HAD I Special: The Astronomical Contributions of the Herschel Family
Sunday, 9 Jan 2011, 12:30–3:40 p.m.
Session Chair: Woodruff T. Sullivan, III, University of Washington.
Description: This session will investigate the many major contributions to astronomy made by the family of William Herschel, his sister Caroline, and his son John over the period 1780-1850. Many historians have rated William as one of the handful of greatest observers of all time, but he was also revolutionary in how he interpreted his observations of the solar system, binary stars, stellar clusters, and nebulae. For example, he discovered the planet Uranus, invented the whole notion of evolution (“maturation”) of nebulae and clusters from one type to another, made the first quantitative map of the Milky Way as part of his “construction of the heavens,” and first detected infrared radiation. And on top of all that, he advanced the technology of reflecting telescopes far beyond that of his peers. His sister Caroline was vital for almost all of William’s observational work, data reduction, and catalog compilation. On her own she also discovered many comets and won one of the earliest Gold Medals of the Royal Astronomical Society. Finally, William’s son John extended his father’s sky survey to the Southern Hemisphere and developed the mathematics for turning observational data into binary star orbits.
12:30 1. The Herschels: A Very Fashionable Scientific Family
Emily Winterburn, University College, London.
What is special about the Herschel family? It is a family that has attracted the attention of historians of science for many years and has done so for a number of reasons. Some simply marvel at the family’s ability to have produced generations upon generation of great men and women of science. Others have highlighted the work of individuals within the family and how their work changed the way astronomy was done, what it was about, and then later did the same for science as a whole. The unusually high status enjoyed by Herschel women, Caroline Herschel in particular, has not escaped notice, though I will here question some of the conclusions drawn about her motivations. Most of all, however, I will argue in this paper they should be interesting to a modern audience for the way in which they managed, time and again, generation on generation, to make science fashionable and popular.
In this paper I will look at three generations of this family—from William and Caroline discovering comets and planets in the late eighteenth century, through John and his claim that society needs science to be properly civilised, to John and Margaret’s children and their varied takes on the relationship between astronomy, science and the public. I will look at the role astronomy played in each of their lives, how they were taught and taught each other and how in each generation they managed to make their work the talk of the town.
1:15 2. The Herschels and the Nebulae
Robert W. Smith, University of Alberta.
An innovative observer, theorist and telescope builder, William Herschel is now generally recognized as one of the greatest astronomers of all time. In this paper I will argue that to set Herschel’s career correctly into context it is essential to see him in addition as a natural philosopher (as the term “natural philosopher” was understood around 1800). In examining Herschel as a natural philosopher, I will focus on his shifting views on the nature of the nebulae, views I will also contrast and compare with those of his son John Herschel.
1:40 3. Herschel's 20-foot telescope at the Smithsonian
David H. DeVorkin, Smithsonian Institution.
The tube and one of the mirrors from the original Herschel 20-foot telescope have been on display at the National Air and Space Museum since September 12, 2001. Approximately 3,000 visitors walk past them each day, inspecting how William and Caroline jointly operated the telescope in their garden. This presentation will recount how the telescope was brought to NASM and prepared for exhibition. I will also discuss a bit of what we’ve learned about the telescope’s history from developing this display.
2:10 4. William Herschel’s Explorations of the Conditions for Extraterrestrial Life
Marvin Bolt, Adler Planetarium.
William Herschel’s notion of life on the sun has been described as one of his stranger ideas. A more careful look, though, supports his declaration to have founded his view “upon astronomical principles” (broadly construed) as opposed to resembling the musings of “fanciful poets.” In particular, we’ll explore how contemporary concepts of geology and heat informed William’s defense of solarians, and see how a few of John Herschel’s methodological comments provide insight into William’s reasoning.
2:35 5. Planetary Observations by William Herschel
Woodruff T. Sullivan, III, University of Washington.
William Herschel was a constant observer of the planets and ∼40% of his publications are concerned with every known object in the solar system; yet historians have paid little attention to this aspect of his career. In this paper I will summarize his major solar system findings (including the moon and sun) and, for a few key cases, discuss his observational techniques and interpretations. I will also argue for significant connections between Herschel's planetary and solar work and his more familiar work on the sidereal universe.
3:00 6. Who Invented the Word “asteroid”: William Herschel or Stephen Weston?
Clifford J. Cunningham, Brian G. Marsden, & Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia.
William Herschel made the first serious study of 1 Ceres and 2 Pallas in the year 1802. He was moved by their dissimilarities to the other planets to coin a new term to distinguish them. For this purpose he enlisted the aid of his good friends William Watson and Sir Joseph Banks. Watson gave him a long list of possible names, most of which sound quite ludicrous. With a lifetime of experience classifying and naming newly found objects in nature, Banks became the man both Erasmus Darwin (in 1781) and William Herschel (in 1802) turned to for sage advice in developing a new descriptive language. In the case of Ceres and Pallas, Banks turned the task over to his friend, the noted philologist Stephen Weston FRS. It has recently been stated by a noted British historian that it was Weston—not Herschel—who coined the term “asteroid” to collectively describe Ceres and Pallas. This claim is investigated, and parallels are drawn in the use of neologisms in astronomy and botany.
3:15 7. John Herschel’s Graphical Method
Thomas L. Hankins, University of Washington.
