various astronomy-related historical images

Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop - ND XII June 24–28, 2015


Public Invited Talk (Wednesday)

“Use of Geometry in Indian Astronomy”
Michio Yano, Professor Emeritus at Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan
Abstract: Indian astronomy made a remarkable progress after the introduction of Hellenistic astronomy sometime in the third or fourth century CE. The most characteristic aspect of this new astronomy is the use of geometry and geometrical models. The Āryabhaṭīya of Āryabhaṭa (born 476 CE) is the earliest Sanskrit text on mathematical astronomy, where we find a table of Sines, planetary equations, rising times, eclipse computations, etc. Trigonometry became the most frequently used tool after Āryabhaṭa. Several kinds of graphical representations were also used. It is important to know that the Greek planetary theory transmitted to India was that which belonged to the time before Ptolemy. Thus, for example, the equant, Ptolemy’s controversial device, was not known to Indian astronomers. They used two epicycles separately, one to explain the eccentricity of planets, and another to deal with the anomaly of planet’s position relative to the sun. Instead of combining the two epicycles in their geometrical model, they separately prepared correction tables and tried to combine the two irregularities by numerical manipulations. There are several different procedures in the mode of combination according to texts and schools. In my lecture I will talk about the use of geometry in Indian mathematical astronomy.

Invited Speaker Lecture (Saturday)

“Sidereal vs. Tropical Coordinates in Indian Astronomy and Astrology”
Michio Yano, Professor Emeritus at Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan
Abstract: The earliest form of Indian astronomy is found in the Jyotiṣavedāṅga (astral science as an auxiliary branch of study of Veda). The main purpose of this text is to give the basic knowledge of luni-solar calendar and nothing is taught about planets. By the authority of Veda it developed to a well-established branch of science, jyotiḥśāstra (science of stars), after the introduction of Western astronomy and astrology in about the third or fourth century CE, and it made a remarkable progress. Along with this, the coordinate system made significant changes. The old Indian coordinate system, namely, that of nakṣatra (lunar mansion) is of two kinds: (1) equally spaced 27 nakṣatras and (2) unevenly spaced 28 nakṣatras. With Hellenistic astronomy, the twelve zodiacal signs as the ecliptic coordinate system were transmitted to India. The relation of the zodiacal signs and the 27 nakṣatras was firmly established. After the mid-sixth century Indian astronomers got to know the phenomenon that we now call the “precession” of the equinoxes, but they did not take it into account in their calendar. The phenomenon was called ayana or the “motion” of the solstices. The sidereal system is called nirayaṇa, while the tropical system is sāyana. In some astronomical and astrological problems they used sāyana system, but for the purpose of preparing calendars and horoscopes they stick to the nirayaṇa system. In my lecture I will talk about the historical change of the meaning of ayana and the conflict between the sidereal and tropical systems.

Panel Abstract

“Studies in the History of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate”
Presenters: Dennis Danielson, Michael J. Crowe, Steven J. Dick
Moderator: Matthew F. Dowd
Abstract: Astrobiology is at the cutting edge of modern astronomical discovery. New, complex, and incomplete information has not yet resolved the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe and, if so, what it will be like. The history of such questions, however, extends far into the human past. The papers of this panel will discuss a variety of historical engagements with the topic of extraterrestrial life, demonstrating that religious and philosophical issues as well as scientific discoveries have played an important part in the debate over the existence of extraterrestrial life and its societal implications.

Panel Paper Abstracts

“Milton’s Paradise Lost and Early Modern ET”
Dennis Danielson, University of British Columbia
Abstract: In ways seldom properly acknowledged, John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost explores Eart’’s role in a living, perhaps extraterrestrially populated, navigable, and purposeful Cosmos. Although his Cosmos (like Copernicus’s) is spherically bounded, Milton postulates an immeasurably much larger extra-cosmic territory (Chaos, multiverse?) surrounding this created Universe, and postulates furthermore that this Universe affords the possibility of space travel amid (after Galileo) “innumerable stars,” each of which in turn can be viewed as “a world / Of destined habitation” (PL 7.620-2). Exploring Milton’s presentation of such extraterrestrial possibilities within the context of other seventeenth-century other-worlds speculation is not only interesting in itself but also offers a venue for probing further the philosophical and theological motivations for, and implications of, the search for ET.

