You are here

2019 Osterbrock Prize Winners - Stella Cottam and Wayne Orchiston

Stella Cottam and Wayne Orchiston Awarded the 2019 Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for Eclipses, Transits, and Comets of the Nineteenth Century: How America’s Perception of the Skies Changed

by Marc Rothenberg and Rick Fienberg

The Historical Astronomy Division (HAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to present the 2019 Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for Historical Astronomy to Stella Cottam and Wayne Orchiston for their publication “Eclipses, Transits, and Comets of the Nineteenth Century: How America’s Perception of the Skies Changed” (Springer, 2015).

In this richly illustrated volume, the authors combine an analysis of the treatment of astronomy in periodicals and newspapers (especially the New York Times) with a mastery of the secondary literature to provide a scholarly yet readable treatment of the popularization of astronomy in the United States in the 19th century. The book reminds us that the press of that era extensively covered rare or spectacular astronomical occurrences -- for example, solar eclipses, transits of Venus, and grand meteor showers -- as important, newsworthy events. Cottam and Orchiston have provided an important resource for anyone interested in the history of the perception of astronomy outside the observatory.

Stella Cottam came to the history of astronomy after studying physics, medical technology, and library science and working as a microbiologist at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where she still lives. She earned her doctorate from James Cook University in Australia under the supervision of Wayne Orchiston and Richard Stephenson.

Wayne Orchiston lives in Thailand but remains affiliated with the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He is president of Commission C3 (History of Astronomy) of the International Astronomical Union, co-founder and editor of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, and editor of Springer's series of books on historical and cultural astronomy.

The Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize is given in odd-numbered years. Books copyrighted in the two to five years before the award year are eligible. HAD originated the prize in 2009 and named it in memory of Don Osterbrock in 2010. Osterbrock was a longtime HAD member, a contributor to nearly every HAD meeting, HAD Chair from 1987 to 1989, and the recipient of HAD’s highest honor, the LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy, in 2002.

The 2019 Osterbrock Book Prize will be presented to Drs. Cottam and Orchiston at the HAD Town Hall held in conjunction with the 233rd AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington, 6-10 January 2019.