Categories
Exhibitions

Astronomy and Printing

The Printing Museum in Tokyo has what looks to be an amazing temporary exhibit right now on astronomy and print, aptly named “Astronomy and Printing. In search of new world vision.”[1] The exhibit brings together nearly 100 printed objects stretching from the 1450s to the 1870s.[2] In addition to showing an impressive range of items, […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Astronomers do not Date Sappho’s ‘Midnight’ Poem

Once again the internet is all excited by some scientists’ findings that solve a historical mystery. In this case, “UTA scientists use Planetarium’s advanced astronomical software to accurately date 2500 year-old lyric poem” (as the University of Texas at Arlington press announcement puts it). Unsurprisingly, UTA’s “press release” (by which I mean “propaganda”) misrepresents the […]

Categories
History

Maria Wants Her Sextant Back

Buried in Haverford’s Special Collections is a brief letter from Maria Mitchell to E.D. Cope.[1] When she wrote to Cope, Mitchell was a senior member of the scientific community. She was director of Vassar College’s observatory, where she was also professor of astronomy. On October 1, 1847, when she was 29, she had discovered a […]

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History

Samuel J. Gummere’s Lecture on Copernicus

In 1862 Samuel J. Gummere began lecturing on astronomy at Haverford College. At that time all sophomores and juniors heard lectures based on John Herschel’s Outlines of Astronomy; seniors heard lectures on “practical astronomy” based on Elias Loomis’s text (probably his Introduction to Practical Astronomy) and carried out observations in the college’s new observatory. Gummere’s […]

Categories
History

Strawbridge Observatory

The current Strawbridge Observatory was built in the early 1850s, replacing the original, wood-frame observatory that had been constructed for John Gummere in the 1830s (records seem to indicate different dates for this original building). A pedestal capped by a now broken sundial marks the location of Gummere’s observatory (see this post for more on […]