row of astrolabes

Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop - ND VIII July 25 – 29, 2007

Abstracts (listed alphabetically)

Peter Abrahams, independent scholar
“James Gregory: A Mathematician Contemplates the Telescope”
James Gregory 1638-1675), a mathematician, worked with craftsmen (Richard Reeve) and scientists (Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton) to develop the telescope. Gregory published in 1663 his 'Optica promota,' which included several descriptions of proposed telescopes, and a short section presenting the theory of and design for a telescope using two convex mirrors, which became known as the Gregorian telescope.  He then commissioned Reeve to fabricate this telescope. Mechanical difficulties prevented the successful completion of the instrument, but failure was instructive.  In particular, the mirror required a parabolic surface that was only approximated with a sphere, a technical hurdle that was the subject of much attention from artisans and scientists.

Durruty Jesús de Alba Martínez and Laura Catalina Arreola Ochoa, Universidad de Guadalajara
“Telescopes in Guadalajara, México: From the 1882 Transit of Venus to the 1905 Solar Observations”
In this paper, we show some results of different telescopes used in Guadalajara, México, in the beginning of the professional astronomical activity there. The first of them are the observations conducted by Carlos F. de Landero and Gabriel Castaños, both members of the Sociedad de Ingenieros de Jalisco and teachers at the Guadalajara’s Engineers School; we discuss how their early published results in some sense spurred the opening of the first astronomical observatory devoted to education in Jalisco State.  Second are the solar observations performed by José María Arreola and Severo Díaz Galindo, both diocesan priests who, after working at the astronomical and meteorological observatories of the Seminario Conciliar Tridentino del Señor san José, later became members of the Jalisco’s State Astronomical Observatory. We show some drawings of the observations that, we presume, remain unpublished as a whole, and briefly discuss some relationship of sunspots with terrestrial phenomena indicated by the drawings’ authors by newspaper notes added near some sunspots; we also comment on the digitalization process of such drawings now in realization.

Denver Applehans, University of Nebraska at Omaha
“Father William Rigge, S.J.  – Astronomer, Educator, and Priest”
Father William Rigge was a Jesuit priest who sought to be a professional astronomer, but due to poor eyesight spent his life teaching at Creighton University and serving as the director of the small observatory on campus.  His life and work is an excellent example of a semiprofessional U.S.  astronomer in the early twentieth century.  He worked full time as an educator, and intentionally or not was a primary “cultivator” of the science in Omaha, Nebraska.  This paper is a biographical paper which will cover his work, his relationship with the scientific community, his relationship with the city of Omaha, and his life as both a science educator and a Roman Catholic priest.  His most significant work began in the 1890s and lasted until his death in 1927.

Trudy E.  Bell, Science journalist and independent scholar
“Nineteenth-Century U.S.  Private Observatories: A Progress Report”
Standard nineteenth-century lists of astronomical observatories in the U.S., which focus on professional observatories owned and operated by schools, universities, or governments, include some private observatories, but are missing many—including some sizeable ones.  Paging issue by issue through nineteenth-century serials and books, however, reveals a wealth of permanently mounted instruments in dedicated buildings owned and operated by individual citizens or by amateur astronomical associations.  Much material is not in indexed feature articles, but in short news notes, articles about observations, announcements of telescopes ordered or received, or classified ads.  This literature reveals that some 40 private observatories were built between 1840 and 1900, possibly accounting for between a quarter and a third of the astronomical observatories in the United States. When compared to the then-largest instruments of the day (the definition of “large” evolved throughout the period as aperture records were set and broken), it is clear that some private observatories housed significant research instruments, comparable to or even superior to instruments housed in schools and universities—some even ranking in the top ten largest for aperture in the United States when they were built. This paper, a work in progress toward an ultimate goal of preparing a complete census of nineteenth-century U.S. astronomical observatories and instruments, will present highlights of analyses about the private observatory owners (background, income level), the instruments they commissioned (size, maker, cost), the observatory buildings (domes, slide-off roofs, triangular buildings with cellar-like doors, rotating buildings, etc.), their locations, their work, and some perspective on their relationship to the professional astronomical community.

Marv Bolt, Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
“Tracking Down the World’s Earliest Telescopes”
A few years ago, Rolf Willach identified the eight (or ten) known surviving telescopes made before 1650.  In the fall of 2006, two more candidates were found in the store rooms of German museums.  One of these provides interesting suggestions for locating more examples, as well as furnishing important information about the contexts in which early telescopes appeared.  We will look at these telescopes and their contexts in some detail.