“The Place of Sir John Herschel (1792–1871) in the Extraterrestrial Life Debate”
Michael J. Crowe, University of Notre Dame
Abstract: John Herschel, son of the famous astronomer William Herschel, was for a number of decades Britain’s leading astronomer. His Treatise on Astronomy (1833) and his Outlines of Astronomy (1849) were viewed as the most authoritative English-language presentations of astronomy. His most important achievement was his research on the astronomy of the southern celestial heavens drawn together in his Results of Astronomical Observations Made ... at the Cape of Good Hope (1847). It is less well known that John Herschel, like his father, was repeatedly involved in the extraterrestrial life debate, in which he advocated some extraordinary positions. The goal of this presentation will be to draw together these materials, some of which I have published before, and others that I have recently found.

“The Extraterrestrial Life Debate as Applied History of Astronomy”
Steven J. Dick, 2014 Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology
Abstract: The impact of discovering life beyond Earth, whether microbial or intelligent, has become an important policy issue, especially with the discovery of numerous exoplanets, some in the habitable zone of their parent stars. History can play an important part in the question of societal impact in at least three ways: analogy with other scientific discoveries, including resulting changes in worldviews; a better understanding of the extended nature of discovery itself; and an analysis of the history of the extraterrestrial life debate in those cases when life was thought to have been discovered. Among the latter cases are the Great Moon Hoax/Satire of 1835, Percival Lowell’s claims of artificial canals on Mars beginning in 1895, the Orson Welles Halloween Eve broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938, and NASA’s claim in 1996 of nanofossils in the Martian meteorite ALH 84001. In this paper, which reports on research at the Library of Congress over the last year, I examine these cases with an eye toward asking whether any lessons can be learned about the societal impact of discovering extraterrestrial life. While learning lessons from history is fraught with ideological difficulties, and neither historians nor anyone else can predict the future, surely one of the uses of history is to contextualize and illuminate problems in the modern world.

Panel Abstract

“Time and Astronomy’s Authority”
Presenter: Sara J. Schechner, David P. Wheatland Curator, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University
Abstract: Close examination of portable and pocket-sized sundials from the sixteenth century onward and their many different hour systems shows how astronomy’s authority was culturally bounded when it came to finding and keeping time. This paper will draw upon the extraordinary collection of sundials and time finding instruments at the Adler Planetarium, which the speaker is cataloguing. Special arrangements have been made for the audience to have the opportunity to see many instruments up close after the talk and to discuss them with the speaker.

Panel Abstract

“Recovering the ‘Weirdness’ of Nineteenth-Century Astronomy”
Presenters: Stephen Case, Ken Corbett, Lee MacDonald, Robert Smith
Abstract: Early accounts of the history of nineteenth-century astronomy were composed by astronomical practitioners and thus often evidenced an internal narrative divorced from broader cultural contexts in which astronomy was pursued. The authority of these early triumphalist accounts continues to cast its shadow over work done on nineteenth-century astronomy, particularly in the United States. This panel seeks to restore this broader context of nineteenth-century astronomy. As Michael Crowe, for instance, has shown with his work on the extraterrestrial life debate, the motivations and beliefs of astronomers were far “weirder” than classical accounts of the history of astronomy pervaded by presentist assumptions indicate. The reasons astronomers had for pursuing their work and the role it played in the culture of the period included aspects far beyond those yet explored. Nineteenth-century astronomy in particular, as the works of Aubin, Bigg, and Sibum have shown, was a period in which the observatory and its inhabitants fulfilled a wide and varied role in society and culture, with intersections in politics, public perception, imperialism, and theology.

Panel Paper Abstracts

“‘Land-marks of the Universe’: John Herschel against Positional Astronomy”
Stephen Case, Olivet Nazarene University
Abstract: John Herschel (1792–1871) is regarded as the most influential astronomer of the nineteenth century. Yet his approach to astronomy diverged widely from the positional astronomy dominating during his lifetime and characterized by terrestrial applications such as time-keeping, navigation, and cartography. In contrast, Herschel’s astronomy focused on the nature and properties of specific sidereal objects. I explore Herschel’s relationship with positional astronomy-as proponent and user though never practitioner-and suggest a more useful distinction among astronomers during this period than that usually made between amateurs and professionals. I also discuss how Herschel took the “weird” astronomy of his father and transformed it from the purview of a single astronomer with unique instruments to a nascent research program focusing on the physical nature of stellar objects.