In 1833 John Herschel published an account of his graphical method for determining the orbits of double stars. He had hoped to be the first to determine such orbits, but Felix Savary in France and Johann Franz Encke in Germany beat him to the punch using analytical methods. Herschel was convinced, however, that his graphical method was much superior to analytical methods, because it used the judgment of the hand and eye to correct the inevitable errors of observation.
Line graphs of the kind used by Herschel became common only in the 1830s, so Herschel was introducing a new method. He also found computation fatiguing and devised a “wheeled machine” to help him out. Encke was skeptical of Herschel’s methods, saying that he (Encke) lived for calculation and that the English would be better astronomers if they calculated more.
It is difficult to believe that the entire Scientific Revolution of the 17th century took place without graphs and that only a few examples appeared in the 18th century. Herschel promoted the use of graphs, not only in astronomy, but also in the study of meteorology and terrestrial magnetism. Because he was the most prominent scientist in England, Herschel’s advocacy greatly promoted graphical methods.
3:40 End of session.
HAD II Special: Neptune after One Orbit: Reflections on the Discovery of a Planet
Sunday, 9 Jan 2011, 4:00–6:00 p.m.
Session Chair: William Sheehan, Independent Scholar.
Description: The year 2011 marks not only the 200th anniversary of the French mathematical astronomer Urbain Le Verrier’'s birth, but also the first return of Neptune to its optical-discovery position in 1846. Despite the passage of more than 164 years since that planet discovery, the circumstances surrounding the near-simultaneous mathematical predictions of a transuranian disturbing planet made by Le Verrier and John Couch Adams, a young Fellow in St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge, and the subsequent optical discovery of Neptune by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle at the Berlin Observatory continue to remain controversial. The double anniversary occurring in 2011 is an appropriate time to examine the Neptune discovery event from a number of new perspectives. In this session we shall explore how Cornwall shaped Adams’ early education and his method of locating the presence of a hypothetical disturbing planet. We shall examine the possibility that Adams (and perhaps Le Verrier as well) may have had Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism), a condition that may explain their difficulties in communicating and interacting with their contemporaries. The intense French press attack on British astronomers immediately after the discovery is examined in detail for the first time. The role that Benjamin Peirce’s analysis of Neptune’s actual orbit (which differed greatly from those hypothesized by Adams and Le Verrier) played in the development and European perception of American astronomy and mathematics will be discussed. We open and close the session with presentations placing the Neptune discovery event within the context of 19th-century science and relating it to modern-day searches for planets in the outskirts of the solar system and around other stars.
4:00 1. The Discovery of Neptune: Why it Mattered in 1846 and Why it Still Matters The discovery of Neptune is one of the most well-known events in the history of nineteenth century astronomy as well as one of the most analyzed. Given the ferocious battle for priority that the optical discovery provoked, it is not surprising that much of the literature on the discovery has focused narrowly on issues around the appropriate amount of credit to be handed out to the main protagonists for the theoretical and optical discoveries of the planet. In this paper I will instead seek to put the discovery of Neptune and the events surrounding it into the broad context of mid-nineteenth century science to explain why it was seen to matter so much at the time and why it still matters today.
Robert W. Smith, University of Alberta.
The discovery of Neptune is one of the most well-known events in the history of nineteenth century astronomy as well as one of the most analyzed. Given the ferocious battle for priority that the optical discovery provoked, it is not surprising that much of the literature on the discovery has focused narrowly on issues around the appropriate amount of credit to be handed out to the main protagonists for the theoretical and optical discoveries of the planet. In this paper I will instead seek to put the discovery of Neptune and the events surrounding it into the broad context of mid-nineteenth century science to explain why it was seen to matter so much at the time and why it still matters today.
4:20 2. The Life and Times of John Couch Adams from 1819 to 1847
Brian Sheen, Roseland Observatory, Cornwall, England.
John Couch Adams was born in 1819 in the middle of Cornwall, the most remote and isolated county in England. How he progressed from there to Cambridge University to become one of the finest mathematicians of the nineteenth century fills everyone who studies him with awe. Tragically what should have been his greatest triumph—the discovery of a new planet—was marred by mishap, controversy and unanswered questions. This presentation examines one of the first of these questions and provides new answers based on recently revealed evidence. The Astronomer Royal of the day was attempting to support Adams and as part of that support asked if his analysis took into account changes in radius vector of Uranus. Adams did not reply and the rest as they say is history. However, there is far more to the question than a non-existent letter—this in itself turns out to be not exactly true. Further analysis of the orbits and a letter in French, not translated before, reveal Adams had a more profound understanding of the situation than some later authors have given him credit for.
4:40 3. Le Verrier, Adams, and the Apportionment of Credit As one of the most significant achievements of 19th century astronomy, the discovery of Neptune has been the subject of a vast literature. A large part of this literature—beginning with the period immediately after the optical discovery in Berlin—has been the obsession with assigning credit to the two men who attempted to calculate the planet’s position (and initially this played out against the international rivalry between France and England). Le Verrier and Adams occupied much different positions in the Scientific Establishments of their respective countries; had markedly different personalities; and approached the investigation using different methods. A psychiatrist and historian of astronomy tries to provide some new contexts to the familiar story of the discovery of Neptune, and argues that the personalities of these two men played crucial roles in their approaches to the problem they set themselves and the way others reacted to their stimuli. Adams had features of high-functioning autism, while Le Verrier's domineering, obsessive, orderly personality—though it allowed him to be immensely productive—eventually led to serious difficulties with his peers (and an outright revolt). Though it took extraordinary smarts to calculate the position of Neptune, the discovery required social skills that these men lacked—and thus the process to discovery was more bumbling and adventitious than it might have been. The discovery of Neptune occurred at a moment when astronomy was changing from that of heroic individuals to team collaborations involving multiple experts, and remains an object lesson in the sociological aspects of scientific endeavor.
