a standard in-plane echelle spectrometer with grating post dispersion. The collimated beam diameter is 12', and the echelle is a 1 x 3 mosaic, 12' by 48' in total size, of 52.6 gr mmMIN1, R-2.8 echelles. The cross disperser is a 2 x 1 mosaic, 24' by 16 ' in size. The camera is of a unique new design: a large (30' aperture) f/1.0, all spherical, all fused silica, catadioptric system with superachromatic performance. It spans the entire chromatic range from 0.3 (mu) to beyond 1.1 (mu) , delivering 12.6-micron (rms) images, averaged over all colors and field angles, without refocus. The detector is a thinned, backside-illuminated, Tektronix 2048 x 2048 CCD with 24-micron pixels, which spans the spectral region from 0.3 (mu) to 1.1 (mu) with very high overall quantum efficiency. The limiting spectral resolution of HIRES is 67,000 with the present CCD pixel size. The overall 'throughput' (resolution x slit width) product achieved by HIRES is 39,000 arcseconds. Peak overall efficiency for the spectrograph (not including telescope and slit losses) is 13% at 6000 angstrom. Some first-light science activities, including quasar absorption line spectra, beryllium abundances in metal-poor stars, lithium abundances in brown-dwarf candidates, and asteroseismology are discussed.© (1994) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.