“On Dropping the Ball: Punctuality and Greenwich Mean Time in Victorian Britain”
Ken Corbett, University of British Columbia
Abstract: In 1852, George Biddell Airy, then Astronomer Royal at the Greenwich Observatory, established a system of distributing Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout Britain over the expanding telegraph network. This system, which fused meridian astronomy, horology, and telegraphy, has largely been discussed within the context of the appearance of railways and the eventual establishment of GMT as the legal time standard of Britain in 1880 and the international Prime Meridian in 1884. While acknowledging the importance of these narratives and the imperatives of supplying accurate time for determining longitude, I argue that efforts to distribute Greenwich time were intimately connected with cultural values concerning punctuality and time-thrift. As electric time balls and coordinated clocks appeared in London and elsewhere, Airy, newspaper editors, and factory owners speculated about the effects of a single time standard on those who would use it. Examining efforts to manage signal errors I show how time discipline both within and without the Observatory was a fundamental concern to the authority and utility of Greenwich time.

“‘Solar Spot Mania’: The Origins of Solar Research at Kew Observatory, 1852–1860”
Lee MacDonald, University of Leeds
Abstract: The building of the photographic solar telescope, or “photoheliograph,” at Kew Observatory near London in the 1850s and the successful program of solar photography carried out with it have generally been taken as a direct response to Sir John Herschel’s well-publicized 1854 call for a collaborative study of sunspots. In this paper I use archival evidence to show that the story of the photoheliograph’s origins and how it came to Kew in the first place is much more complex than has hitherto been acknowledged and that it was really the work of several individuals. I also argue that the photoheliograph and the work carried out with it were largely directed and financed by a private individual, Warren De La Rue. Finally, the success of the photoheliograph can be demonstrated by its being able to photograph the sunspot that unleashed the flare famously observed in 1859 by Carrington and Hodgson.

“The Perils of Presentism: The Case of British Astronomy in the Long Nineteenth Century”
Robert Smith, University of Alberta
Abstract: I will argue that to recapture the richness and complexity of some aspects of astronomy in Britain in the long nineteenth century historians need to seek new ways to both understand the practices of the historical actors and to better enter their mental landscapes. I will try to make this case by examining a number of specific topics and issues. These will include the links between astronomy and magnetism, astronomy and imperialism, the (non) debate on galaxies in the nineteenth century, and the amount of authority many later historians have handed to nineteenth century astronomers to define for them the key historical questions to be addressed. Accounts of the development of astronomy in Britain in the nineteenth century, I will thereby argue, have often been hobbled by ‘presentism’ and so the interpretation of the past in terms of present day ideas, concerns and beliefs.

Panel Abstract

“Epistemology and Authority in Cosmology”
Presenters: Yann Benétreau-Dupin, Nora Mills Boyd, and Emre Keskin
Moderator: Monica Solomon, University of Notre Dame
Abstract: Once an almost entirely theory-driven science, cosmology has evolved to include both sophisticated computer simulations and precision observational surveys. Yet even as better instrumentation pushes back prior horizons of empirical access, cosmologists (especially theorists) have continued to ask what scientific work can be done beyond the frontier of observations today, and what work will be left to accomplish once the current observational renaissance runs up against insurmountable limitations. Such questions pertain to the epistemic authority of various methodological resources available in cosmology including philosophical principles and idealized models. This active dialog has consequences not only for the appraisal of cosmological research strategies and results, but also for the understanding that contemporary cosmologists have of the demarcation of scientific questions from non-scientific ones, empirical hypotheses from speculative theorizing. This panel addresses three areas of active research in cosmology: the role and probative value of self-locating beliefs in cosmological reasoning, empirical support for inflation and its predicted consequences, and the epistemic status of simulations. We hope to generate discussion about current topics related to epistemic authority in cosmology as well as to elicit reflections from other workshop participants on the history of related subjects.