William Sheehan, Independent Scholar.
As one of the most significant achievements of 19th century astronomy, the discovery of Neptune has been the subject of a vast literature. A large part of this literature—beginning with the period immediately after the optical discovery in Berlin—has been the obsession with assigning credit to the two men who attempted to calculate the planet’s position (and initially this played out against the international rivalry between France and England). Le Verrier and Adams occupied much different positions in the Scientific Establishments of their respective countries; had markedly different personalities; and approached the investigation using different methods. A psychiatrist and historian of astronomy tries to provide some new contexts to the familiar story of the discovery of Neptune, and argues that the personalities of these two men played crucial roles in their approaches to the problem they set themselves and the way others reacted to their stimuli. Adams had features of high-functioning autism, while Le Verrier's domineering, obsessive, orderly personality—though it allowed him to be immensely productive—eventually led to serious difficulties with his peers (and an outright revolt). Though it took extraordinary smarts to calculate the position of Neptune, the discovery required social skills that these men lacked—and thus the process to discovery was more bumbling and adventitious than it might have been. The discovery of Neptune occurred at a moment when astronomy was changing from that of heroic individuals to team collaborations involving multiple experts, and remains an object lesson in the sociological aspects of scientific endeavor.
5:00 4. “These Frenchmen Fly at One like Wild Cats”: The French Press Attacks on British Claims for a Role in the Discovery of Neptune
5:00 5. The Neptune Affair: American Mathematicians Find the World Stage
Deborah A. Kent, Hillsdale College.
The sensational news of Neptune’s observation reached the United States about a month after the initial sighting at the Berlin observatory on 23 September 1846. The ensuing dispute over the priority of discovery captured both popular interest and scientific attention in America. A handful of ambitious scientists viewed the Neptune affair as an opportunity to establish the legitimacy of American science, especially in response to the perceived superiority of European science. This talk will focus on the role of Harvard mathematician Benjamin Peirce in questioning the mathematical particulars of the discovery and shaping related rhetoric to advance the professionalization of American science.
5:20 6. A Clear Yet Distant Echo: Modern-day Analogues of the Scientific Interest and Controversies Surrounding the Discovery of Neptune
Greg Laughlin, University of California, Santa Cruz & Mike Brown, California Institute of Technology.
Our understanding of the solar system and the physical Universe has progressed almost immeasurably during the 164.79 years that constitute an orbit of Neptune. Nevertheless, the drama surrounding the discovery of Neptune still resonates with an immediacy that is both completely relevant and entirely up to date. In this talk, we will argue that the central themes surrounding Neptune's discovery (including issues of priority, improvements in observational and theoretical technique, and the nature of what constitutes an acceptably specific scientific prediction) all have readily evident analogues in the planet-hunting and solar system discovery efforts that are being carried out today. To support our arguments, we will make specific connections to (1) the ongoing effort to map and characterize the solar system's trans-Neptunian inventory, and (2) the search for extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars.
5:40 End of session.
HAD III History Poster Papers
Session #146: Monday, 10 Jan 2010, 9:20 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
1. Al-Sufi’s Investigation of Stars, Star Clusters and Nebulae The distinguished Arabic astronomer, Al-Sufi (AD 903-986) is justly famous for his Book of the Fixed Stars, an outstanding Medieval treatise on astronomy that was assembled in 964. Developed from Ptolemy’s Algamest, but based upon al-Sufi’s own stellar observations, the Book of the Fixed Stars has been copied down through the ages, and currently 35 copies are known to exist in various archival repositories around the world. Among other things, this major work contains 55 astronomical tables, plus star charts for 48 constellations. For the first time a long-overdue English translation of this important early work is in active preparation.
In this paper we provide biographical material about Al-Sufi and the contents of his Book of the Fixed Stars, before examining his novel stellar magnitude system, and his listing of star clusters and nebulae (including the first-ever mention of the Great Nebula in Andromeda).
Ihsan Hafez, F. Richard Stephenson, & Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia.
The distinguished Arabic astronomer, Al-Sufi (AD 903-986) is justly famous for his Book of the Fixed Stars, an outstanding Medieval treatise on astronomy that was assembled in 964. Developed from Ptolemy’s Algamest, but based upon al-Sufi’s own stellar observations, the Book of the Fixed Stars has been copied down through the ages, and currently 35 copies are known to exist in various archival repositories around the world. Among other things, this major work contains 55 astronomical tables, plus star charts for 48 constellations. For the first time a long-overdue English translation of this important early work is in active preparation. In this paper we provide biographical material about Al-Sufi and the contents of his Book of the Fixed Stars, before examining his novel stellar magnitude system, and his listing of star clusters and nebulae (including the first-ever mention of the Great Nebula in Andromeda).