J.W. Briggs, Clay Science Center
“The 13-inch Refractor of Lewis M.  Rutherfurd
In autobiographical notes, George Ellery Hale mentioned two people as particular inspirations:  Henry A.  Rowland at Johns Hopkins, and New York amateur Lewis M.  Rutherfurd (1816-92).  Of these, Rutherfurd is the less well-known today – probably having one of the most frequently misspelled names in the history of astronomy!  Rutherfurd’s largest telescope was a 13-inch refractor made in 1868 and signed “H.  G.  Fitz.”  The instrument is notable for its full-aperture meniscus photographic corrector, which was designed by Rutherfurd himself.  The presentation will include interesting features of the surviving tube assembly; a curious rediscovery of the once-famous Rutherfurd plate collection; and some ambiguity regarding who actually figured the three-element objective of the Rutherfurd refractor.

Elizabeth Burns, University of Toronto
“Nesting Spheres in Ptolemy’s Planetary Hypotheses”
Ptolemy’s nesting sphere principle, where the spheres of the planets are situated so that there is no empty space and a planet’s greatest distance is equal to the closet distance of the planet above it, is an idea that Ptolemy discusses only in the Planetary Hypotheses.  In the Almagest and in the Planetary Hypotheses, Ptolemy says that we cannot know the order of the planets with certainty; however, in the latter he discusses the planets collectively as one system.  Using the ratios of the deferent to the epicycle circles, his estimates for the distances of the Sun and Moon, and his proposed order of the celestial bodies, Ptolemy calculates the distances of the five visible planets in the Planetary Hypotheses.  However, Ptolemy runs into difficulties when trying to fit the inferior planets in between the Sun and the Moon, and consequently he is left with a void of 81 earth radii.  Furthermore, Ptolemy’s nesting sphere model would not work with the distance of the Sun that he uses in the Canobic Inscription.  In this paper I will closely examine the order and distances of the planets in the Planetary Hypotheses and Canobic Inscription, specifically examining whether the nesting sphere principle is present throughout all of Ptolemy’s works, or a concept present only in his later works.

James Caplan, Observatoire Astronomique Marseille-Provence
“History and Optics of the James Short Telescopes of the Marseille Observatory”
In 1757, during the Seven Years' War, the Marseille Observatory received two James Short telescopes from London: a Cassegrainian of focal length 24 inches and a Gregorian of focal length 74 inches.  I plan to discuss (1) the history of these instruments: how they were bought, shipped, paid for and used; (2) optical aspects of the telescopes, such as Short's solution to the direct-light problem; and (3) several other questions concerning eighteenth-century reflecting telescope optics, most of which I am unable to answer and which I shall therefore submit to workshop participants.  This work in progress involves a number of people including especially Guy Boistel for his archival research.

Christián C. Carman, CONICET-UNQ
"Rounding Numbers: Ptolemy’s Calculation of the Earth-Sun Distance)"
In this talk, I analyze the coincidence of the results in the calculation of the Earth-Sun distance carried out by Ptolemy both in his Almagest and, with another method, in his Planetary Hypotheses.  The values obtained for the Earth-Sun distance in both works are very similar to each other.  Due to this fact, the great majority of historians have suspected that Ptolemy had altered or at least had selected the data in order to obtain this coincidence.  I will provide a reconstruction of a way in which Ptolemy could have altered or selected the data and subsequently I will try to argue in favor of its historical plausibility.

Michael J.  Crowe, University of Notre Dame
“The Post-1960 History of the Other Side in the Extraterrestrial Life Debate”
The debate over whether extraterrestrial intelligent beings exist has been going on since antiquity.  As is well known, the pro-plurality of worlds position flourished in the period after 1960, having manifested itself in various SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) searches, numerous programs in NASA, countless films, and much else.  What is less widely recognized is that gradually over the last 40 years or so, the anti-plurality of worlds position has made a comeback, for example, in the form of what is sometimes called the Rare Earth hypothesis.  This presentation will sketch the history of this challenge and discuss the chief scientists who have contributed to it.  Efforts will also be made to specify the lines of influence (if any) among these scientists, who in fact come from a variety of disciplines.