Panel Paper Abstracts

“Lost in the Multiverse: Self-Locating Beliefs, Observation Bias, and Typicality Assumption”
Yann Benétreau-Dupin, University of Western Ontario
Abstract: Should a cosmological model be seen as more likely if it allows for the existence of more observers having an experience indistinguishable from ours? Or should it matter that a model allows for more locations from where observations would be similar to our own? Is there a good reason to assume that we are typical observers, and can that guide cosmological model selection? On what grounds can we justify the assumption that we don't occupy a privileged position in the universe?

I will examine the probative value of self-locating beliefs (anthropic reasoning, Copernican principle, typicality assumption...) and their role in model selection in cosmology. I will distinguish typicality assumptions about our observations with respect to our observation bias, and assumptions about our typicality as observers. I will argue that the latter often rest on unwarranted assumptions, such as the assumption that all models compatible with our data are equally likely.

“The Birth of the Universe, Chalked up to Dust”
Nora Mills Boyd, University of Pittsburgh
Abstract: In March of 2014, the BICEP2 collaboration announced the discovery of B-modes in the polarization map they had made of a patch of the cosmic microwave background. The results were originally interpreted as evidence for primordial gravitational radiation and heralded as the smoking-gun for cosmic inflation. However, soon after the initial report, methodological and epistemological criticism of the team’s findings propagated through both the physics community and the popular media. By September 2014, media reported that the results had “bit the dust” and the postmortem analysis has continued ever since.

In this talk, I recount a brief history of the theoretical motivation for inflation, the observational attempts to constrain relevant parameters, and of events since the initial BICEP2 results were released. I discuss important factors that influenced the trajectory of the discovery’s reception including the use of preliminary results in data analysis, public criticism from competing theoreticians, and publication of subsequent results from a collaboration with Planck and Keck. Finally, I discuss what epistemic authority that evidence for primordial gravitational radiation would have with respect to the multiverse hypothesis.

“Epistemic Authority of Cosmological Simulations”
Emre Keskin, University of South Florida
I argue that cosmological simulations that aim to model the time-evolution of large-scale structure formation in the universe—in addition to their numerical results—yield more than what Wendy Parker calls “adequacy-for-purpose.” I claim that it is possible obtain evidence from simulations confirming or disconfirming the underlying fundamental theories. Especially in the context of cosmology, the current examples of N-body simulations yield such evidence. This shows simulations in cosmology have a particular fundamental strength in addition to producing numerical output, which is not apparent in climate modeling.

In cosmological research, computer simulations display a monotonic increase of success. Progressively, simulations of the time-evolution of large-scale structure formation yield better results in contrast to their predecessors. In parallel to the refinements in cosmological simulations, the measurement of cosmological parameters has drastically improved. The range of values for cosmological parameters used to test the success of simulations is now narrower. Yet, cosmological simulations still display monotonically increasing success given the stricter constraints. This leads to comparisons that are more rigorous and more precise between observational data and simulations’ results. This, I argue, is the improved collective success of simulations, which gives some epistemic authority to simulations in cosmological research regarding the status of underlying fundamental physical theories.

Panel Abstract

“Aspects of Indian Astronomy”
Presenters: Bill Mak, Kim Plofker, Sho Hirose
Moderator: Michio Yano, Professor Emeritus at Kyoto Sangyo University
Abstract: Pluralism is the word that characterizes Indian culture. In order to understand Indian culture, therefore, a pluralistic approach is needed. This is also the case with the history of Indian astronomy. Since the earliest Vedic time until the Islamic Mughal period there existed and coexisted many schools of astronomy. As for the “authority” of Indian astronomy, there were several, from the holy scriptures of the Veda, Buddhist, or Jain canons in the earlier period, to the Āryabhaṭīya and the Sūryasiddhānta in the classical period. In our panel, three speakers present different aspects of Indian astronomy, thus giving hints for the better understanding of Indian culture.