2. Kepler’s “War on Mars”
William Dorsey, Wayne Orchiston, & F. Richard Stephenson, James Cook University, Australia.
This paper presents an interpretation of how Johannes Kepler changed the study of astronomy. We propose that in his metaphorical “War on Mars”, the Astronomia Nova, Kepler used a revolutionary rhetoric to bring about the usurpation of seventeenth-century astronomy. We discuss how Kepler approached the well-established conceptual framework within which the hypotheses of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Tycho Brahe functioned, and how he sought comprehensive physical principles that could determine the true cause and form of the known Universe. We examine Kepler's need to redefine reality and his use of rhetoric in shaping his astronomical argument for a new astronomy, and we show that his three new 'laws' represent a fusion of physics and geometry based upon astronomical observations. We suggest that although Kepler may have believed in and defended some Copernican ideas, his innovative Astronomia Nova opened up a whole new vista for international astronomy.
3. The First Three Catalogues of Southern Star Clusters and Nebulae
Glen Cozens, Wayne Orchiston, & Andrew Walsh, James Cook University, Australia.
Nicolas de la Caille, James Dunlop and John Herschel compiled the first three catalogues of southern star clusters and nebulae. Lacaille catalogued 42 objects from Cape Town, South Africa, in 1751 and 1752. Dunlop catalogued 629 objects from Parramatta, Australia, in 1826 and Herschel catalogued 1708 objects between 1834 and 1838 from Cape Town. Many of these objects had not been seen before; In this paper we discuss the new discoveries and the accuracy of the positions supplied by Lacaille, Dunlop and Herschel. Half of Dunlop’s 629 objects turned out to be asterisms and faint double stars.
4. Early Scientific Astronomy on the American Northwest Coast: Captain Cook’s Sojourn at Nootka Sound in 1778
William Wells, Independent Scholar, & Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia.
Between 1768 and 1778 England’s premier maritime explorer, James Cook, made three much-published and very successful expeditions to the Pacific, when important contributions were made to anthropology, botany and zoology, not to mention maritime astronomy. Astronomy played a vital role in navigation and coastal cartography, and consequently there were astronomers on all three Pacific expeditions. On the final voyage Cook would lose his life in Hawaii, but not before exploring the northwest coast of the American continent. Three astronomers, Bayly, King and Cook himself, formed part of retinue of this two-vessel expedition, and during the sojourn of the Resolution and Discovery at Nootka Sound they set up their observatories and used a variety of instruments to carry out important astronomical observations. In this paper we review the rationale for Cook’s third voyage, discuss the Nootka Sound stop-over, provide biographical information about Bayly, Cook and King, examine their scientific instruments and review their astronomical observations.
5. Williamstown Observatory and the Development of Professional Astronomy in Australia
Jenny Andropoulos, Wayne Orchiston, & Barry Clark, James Cook University, Australia.
During the early 1850s the colony of Victoria was enjoying a succession of gold rushes, and as the population of the fledgling settlement of Melbourne rapidly grew, an urgent need arose for an accurate local time service. Thus, Williamstown Observatory was founded at the port of Williamstown in 1853. Under the dynamic direction of Robert Ellery, the Williamstown Observatory quickly added meteorological and tidal observations, geodetic surveying and non-meridian astronomical observations to its portfolio, and by the time it closed in 1863 it had already played a key role in the early development of professional astronomy in Australia. Ellery went on to direct Melbourne Observatory—Williamstown’s successor—and in the process build an international reputation in astronomy, meteorology and scientific entrepeneurship.
In this paper we will discuss the founding and chequered history of the Williamstown Observatory, its scientific instruments and the ways in which they were used to contribute to Australian and international astronomy.
6. The USNO 26" Clark Refractor—from Visual Observations to Speckle Interferometry
Jennifer L. Bartlett, Brian D. Mason, & William I. Hartkopf, US Naval Observatory.
Before addressing queries about how and what to preserve among astronomical devices, the question of what constitutes a historic instrument must be considered. Certainly, the lenses are the defining feature of a Clark refractor. Since 1867, when Newcomb inquired about the possibility of obtaining a great glass from Alvan Clark & Sons, the U.S. Naval Observatory 26-in (66-cm) equatorial has evolved in response to improvements in technology and changes in its observing program. After two major overhauls, only the objective remains of the equipment originally installed by the Clarks in 1873 at the old Observatory site in Foggy Bottom. However, the telescope retains its reputation as a historic Clark refractor.
The USNO telescope was briefly renowned as the largest refractor in the world; the second of five such achievements by the Clarks. Through it, Hall first detected the moons of Mars in 1877. However, by that time, the Clarks had already refigured the flint glass. Hall and Gardiner had also altered the drive mechanism.
When the USNO moved to its present Georgetown Heights location in 1893, the great equatorial was refurbished with its original Clark optics installed on a more robust Warner & Swasey mount. Peters eventually incorporated discarded parts from the original mounting into his photographic telescopes during the first half of the 20th century. The 26" refractor underwent further modernization in the early 1960s to facilitate the xy-slide of a Hertzsprung-style photographic double star camera. In 1965, the objective was disassembled for cleaning and reassembled with new spacers. The most recent maintenance included re-wiring and replacing several motors and the hand paddles.
Originally designed as a visual instrument, the USNO 26" Clark refractor now hosts a speckle interferometer for its current double star program. Despite continuing modifications, this telescope remains a fine example of the optician’s art.