Steven J.  Dick, NASA
“Geodesy, the Markowitz Moon Camera, and the IGY”
The Space Age ushered in an unprecedented opportunity for precision geodesy.  The size and shape of the geoid, previously limited to observations of the direction or intensity of gravity at observation sites, could now be supplemented by the determination of geocentric coordinates from observations of artificial satellites.  Such a program was undertaken by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, with its Moonwatch program combined with the Baker-Nunn cameras.  There was, however, a second "geometric method" to determine geocentric coordinates by observing the Moon itself.  As Chairman of the Latitude and Longitude Committee of the IGY, astronomer William Markowitz of the U.S.  Naval Observatory implemented a program using a dual-rate Moon camera, intended to provide more precise time and geodetic data.  Some 20 Markowitz Moon cameras were deployed on telescopes around the world for the IGY geodesy effort. The analysis of the international observations for geodetic purposes proved difficult, and the method was soon superseded. Nevertheless, the program continued until the mid-1970s to produce Ephemeris Time and the quantity known a "Delta T," the difference between Ephemeris Time and universal time based on the Earth's rotation. Thousands of photographic plates and data sheets from around the world remain housed at the U.S. Naval Observatory.  The challenges of this early program makes an interesting contrast to the Smithsonian's better-known Moonwatch/Baker-Nunn program, and highlights NASA's important early role in geodesy with the launch of geodetic satellites like Anna 1B (1962), LAGEOS (1976, 1992) and others.  NASA remained very much involved in geodesy with its programs in Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), as well as its use of data from the DoD's Global Positioning System (GPS).

Dennis Duke, Florida State University
 “The History of the Second Lunar Anomaly”
The second lunar anomaly was certainly known to Ptolemy but also appears in an Indian astronomy text from around A.D.  930 in an interesting form that suggests a simple underlying geometrical model that involves an oscillating lunar eccentricity and apsidal line, and as such is a variant of the equant.  Essentially the same model was used, and as far as we know rediscovered, several times in succeeding centuries: by ash-Shatir and Copernicus, by Kepler at an intermediate stage of his lunar research, by Philip Lansbergen and Jeremiah Horrocks, after Kepler but before Newton.  And finally, it was the crucial clue Newton borrowed from Horrocks to finally formulate his own lunar model.

Dana A.  Freiburger, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century American Catholic Higher Education”
My research considers the place of science in American Catholic higher education during the nineteenth century.  Historians speak little about the precise form and dimensions of this subject in Catholic higher education in this period: its participants, impact, successes, failures, and problems.  As a work-in-progress, my dissertation proposes to remedy this situation through a comprehensive study of past events with the aim of depicting clearly the status of science in American Catholic higher education.  In my talk, I will look closely at the field of astronomy in order to appraise the extent of this academic topic within the Catholic context.  Three key themes will be discussed: the standing of astronomy in the Catholic educational curriculum, the use of telescopes and other instruments connected with astronomy, and the existence of astronomical research at American Catholic institutions.

The Discovery of Jupiter’s Radio Emission and the IGY: Teaching Astronomical Science and History in Non-Traditional Settings
Leonard Garcia1, James Thieman2, Shing Fung2, and Jay Friedlander1
Burke and Franklin’s discovery in 1955 of decameter-wavelength radio emissions from Jupiter marked the birth of planetary radio astronomy.  Identification of the radio observatory site required archival research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW).  The work of a group from NASA Goddard and the CIW led the state of Maryland to officially recognize the historic significance of this site.  We also organized a 50th anniversary event in 2005 that included an unveiling of an historic marker erected near the original observatory site and a symposium on planetary radio astronomy.  A grant from Montgomery County, Maryland enabled us to create a brochure about the historic and scientific importance of this discovery.  We are using this brochure as a means of teaching the public about the scientific process, using the discovery of Jupiter’s radio emission and of Van Allen’s radiation belts during the International Geophysical Year 1957-58. The brochure shows how these discoveries and the research that followed led to the discovery of Jupiter’s radiation belts.  Through NASA’s Radio Jove project, we are also providing the public an opportunity to use a simple radio telescope capable of detecting radio emissions from Jupiter, the Sun and the Galaxy.  This telescope was placed at the historic marker during an annual county-wide tour of historic sites.  Future work includes incorporating the content of the brochure into a website, including audio clips of our interview with Bernard Burke and Kenneth Franklin and sounds of Jupiter from 1955.
1 Perot Systems/NASA/GSFC
2 NASA/GSFC

