The history of astronomy is, like most history, a multidimensional story, and when writing about a specific period, the author has to decide how to handle all the developments of earlier times in order to set the scene. I have done this by starting most chapters of the book with a summary of astronomical knowledge at the beginning of our chosen period, together with a brief review of how such knowledge had been gained. This story is not only interesting in itself, but it will also assist those readers that would appreciate a brief reminder of some of the basic elements of astronomy. It is also necessary to decide when to start our history. Should it be the year 1900 or 1890, or should it be linked to some key development or investigation, e. g. the discovery of the electron by J. J. Thomson in 1897, or the discovery of spectroscopic binary stars by Pickering and Vogel (independently) in 1889, or maybe the year 1890 in which Thomas Edison tried unsuccessfully to detect radio waves from the Sun and Johannes Rydberg published his formula for atomic spectra? I have, in fact, decided to start this history at about 1890, as it was the year of publication of the Draper Memorial Catalogue of stellar spectra which, together with its updates, provided essential data for the understanding of stellar spectra until well into the twentieth century. This date also gives a clear hundred years up to the present.
The History of Astronomy in the Orient has been vigorously researched in the last several decades. We may recall here the publications of Joseph Needham's monumental volumes on Science and Civilisation in China, one volume of which is devoted to Chinese Astron- omy, S. Nakayama's A History of Japanese Astronomy (Tokyo, 1969), and the School of Edward Kennedy's writings on Islamic Astronomy,1 which particularly culminated in the studies of the Critique of Ptolemaic Astronomy by the Islamic astronomers belong- ing to Na lruddin rusI's School, established at Maragha Observatory during the l3-l4th 2 centuries. In this backdrop of the emphasis on astronomy in the Orient, the first IAU Colloquium (No.9 1 ) on "History of Oriental Astronomy" was organised during the IAU General Assem- bly, held in New Delhi, Nov. 13-16, 1985. The Proceedings ofthe Colloquium were then 3 published. The second effort by this Commission was to organise another International Colloquium on Interaction of European and Asian Astronomy, held in Vienna in Sept. 4 1990. Unfortunately its Proceedings could not be published. Noteworthy is that the Far East or the East Asia did not lag behind in this endeavour.
Although the development of ideas about the motion and trajectory of comets has been investigated piecemeal, we lack a comprehensive and detailed survey of ph- ical theories of comets. The available works either illustrate relatively short periods in the history of physical cometology or portray a landscape view without adequate details. The present study is an attempt to review - with more details - the major physical theories of comets in the past two millennia, from Aristotle to Whipple. My research, however, did not begin with antiquity. The basic question from which this project originated was a simple inquiry about the cosmic identity of comets at the dawn of the astronomical revolution: how did natural philosophers and astronomers define the nature and place of a new category of celestial objects - comets - after Brahe's estimation of cometary distances? It was from this turning point in the history of cometary theories that I expanded my studies in both the pre-modern and modern eras. A study starting merely from Brahe and ending with Newton, without covering classical and medieval thought about comets, would be incomplete and leave the fascinating achievements of post-Newtonian cometology unexplored.
Ptolemy's Almagest shares with Euclid's Elements the glory of being the scientific text longest in use. From its conception in the second century up to the late Renaissance, this work determined astronomy as a science. During this time the Almagest was not only a work on astronomy; the subject was defined as what is described in the Almagest. The cautious emancipation of the late middle ages and the revolutionary creation of the new science in the 16th century are not conceivable without reference to the Almagest. This text lifted European astronomy to the high standard of knowledge on which the new science flourished. Before, the Ptolemaic models of the orbits of the sun, the moon, and the planets had been refined by Arabic astronomers. They provided the structural elements with which Copernicus and Kepler ushered in the era of modern astronomy. The Almagest survived the destruction of its epicyclic representation of the planetary orbits in the conceptual traces left behind in the theories of its successors. The clear separation of the sidereal from the tropical year, the celestial coordinate systems, the concepts of time, the forms of the constellations, and brightness classifications of celestial objects are, among many other things, still part of the astronomical canon even today.