7. The 1882 Transit of Venus and the Popularisation of Astronomy through the Pages of the New York Times
Stella Cottam, Wayne Orchiston, & F. Richard Stephenson, James Cook University, Australia.
After the disappointments of the 1761 and 1769 transits of Venus, the nineteenth century pair, in 1874 and 1882, offered astronomers the next opportunity to use these rare events in a bid to pin down a value for the solar parallax and hence that fundamental yardstick of Solar System astronomy, the astronomical unit. Only the 1882 transit was visible from the USA, and on the fateful day amateur and professional observers were scattered across the nation. While the value for the solar parallax derived from their combined observations was a significant improvement on the range of values obtained in the eighteenth century, there was considerable disquiet about the logic of using transits of Venus in this way when alternative approaches were available.
In this paper we discuss some of the observers who observed the 1882 transit from American soil, summarise the scientific results from the overall American endeavour and examine ways in which reports on the transit in the pages of the New York Times helped generate a heightened public awareness of astronomy.
8. The IAU Early French Radio Astronomy Project
Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia, & André Boischot, J. Delannoy, Mukul Kundu, James Lequeux, Monique Pick, & Jean-Louis Steinberg, Paris Observatory, France.
In 2006 an ambitious project was launched under the auspices of the IAU Working Group on Historic Radio Astronomy to document important developments in French radio astronomy from 1901 through to the 1960s, in a series of papers published, in English, in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. This successful project has now come to an end with the sixth and final paper in the series about to be published (and a new WG project, on the history of early Japanese radio astronomy, has just been launched).
In this paper we discuss Nordmann’s abortive attempt to detect solar radio emission in 1901, and the important roles played by staff from the École Normale Supérieure and the Institut d’Astrophysique in Paris during the 1940s through '60s in developing new radio astronomy instrumentation and pursuing a range of solar and non-solar research projects in Paris itself and at field stations established at Marcoussis, Nançay and the Haute Provence Observatory.
9. Van Vleck Observatory and the Role of the Large Refractor in Parallax Studies
Ian Glass, John Griesé, III, & Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia.
The second half of the nineteenth century was the era par excellence of the ‘large refractor’ as the aperture of the world’s largest refractor quickly rose to 40 inches, thanks in no small part to the critical role played by the firm of Alvan Clark & Sons. One of the research projects these long focal length telescopes were especially suited to was the determination of stellar parallaxes, and this research focus continued into the twentieth century. In 1922 a 20-inch f/16.5 Clark refractor was installed at the Van Vleck Observatory at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and this telescope was used to determine stellar parallaxes that were subsequently published by van Altena, Lee, and Hoffleit in The General Catalogue of Trigonometric Stellar Parallaxes, Fourth Edition (1995). After providing background information on refractor construction and parallax studies during the nineteenth century this paper focuses on the Van Vleck Observatory parallax program, which continued through into the 1990s, by which time HIPPARCHOS had been launched.
10. The Contribution of an Experimental WWII Radar Antenna to Australian Radio Astronomy
Wayne Orchiston & Harry Wendt, James Cook University, Australia.
During the late 1940s and throughout the1950s Australia was one of the world’s foremost astronomical nations owing primarily to the dynamic Radio Astronomy Group within the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation’s Division of Radiophysics. The earliest celestial observations were made with former WWII radar antennas and simpler Yagi aerials, before more sophisticated purpose-built radio telescopes of various types were designed and developed.
One of the recycled WWII antennas that was used extensively for pioneering radio astronomical research was an experimental radar antenna that initially was located at the Division’s short-lived Georges Heights field station but in 1948 was relocated to the new Potts Hill field station in suburban Sydney. In this paper we describe this unique antenna, and discuss the wide-ranging solar, Galactic and extragalactic research programs that it was used for.
11. History of Astronomy at James Cook University, Australia
Wayne Orchiston, Hilmar Duerbeck, Ian Glass, J. McKim Malville, Brian Marsden, Irakli Simonia, Bruce Slee, F. Richard Stephenson, Richard Strom, Ian Whittingham, & & Richard Wielebinski, James Cook University, Australia.
The Centre for Astronomy at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia has been offering totally internet-delivered Master of Astronomy degrees since 2003 and Doctor of Astronomy and Ph.D. degrees since 2004. In 2005 a new dimension was added with unique offerings in the history of astronomy at both Masters and Doctoral levels. With the aid of 1 full-time staff member and 10 adjunct staff, 4 students have now graduated with Ph.D. degrees, 1 student died from cancer after completing the first draft of his thesis, and 14 students are currently enrolled in Ph.D. degrees. In addition 12 students have completed Master of Astronomy degrees in history of astronomy, and there are 3 students who are currently enrolled for Masters degrees. As part of its commitment to the international development of history of astronomy, the Centre for Astronomy also arranges boutique ‘invitation only’ history of astronomy conferences in March each year, and produces the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage.
12. Filling a Void: The Life and Times of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Wayne Orchiston & Hilmar W. Duerbeck, James Cook University, Australia, & Joseph S. Tenn, Sonoma State University.