Thomas Hockey, University of Northern Iowa
“‘Clyde Tombaugh and the Discovery of Pluto’ at Twenty”
In 1987, I produced a forty-minute motion picture about Clyde Tombaugh’s involvement in the trans-Neptunian planet search.  This video took advantage of the author’s relationship with its subject.  He was an emeritus professor at New Mexico State University at the time, and I like to think of myself as Tombaugh’s last student.  Taping occurred at Lowell Observatory, where Tombaugh was invited to address the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and in his hometown of Las Cruces.  The video was imagined as an oral history, not an educational tool.  Still, production values were added such as music, narration, and props.  While supported by a V.M.  Slipher Grant, the budget was meager, and the project used equipment now surpassed by any home camcorder.  I assumed that a more substantial video with Tombaugh eventually would be made. However, at the time of his death, CWT&DP remained the best available film on its topic.  The program was marketed as a fund raiser for the ASP (on VHS tape); portions appeared on the cable-TV History Channel.  The raw 3/4-inch videotapes reside at the Center for the History of Physics.  A one-inch tape master remains with the Clyde Tombaugh Papers at NMSU.  Regrettably, players in these formats are increasingly scarce.  Today, with renewed interest in the status of Pluto, CWT&DP has been remastered.  It is digitized, enhanced, and placed on archival DVD.  Each registered NDVIII attendee will receive a copy of CWT&DP.  I own the copyright and provide CWT&DP for noncommercial, educational, or scholarly use.

Rudi Paul Lindner, University of Michigan
"I May Assure You That He Is Not A Hebrew"
This is a presentation of, and meditation upon, evidence concerning the candidacy of Jews (born within and outside the U.S.) for jobs in astronomy during the first half of the twentieth century. Letters of recommendation were far more open, on the one hand, and confidential, on the other, during that era, and they allow for generalizations whose own accuracy needs considerable thought. In this presentation I rely on materials thrown up during research on different topics, using documents and recollections from four archival collections. For comparison I look at departments of physics and mathematics, and I also examine some experiences of Europeans who sought positions in the U.S. I also discuss varieties of prejudice and occasions on which contact brought about changes in attitude and behavior. This proposal grew out of my research into the hiring and promotion of Leo Goldberg at The University of Michigan during the 1940s and earlier work on the life and times of Heber D. Curtis.

Paul Mills, Utah Valley State College
 “The Mystery of the Thlippery Lithosphere”
Hipparchus (130 B.C.), the most famous and conscientious astronomer of Hellenistic Greece not only alerted us to the fact that the earth’s rotation axis precesses nearly 1o per century, but he also handed us a paradox of astronomical proportions: his geography based on numerous independent astronomical measurements seems to reveal an earth with an equator tipped 10o from its modern value! No one with his skill and disposition would tolerate such an error, and yet no credible modern geologist would tolerate such a recent tilt in the earth’s Lithosphere.  In this paper, we will investigate this strange paradox.

Jim Morris and Rhoda Morris, Independent Scholars
“Replicas of Galileo’s Telescopes, Most Precise to Date, Symbols for the Processes of Science”
We have made extraordinary replicas of Galileo’s historically significant telescopes: the instruments that expanded human vision four hundred years ago and ushered in a new age in astronomy.  This paper will describe how we replicated both of Galileo’s original telescopes displayed at the IMSS museum in Florence, Italy: the leather covered presentation telescopes and the paper covered “working” telescope.  The former was requested of us by the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and the latter we built for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.  We will cover our processes for researching the known information on these instruments, highlight discrepancies and their resolution by our visiting the originals to make our own measurements and observations.  We uncovered new data on the novel construction of the presentation telescope and incorporated these into the construction of the replicas.  We believe these to be the most precise re-creations of Galileo’s telescopes to date and significant in contributing to our understanding of telescope making technology in the early seventeenth century.  These telescopes serve as wonderful symbols for the Galilean story: a simple but powerful case study for problems that science still hasn’t solved.  Historians have the opportunities and capabilities to communicate these analogies between the early seventeenth century and today.  Meeting the challenge could have great benefits.

Jim Morris and Rhoda Morris, Independent Scholars
“Galileo Telescope Replicas and Further Information on their Construction”<
This will be a follow up to the paper presentation given at the Adler Planetarium session on “Replicas of Galileo’s Telescopes, Most Precise to Date.”  It will provide an opportunity for those interested to see additional pictures of the originals in Florence and of the construction processes we used for the replicas.  It will offer computer and poster displays of further details of the telescopes, intermediate construction steps, novel and advanced telescope making techniques from the early seventeenth century and other interesting topics, such as, why it took so long to discover the telescope.