This History has its origin in a suggestion, made in September 1990 by former IAU General Secretary Derek McNally, who felt "that a 75 year history of the Union was needed before the col- lective memory of those who knew the Union before the Second World War vanished. It would then be a preparatory volume to a centennial history in 2019. " Indeed, of those who knew the Union that long ago, few are still with us. Six years ago, at Baltimore on August 2, 1988, listening and reminiscing at the Inaugural Ceremonies of the Union's 20th General Assembly, I realized that it was almost exactly half a century ago that, at the age of 24, I attended the Inaugurations at my "first" Assembly: on August 3, 1938 in Stockholm. Now, in 1994, this is almost 56 years ago, three quarters of the Union's age. Only vague recollections - no better than that -lead me back to this event, just before World War II. And so, this is not a history based on recollection, far from it. Recollection was helpful in that it allowed me, better perhaps than a younger author, to appreciate circumstances under which the letters and reports which form the basis for this History were written. The account is largely based on archival documents, collected from a wide variety of sources.
John Somer was one of the leading English astronomers of the late fourteenth century. Geoffrey Chaucer likely consulted Somer's Kalendarium to relate dates, times, and movements of the stars and planets to events in his tales. In her introduction to this scholarly edition, Linne Mooney discusses not only Somer's importance but also Chaucer's use of the Kalendarium in composing his texts from The Parliament of Fowls through The Canterbury Tales. She examines the thirty-three complete and nine fragmentary copies of the work known today and explains Somer's innovative and influential eclipse tables, adopted by some scribes in later copies of the Kalendarium of Nicholas of Lynn, a contemporary of Somer's. Somer's Kalendarium itself is presented in the original Latin text with English translation on facing pages. Mooney also provides full textual apparatus for the eleven complete manuscripts closest to the base text.
When the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, thousands of ordinary people across the globe seized the opportunity to participate in the start of the Space Age. Known as the Moonwatchers, these largely forgotten citizen-scientists helped professional astronomers by providing critical and otherwise unavailable information about the first satellites. In Keep Watching the Skies!, Patrick McCray tells the story of this network of pioneers who, fueled by civic pride and exhilarated by space exploration, took part in the twentieth century's biggest scientific endeavor.Around the world, thousands of teenagers, homemakers, teachers, amateur astronomers, and other citizens joined Moonwatch teams. Despite their diverse backgrounds and nationalities, they shared a remarkable faith in the transformative power of science--a faith inspired by the Cold War culture in which they lived. Against the backdrop of the space race and technological advancement, ordinary people developed an unprecedented desire to contribute to scientific knowledge and to investigate their place in the cosmos. Using homemade telescopes and other gadgets, Moonwatchers witnessed firsthand the astonishing beginning of the Space Age. In the process, these amateur scientists organized themselves into a worldwide network of satellite spotters that still exists today. Drawing on previously unexamined letters, photos, scrapbooks, and interviews, Keep Watching the Skies! recreates a pivotal event from a perspective never before examined--that of ordinary people who leaped at a chance to take part in the excitement of space exploration.
From Hipparchus and Ptolemy in the ancient world, through Copernicus and Brahe in the sixteenth century, astronomers had used geometrical models to give a kinematic account of the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. Johannes Kepler revolutionized this most ancient of sciences by being the first to understand astronomy as a part of physics. By closely and clearly analyzing the texts of Kepler's great astronomical works, in particular the Astronomia nova of 1609, Bruce Stephenson demonstrates the importance of Kepler's physical principles--principles now known to be incorrect--in the creation of his first two laws of planetary motion.
Set against the backdrop of the witchcraft trial of his mother, this lively biography of Johannes Kepler - 'the Protestant Galileo' and 16th century mathematician and astronomer - reveals the surprisingly spiritual nature of the quest of early modern science.
In the style of Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, Connor's book brings to life the tidal forces of Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and social upheaval. Johannes Kepler, who discovered the three basic laws of planetary motion, was persecuted for his support of the Copernican system. After a neighbour accused his mother of witchcraft, Kepler quit his post as the Imperial mathematician to defend her.
James Connor tells Kepler's story as a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey into the modern world through war and disease and terrible injustice, a journey reflected in the evolution of Kepler's geometrical model of the cosmos into a musical model, harmony into greater harmony. The leitmotif of the witch trial adds a third dimension to Kepler's biography by setting his personal life within his own times. The acts of this trial, including Kepler's letters and the accounts of the witnesses, although published in their original German dialects, had never before been translated into English. Echoing some of Dava Sobel's work for Galileo's Daughter, Connor has translated the witch trial documents into English. With a great respect for the history of these times and the life of this man, Connor's accessible story illuminates the life of Kepler, the man of science, but also Kepler, a man of uncommon faith and vision.