In 1998 the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage (JAH2) was launched as a new outlet for those wishing to publish papers on the history of astronomy. The journal has since developed rapidly and become an important publication venue for those conducting research in all fields of historical astronomy, including aspects of Asian and Oriental astronomical history. With support from a distinguished international Editorial Board, the journal has grown from two issues per year to three, and now features increasing numbers of colour pages. In this paper we review the founding and development history of the journal, examine the range of research and review papers that have been published since 1998, and discuss some of the possible future directions that we are currently exploring.
HAD IV History of Astronomy
Session #111: Monday, 10 Jan 2011, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Session Chair: Joseph S. Tenn, Sonoma State University
10:00 1. Report of Some Comets: The Discovery of Uranus and Comets by William, Caroline, and John Herschel
Jay M. Pasachoff, Williams College and Caltech, & Roberta J.M. Olson, New York Historical Society.
We report on the discovery and drawings of comets by William, Caroline, and John Herschel. The first discovery, by William Herschel, in 1781 from Bath, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society with the title "Report of a Comet," turned out to be Uranus, the first planet ever discovered, Mercury through Saturn having been known since antiquity. William's sister Caroline was given duties of sweeping the skies and turned out to be a discoverer of 8 comets in her own right, in addition to keeping William's notes. Caroline's comets were discovered from Slough between 1786 and 1797. In the process, we also discuss original documents from the archives of the Royal Society and of the Royal Astronomical Society. We conclude by showing comet drawings that we have recently attributed to John Herschel, including Halley's Comet from 1836, recently located in the Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin.
Acknowledgments: Planetary astronomy at Williams College is supported in part by grant NNX08AO50G from NASA Planetary Astronomy. We thank Peter Hingley of the Royal Astronomical Society and Richard Oram of the Harry Ransom Center of The University of Texas at Austin for their assistance.
10:15 2. The Herschels in Canada
R. Peter Broughton, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Canada.
William Herschel, the father of the astronomical dynasty, may possibly have lived in Canada. A couple of his descendants certainly did, and their lives and contributions to astronomy will be briefly discussed. Furthermore, some geographic features in Canada commemorate the Herschel name. Where these landmarks are and how they came to have this distinction will be described.
King Charles’ Star: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Dating the Supernova Known As Cassiopeia A
10:45 4. The “Three York Astronomers” and the Royal Society of London
Linda M. French, Illinois Wesleyan University.
John Goodricke, the discoverer of the periodicity of Algol and Delta Cephei; his mentor and collaborator Edward Pigott; and Edward’s father Nathaniel Pigott flourished in York, England in the 1780’s. All three made substantial contributions to astronomy. Nathaniel and Edward had determined the longitudes of the principal cities of the Low Countries before moving to York. Edward worked closely with Goodricke on the observations of Algol and discovered the variability of Eta Aquilae, a Cepheid, before Goodricke discovered Delta Cephei’s behavior. All three corresponded with members of the Royal Society, including Nevil Maskelyne and William Herschel, yet the treatment accorded them differed widely. Nathaniel Pigott was elected a member of the Society in 1772. Goodricke received the Society’s Copley Medal for his paper on the periodicity of Algol in 1783 at the age of nineteen. In 1786, after being nominated by Nathaniel Pigott, Goodricke was elected to membership in the Royal Society. Edward Pigott was apparently never nominated. Some possible reasons why Goodricke was lionized and Edward Pigott passed over will be explored.
This research was supported by an AAS Small Research Grant and by the Herbert C. Pollack Award of the Dudley Observatory.
11:00 5. The Historical 'science driver': Early Telescopes And Scientific Incentive
Peter Abrahams, Historical Astronomy Division.
The term 'science driver' was first used in the 1980s. The modern meaning of 'science' is far removed from its meaning in the first centuries of the telescope. It is anachronistic to refer to the 'science driver' of a historic telescope. However, there were scientific motivations behind many early telescopes, large reflectors in particular. The chronology of larger and improved telescopes will be placed in the context of the rationale for their creation. The evolution of scientific purpose of these instruments will be extracted and examined for patterns and significance.
11:15 6. Blind Astronomers
Thomas A. Hockey, University of Northern Iowa.
The phrase “blind astronomer” is used as an allegorical oxymoron. However, there were and are blind astronomers. What of famous blind astronomers?
First, it must be stated that these astronomers were not martyrs to their craft. It is a myth that astronomers blind themselves by observing the Sun. As early as France’s William of Saint-Cloud (circa 1290) astronomers knew that staring at the Sun was ill-advised and avoided it. Galileo Galilei did not invent the astronomical telescope and then proceed to blind himself with one. Galileo observed the Sun near sunrise and sunset or through projection. More than two decades later he became blind, as many septuagenarians do, unrelated to their profession. Even Isaac Newton temporarily blinded himself, staring at the reflection of the Sun when he was a twentysomething. But permanent Sun-induced blindness? No, it did not happen.
For instance, it was a stroke that left Scotland’s James Gregory (1638-1675) blind. (You will remember the Gregorian telescope.) However, he died days later. Thus, blindness little interfered with his occupation.
English Abbot Richard of Wallingford (circa 1291 - circa 1335) wrote astronomical works and designed astronomical instruments. He was also blind in one eye. Yet as he further suffered from leprosy, his blindness seems the lesser of Richard’s maladies.