J.  Brian Pitts, University of Notre Dame
“Astronomical Ages and Genesis: Starlight Transit Time and Its Theological Reception”
Contemporary astrophysics and geology are in tension with the short terrestrial history traditionally connected to Genesis.  Stories about Genesis and geology have been told, but histories of astronomy and religion generally take the Copernican controversy, the nebular hypothesis and extraterrestrial intelligent life to be the main issues of interest.  Long stellar light transit times in relation to Biblical chronology are often ignored, despite apparently providing a lower bound on astronomical ages using very simple physics.  Here an attempt is made to sketch this story.  Tension might have arisen in the context of Day 4 of the Hexameron in the era between Roemer and Bradley, as light speed measurements and some stellar distances started to solidify (1670s-1720s).  William Herschel's 1802 claim to see stars nearly 2,000,000 light years away posed the problem in a dramatic way, but decades were required for claims of deep astronomical time to be established and accepted.  While the rise of uniformitarian geology focused attention on Biblical chronology and encouraged schemes for lengthening it, only occasionally was astronomy invoked or addressed as a supporting argument.  Given the dearth of specialized literature, histories of geology and the (uneven but highly relevant) contemporary creation-evolution discussion provide useful entry points to the vast array of potentially relevant primary sources.  An effort is being made to search seventeenth- through nineteenth-century astronomy texts and works on natural theology or geology and Scripture, generally in English, to trace the reception of deep stellar light transit time among both scientists and nonscientists.

J.  A.  Ruffner, independent scholar
“A Worksheet for Newton’s De Systemate Mundi (1685)”
The projected second volume of the Principia was to be a System of the World written as a popular discourse.  The crowning achievement was to be a restoration of the ancient truth that comets are a kind of planet.  The plan was to show, without necessarily naming names, that Descartes had it wrong.  Comets do not wander along the edge of the vortex to be randomly swept up by an adjoining one.  They move in elongated orbits about the sun and are never far from it during the visible part of their path.  The truth was hidden in plain (naked eye) view that required only simple analytical tools to reveal. Otherwise it would have eluded the most sage of the ancients.  Newton manuscript ULC Add 3965.11, ff.  173r-174v shows him gathering information from various works by Hevelius, all obtained by naked eye observations, that lend support to that thesis.  As his notes progress the process becomes more analytical and ultimately more daring.  In the end only a few items made it into the treatise, itself unfinished.  But isn’t that true of most provisional ideas.  This guided poster tour shows highlights of a beautiful and ultimately self critical mind at work.

Steve Ruskin, Independent Scholar
“‘Personal Discomfort and Great Purity of Atmosphere’: Samuel Pierpont Langley’s 1878 Solar Eclipse Expedition to Pikes Peak”
This paper will discuss the use of the summit of Pikes Peak as an astrophysical observatory, with particular focus on Pikes Peak as a location for observing the solar eclipse of July 29, 1878.  This expedition was headed by Samuel Pierpont Langley, founder of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.  Observing the eclipse (and studying the corona during totality) from the 14,115’ summit would not have been possible without the infrastructure of nearby Colorado Springs.  Because the city was a budding tourist destination, it had an extensive transportation network (rail, carriages, burros) and communication infrastructure (telegraph, post) capable (though sometimes just barely) of hosting and supporting the eclipse observers.  The summit of Pikes Peak was also the location of an internationally known signal station; the station’s existence was the impetus for observing the eclipse from the mountain’s inhospitable summit. Telescopes and observers were transported to Colorado Springs by rail, and up Pikes Peak by pack animals.  Once on top, observers battled harsh weather and altitude sickness while they prepared for their observations.  This paper will be an outline of a larger research project exploring the scientific, social, and popular aspects of this eclipse expedition, while comparing it to other simultaneous expeditions in Colorado (Grays Peak at 14,270 feet, the Denver area, and Las Animas), as well as Rawlins, Wyoming (Thomas Edison was on that expedition).