Perhaps the most famous professionally active, blind astronomer (or almost blind astronomer) is Dominique-Francois Arago (1786-1853), director until his death of the powerful nineteenth-century Paris Observatory. I will share other—some poignant— examples such as: William Campbell, who’s blindness drove him to suicide; Leonhard Euler, astronomy’s Beethoven, who did nearly half of his life’s work while almost totally blind; and Edwin Frost, who “observed” a total solar eclipse while completely sightless.
11:30 End of session.
HAD Business Meeting
Session #120: Monday, 10 Jan 2011, 12:45–1:45 p.m.
Session Chair: Thomas Hockey, University of Northern Iowa.
HAD V History of Astronomy
Session #129: Monday, 10 Jan 2011, 2:00–3:30 p.m.
Session Chair: Thomas Hockey, University of Northern Iowa.
2:00 1. The Legendary Fourth-Century Total Solar Eclipse in Georgia: Fact or Fantasy?
Jefferson Sauter, Irakli Simonia, F. Richard Stephenson, and Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia.
Medieval Georgian accounts of a sudden darkening of the sky are studied in detail. Though aspects of the story were likely embellished or fantastical, specific clues in the written sources suggest a total solar eclipse (TSE) from the 4th century AD. We examine the local circumstances of a likely candidate, the TSE of 6 May 319, using computer simulations and accounting for visibility corrections and constraints on the accumulated clock error (ΔT). If the accounts do describe this TSE, the value of ΔT inferred from the written sources would agree well with the range of values derived from Stephenson (1997). Additional analysis shows why this eclipse may have seemed uniquely remarkable to observers at the presumed location.
2:15 2. Declinations in the Almagest: An Evaluation and Comments on their Use by Tycho Brahe and Edmond Halley
John C. Brandt & Peter Zimmer, University of New Mexico, & Patricia B. Jones, University of Arizona.
The Almagest (Book VII, Chapter 3: Toomer 1998) gives 54 stellar declinations attributed to Timocharis, Aristyllus, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy (“As found by us”). We evaluate these declinations (δ) by comparing them to precessed modern positions (d) obtained by using U.S. Naval Observatory software. A recent HIPPARCOS catalogue is the source of positions, proper motions, and parallaxes, and radial velocities come from the Yale Bright Star Catalog. The standard deviation (σ) is computed for Δ = δ–d for a plausible range of years for each observer. The minimum standard deviation, σmin, determines the accuracies and epochs of observation assuming that an observer’s observations were taken at approximately the same time. The results are: Timocharis, σmin = 0.135° and <Δ> = +0.022° at 295 BC: Aristyllus, σmin = 0.089° and <Δ> = –0.004° at 258 BC; Hipparchus, σmin = 0.113° and <Δ> = +0.010° at 128 BC; and Ptolemy, σmin = 0.199° and <Δ> = +0.005° at 115 AD. The precisions (σmin) are remarkable, the mean errors (<σ>) are small, and the dates are compatible with the historical evidence except for Ptolemy. The Δs for individual observers are approximately Gaussian except Timocharis’s value for Arcturus at 5.6σmin, which appears to be erroneous; our results are based on 53 declinations. The study of Almagest declinations by Maeyama (1984) uses the same approach and input data from the catalogue by Boss (1910). The results of the two studies are close, but with differences. Our values should be an improvement because of improved input data. We comment on the use of Almagest declinations by Tycho Brahe and Edmond Halley.
2:30 3. Kepler’s Cosmos and the Lathe of Heaven
Kenneth Brecher, Boston University.
Johannes Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum, published in 1596, presented his vision of the geometrical structure of the solar system. Kepler sought to account for the number of planets, thought to be six, as well as their orbital radii. He assigned orbits to the planets in three-dimensional space. Kepler proposed that the planets move on six spheres inscribed within and circumscribed around the five platonic solids. How did he arrive at his model? By his own account reported in the book, the central idea occurred to him while giving a lecture about planetary conjunctions. But was this revelation the origin of the model? In this presentation, we discuss the artistic, scientific and mathematical environment in which Kepler was immersed in late 16th century Europe. Examples will be shown of some of the readily available inscribed polyhedra that he may have seen - printed in widely circulated books, included in well-known paintings and engravings, and displayed as three dimensional ornamentally turned sculptures. It is highly likely that he saw such physical models five years later while in the employ of Rudolf II who was an avid ornamental turner. Layered polyhedral ivory turnings were made by the nobility with what were then fairly common lathes. Kepler himself wanted to have his own celestial model made into a punch bowl! Therefore, it seems plausible that Kepler had seen models of inscribed platonic solids well before 1596. Later in life Kepler reprinted the Mysterium Cosmographicum with very little fundamental change in its outlook, even after having found what we now call Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion. His interest in nested polyhedra may well have preceded any astronomical evidence or geometrical reasoning, arising from artistic and aesthetic encounters that occurred early in his life. Project LITE is supported by the NSF through DUE Grant # 0715975.
2:45 Presentation of 1st Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize
Sara Schechner, Harvard University.
2:50 Osterbrock Prize Lecture: Astronomy with a Difference: China
Nathan Sivin, University of Pennsylvania.
Chinese astronomy, observational and computational, is the only one of the world’s traditions minutely documented and uninterrupted in its evolution for the last two thousand years. Its independence from Western influence for most of that period, and the fundamental differences in the ways it was thought through and organized, make it valuable for studying astronomical possibilities never explored elsewhere. This short talk will sketch its special character and the nature of the historical research going on in China and elsewhere.