Arnaud Saint-Martin, Sorbonne University
“A Coup d’État in French Astronomy: The Foundation of the Astrophysical Service, 1936-1940”
The aim of this talk is to relate the tortuous story of the foundation of the Service d’astrophysique by the Caisse nationale de la recherche scientifique in 1936-1937.  Long before the official creation of the Haute-Provence Observatory, a group of astrophysicists wished to build a French replica of the Mount Wilson Observatory–an establishment viewed as the “Eldorado” in Europe.  They sought to install large-aperture telescopes and modern facilities exclusively dedicated to astrophysics researches, a field that was, they considered, weakly developed in France compared to other countries.  This event was crucial in many ways.  I shall stress the following points.  The authority of the Paris Observatory was contested by the very existence of the Service, which basically consisted in the connection of a laboratory, situated in Paris, and the Provencal Observatory.  This interdisciplinary program institutionalized the concept of the “scientific mission.” In the socialist “Republic of the savants,” the astronomers became researchers.  This collectivism implied a new idea of the way work had to be done in an observatory.  Finally, it led to a substantial transformation of the political economy of the French astronomical organizations in the years following the foundation.  This study gives a fresh look at interwar French astronomy, which is badly known.  It is based on the previously unclassified archives of several institutions: Lyon Observatory, Paris Astrophysical Institute, and Haute-Provence CNRS Observatory.  In addition, I will use the personal correspondence of several individuals (especially those of the first directors of the Service, Henri Mineur and Jean Dufay) and interviews conducted with protagonists of this story.

Mark Sheridan, Drew University
“‘Nature’ and ‘Whether’ in the ETI Discourse”
When the SETI project was launched in the early 1960s, its leaders believed they were submitting a long history of theorizing about ETI to its first rigorous scientific test.  Two developments gradually made it clear that SETI was, however, testing only the traditional assumption that ETI was humanoid, and thus ignored the theoretically much larger possibility of nonhumanoid ETI.  First, the searches themselves prompted observers to reflect on how the questions of whether ETI existed and the nature of that intelligence were mutually constitutive.  It was noted, for example, that the use of radio astronomy “tuned” a search to detect humanoid intelligence.  Also, the Soviet CETI mission extended beyond detection to communication; this forced them to confront the possibility of encountering nonhumanoid intelligences. Second, a rapid expansion was taking place in the scientific knowledge base from which analogies could be constructed about the possible nature of ETI; as a result, nature was joining whether as an explicit topic in the ETI discourse.  Developments in fields as diverse as computer science, entomology, physics, cognitive science, and evolution enabled a rich literature to emerge that suggested ETI might be not only nonhumanoid but perhaps even so radically Other as to be unknowable or unrecognizable by humans.  I will present examples of how advances in various fields inspired theorizing about nonhumanoid conceptions of ETI.

Douglas A.  Vakoch, SETI Institute and California Institute of Integral Studies
"The Evolution of Extraterrestrials: Life beyond Earth and the Synthetic Theory of Natural Selection"
For many astronomers, the progressive development of life has been seen as a natural occurrence given proper environmental conditions on a planet.  And even though such beings would not be identical to humans, they argue, we should expect to find significant parallels.  A striking contrast is seen in the writings of scientists from other disciplines, who hold more widely differing views.  One clue to understanding the differences between the anthropologists, paleontologists, and biologists who speculated on extraterrestrials is suggested by an historical analysis, noting who wrote on the subject.  Given the relatively small number of commentators on the topic, it seems more than coincidental that four of the major contributors to the evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s are among them. Upon closer examination, it is evident that the exobiological arguments of Theodosius Dobzhansky and George Gaylord Simpson, and less directly, of H.  J.  Muller and Ernst Mayr, are all related to their earlier work in formulating synthetic evolution.  By examining the variety of views held more recently by anthropologists, paleontologists, and biologists, we can see that there were significant disagreements among them about evolution as late as the 1960s.  By the close of the next decade, however, most had reached a consensus that “higher” life, particularly intelligent life, probably occurs quite infrequently in the universe.  Their reasons for these various beliefs suggest a cause for the shift: an increasing acceptance of the evolutionary synthesis.

Glen Van Brummelen, Quest University
“Telling Time in 10th-Century Baghdad: A New Instrument for Solar Timekeeping Comes to Light”
The recent discovery by David King of an instrument for telling time by the altitude of the Sun is rewriting the story of medieval astronomical timekeeping.  The device, by the early 10th-century astronomer Nastulus, is a graphical solution to a common approximate formula for which many numerical tables exist, including a well-known set by al-Khwarizmi.  However, Nastulus’s instrument applies a shockingly sophisticated mathematical approach, producing times of day for Baghdad in error by no more than a few minutes.  We shall place the instrument in context and work out some examples with replicas.

Albert van Helden, Institute for the History and Foundations of Science, University of Utrecht
“Getting the Most Out of Your Telescope in the 17th Century”
How good were 17th-century telescopes, and what could one see through them?  Over the past several decades, historians, scientists, and museum curators have inventoried telescopes, and written sources about them, in collections all over the Western world and even Asia, and a large amount of information has accumulated.  This is an attempt at some preliminary conclusions.

Craig B. Waff, Air Force Research Laboratory
“A Telescope-Owning Community Grows in Brooklyn”
After becoming aware of the online availability of issues of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper from 1841 to 1902, I conducted, initially out of just curiosity, a number of searches of its database for articles on astronomical topics.  The articles that I came across, however, soon revealed certain landmark events, discussed in this paper, that spurred a growing interest in astronomy and telescopes in Brooklyn, NY, and neighboring areas during the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Sustained astronomical interest in Brooklyn was first inspired in 1850 by a series of popular astronomical talks by visiting lecturer Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, which led to the establishment, along the lines of the Cincinnati model, of an early short-lived astronomical association that managed an energetic but ultimately unsuccessful effort to raise funds for a single large public telescope. The most significant factor, however, for long-term growth of astronomical interest in Brooklyn appears to have been the increasing number of individually owned telescopes by citizens of Brooklyn and neighboring areas.  Two Eagle articles in particular, published in 1882 and 1887, provide remarkably detailed descriptions of these telescopes and the observatories that housed them, the costs of these instruments and facilities, and the particular astronomical interests of the telescope owners, who not surprisingly were the most active members of the amateur-level American Astronomical Society (not to be caused with the current professional organization with the same name) established in Brooklyn in 1883.

Thomas R.  Williams, Independent Scholar
“The First Team in Amateur Telescope Making”
The story of the founding of the amateur telescope making movement that swept the United States from the late 1920s through the 1950s has been frequently told.  Albert G.  Ingalls, with some help from Russell W.  Porter, spread the telescope making infection through his columns and papers in the pages of Scientific American, and edited a series of books titled Amateur Telescope Making.  This paper will explore the underpinning of Ingalls’s effort by a number of other individuals who, with Porter, constituted an inner circle of Ingalls’s correspondents.  These individuals, including John Pierce, Fred Ferson, Wally Everest, Horace Selby, and Harold Lower, were telescope making practitioners of substantial experience and with current projects.  They provided the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge that allowed Ingalls to continue to publish to the growing population of amateur telescope makers. Together, they constituted the “first team” of amateur telescope making in this period.  These individuals deserve to share, with Ingalls and Porter, the credit for the hobby’s extensive popularity in the 1930s and beyond.

Thomas Williams, Independent Scholar
“John M. Pierce’s HobbyGrafs”
Springfield, Vermont teacher John M. Pierce supported the amateur telescope making movement in many ways, including the publication of these simplified instructions on various aspects of telescope making for the beginner.  These examples provided courtesy of Stellafane Historian Bert Willard of the Springfield Telescope Makers.

Yaakov Zik and Giora Hon, University of Haifa
“Geometry of Light and Shadow: Francesco Maurolyco (1494–1575) and the pinhole camera”
In his Theoremata de lvmine, et vmbre (1521), Francesco Maurolyco discussed, inter alia, the problem of the pinhole camera.  Maurolyco outlined a framework based on Euclidean geometry in which he applied the rectilinear propagation of rays to the projection of light and casting of shadow on a screen behind the pinhole. Since the time of Euclid geometry had been the tool for addressing theoretical and practical problems in optics. Maurolyco is no exception in appealing to geometry while developing a theory of the pinhole camera.  However, he went beyond the longstanding tradition, for Maurolyco studied shadows as geometrical objects. Moreover, he considered an instrument—the dioptra—an experimental setup for demonstrating and accounting for the optical phenomena which he studied. We limit our discussion to the problem of how the image behind an aperture is formed, and follow the way Maurolyco combined theory with instrument to solve the problem of the projection of light through apertures. Apart from pursuing an intense study of classical Greek mathematical texts, with the goal of executing a program for the renaissance of mathematics, Maurolyco also established with the dioptra a novel linkage of method, theory, and instrument.  He thereby turned optics into one of the foundational sciences of astronomy.  This study is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no.  136/04).

© 2014 University of Notre Dame.     Image Credits