3:30 End of session.
HAD VI History of Astronomy
Session #210: Tuesday, 11 Jan 2011, 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Session Chair: Jay M. Pasachoff, Williams College.
10:00 1. A Fascinating Phase In Solar Science: The Rise And Fall Of Schaeberle’s Mechanical Theory Of The Solar Corona
John C. Pearson & Wayne Orchiston, James Cook University, Australia.
Nearing the end of the late nineteenth century, John Martin Schaeberle, a staff astronomer at the Lick Observatory, wondered about the forces necessary to create the visual apparition of the solar corona. Homebound from the December 1889 eclipse, he laid the ground work for a new theory to explain the intricate coronal details and broad forms that he observed from numerous composite drawings and photographs from the January 1889 eclipse. In 1891, he published his A Mechanical Theory of the Solar Corona which attracted a diverse group of followers.
This paper will highlight Schaeberle’s theory as it evolved, which was then subjected to tests and intense scrutiny, and finally proven wrong.
10:15 2. The Boyden Station at Arequipa, Peru: Astrophysics on a Tight Budget
Thomas R. Williams, Independent Scholar.
The history of the Harvard College Observatory includes Edward Charles Pickering’s ambitious plan to catalogue the night sky in terms of standardized photometry and spectral classification of all stars in both the Northern and Southern celestial hemispheres. In 1890, Pickering established the HCO’s Boyden Station at Arequipa, Peru, to provide the raw material from which to construct those catalogues. This paper will consider the operation of the Boyden Station during the first two decades of the twentieth century with particular emphasis on the period during which Leon Campbell supervised the station, and reflect on the consequences of Pickering’s scientific agenda, management style and budgetary constraints as reflected by that operation.
10:30 3. On the Centennial of Willy Fowler and Grote Reber: It Takes All Kinds
Joseph S. Tenn, Sonoma State University.
William A. Fowler and Grote Reber were born in 1911, grew up in the American Midwest, and started out studying engineering. Neither ever made professional use of optical telescopes, and initially neither considered himself an astronomer. Reber was a radio engineer who followed up on Karl Jansky’s surprising discovery of radio emissions from the sky by building his own radio telescope, and for several years he was the world’s only radio astronomer. His discoveries showed that much new information could be obtained about the Universe by detecting and analysing what he called “cosmic static.” Fowler was a nuclear physicist who took over leadership of a group at Caltech begun by C.C. Lauritsen and made the Kellogg Radiation Lab the world’s leading site for learning about the reactions that power the stars and produce all but the lightest elements. He devoted most of his time in his later years to theoretical work in nuclear astrophysics. Personally, the two were quite different: Fowler, who spent more than sixty years at Caltech, was an insider, an influential member of many committees and organizations, and a president of the American Physical Society. Reber was an outsider who hardly ever worked with others and did nearly all of his astronomical research as an amateur. Fowler left more than 50 Ph.D. students, many postdoctoral fellows, two children, and a grandchild. Reber left neither academic nor biological descendants. Despite their different styles, both the radio engineer and the nuclear physicist made enormous contributions to twentieth century astronomy.
10:45 4. Decades of Decision, Delight, and Despair
Virginia L. Trimble, University of California, Irvine & Las Cumbres Observatory.
By the time this is presented, the results of the 6th decadal survey ("The Blandford Report") will be known. Meanwhile, I have re-read the first five (Whitford, Greenstein, Field, Bahcall, McKee-Taylor) and endeavored to determine just which of the things they asked for we eventually got (HST, the VLA), which we did not (more common-used optical telescopes, a large deployable reflector in space), which things we got that no one seems to have asked for, and which might yet happen (JWST, Con-X now part of IXO). Prioritizing facilities also inevitably prioritizes science, and something will be said about how sub-topic emphasis has shifted, about the structure and demographics of the review panels themselves (whose total size peaked at 300+ for the Bahcall report), and about the demographic predictions made by the panels.
11:00 5. Alignments of Sun and Moon Create the Driving Force Behind Storms — But also Earthquakes?
Bella Chao Chiu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Our work started with explaining the storms in the Pacific, known as El Nino and La Nina. It was the alignment of sun and moon, pulling together about twice a month. Often a solar eclipse path will show more clearly where the bodies are. Then, during this last year, the same point of view has surprisingly shed light on the problem of earthquake prediction. The events which caught our attention began with the El Nino storm of February 23, 1998. Since we are solar eclipse watchers, we noticed the long eclipse path of February 26th, 1998, which ran through Panama and parts of Columbia and Venezuela. Calculations showed that the gravity of the sun would add 46% of tidal force to that of the moon. Descriptions of this storm (and others) have convinced us that the coming together of sun and moon is the driving force behind the storms known as the El Nino and La Nina in the Pacific Ocean.
Then in 2004, we had the earthquake in Indonesia which produced a great tsunami. And we head from and read about the effects of great current changes, or tides, which can trigger earthquakes. So far, the tide scientists say that tidal forces affect only shallow earthquakes. But is there now an increase in depth in ocean, or in frequency, due to global warming? Earhquake specialists had already calculated there is a greater than 90% probability of the major earthquake occurring within the next 30 years. This is for Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a similar situation for Japan. Now we can close in on what days the probabilities are higher.
11:15 End of session.
Complete program of 2011 AAS/HAD meeting