Panel Paper Abstracts

“The Concept of ‘Gola’ in Sanskrit Sources”
Sho Hirose, Université Paris Diderot
Gola, a Sanskrit word for “ball” or “sphere,” is a term that appears frequently in Indian astronomical treatises. It can refer to celestial spheres, planets as spherical objects, the earth as a spherical object and any theory related to them (i.e. spherical astronomy, cosmology and geography). Instruments of spherical form are also called golas, including a specific type of an armillary sphere, common in many texts, which could have been used for demonstration. Manuscripts of such treatises have no diagrams, but sometimes the text bears witness to explanations drawn on a plane or performed with an armillary sphere. In my talk I will present some examples in an attempt to discuss geometrical representations in Sanskrit astronomy. (This research is supported by SAW/ERC)

“The Astronomical Knowledge of the Buddha, Sages and Foreigners: The Question of Authority in Buddhist Astral Science in South and East Asia”
Bill Mak, Kyoto University
Abstract: For nearly two millennia, the Buddhists have been responsible for disseminating various bodies of astral sciences from India and Central Asia to other parts of Asia, most notably China, Japan and Southeast Asia. While the astral knowledge of the Buddhists was constantly evolving and was part of the greater circulation of knowledge in Eurasia, the Buddhists were seen often by others as the authority of an immutable body of science.

As the Buddhists saw themselves as merely a conduit for Buddhist dharma, their knowledge was sometimes presented as summation and exegesis of what was taught in the Buddhist texts, hence, carrying the authority of the Buddha. This is, however, not always the case as Buddhist authors employed various strategies to incorporate the latest astronomical knowledge such as time measurement and planetary motion into the Buddhist Canon. A closer examination reveals that the Buddhist astral knowledge has its sources in the teachings not of the Buddha, but of the non-Buddhist sages and even foreigners. By presenting a typology of these strategies, I hope to clarify some problems in studies of previous scholars who had a tendency toward a homogenous treatment of Buddhist citations and sources.

“The ‘Canonicity’ of Table Texts in Sanskrit Astronomy”
Kim Plofker, Union College
Abstract: Many of the numerous astronomical tables in the second-millennium Sanskrit scientific corpus identify themselves by the name of an earlier handbook or treatise, implying that the table text is in some way equivalent to its namesake: the table is theoretically just a set of numerical results from the calculations prescribed by the earlier text. This talk examines the relationships between several such “namesake” texts and the ways in which some table compilers introduce their own techniques while claiming the authority of a canonical work.

Paper Abstracts

Joseph P. Bassi, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Worldwide
“Astronomy, Meteorology, or ?: Disciplinary Questions of Authority in ‘Sun-Weather Connection’ Research”
Abstract: A fascinating story in the broader history of astronomy and atmospheric sciences is the effort to connect “day to day” weather with the transient events and variations on the sun often collectively referred to as “solar activity.” The idea that earth weather and solar phenomena are somehow linked has existed within scientific circles since the early 1800s, if not earlier. Noted nineteenth-century astronomers such as William Herschel, John Herschel, and Norman Lockyer argued for such a connection. Many other scientists in subsequent decades-mostly astronomers-have continued on in these investigations. In the 20th century, prominent researchers such as C. G. Abbot of the Smithsonian and National Center for Atmospheric Research’s founding director, Walter Orr Roberts, took up the cause of sun-weather connection studies. Most meteorologists however, in the 20th century have taken a rather skeptical view of these proposed connections. So, the question arises, “who decides what is a valid scientific investigation when the investigation straddles different disciplines?” A better understanding of the history of sun-weather connection science and its associated controversies therefore helps to reveal the dynamics of interdisciplinary science and the inherent questions of “authority” that arise. It also reveals that the nature of scientific research that does not fall easily within traditionally defined scientific disciplinary boundaries. The history of sun-weather research therefore helps to illustrate the role of what some call “borderland” or “intercalated” areas of inquiry in the modern scientific enterprise.

Barbara J. Becker, University of California–Irvine
“‘Horrid Quasar’: Scientific Controversy and the Boundaries of Acceptable Research”
Abstract: It has been over a half century since the discovery of the star-like radio sources we now called “quasars.” Quasars’ enigmatic characteristics and unusual spectral signatures sparked a lively and at times contentious debate within the astronomical community over the physical structure and rightful place of these bodies in the universe. After enduring an initial period of exciting theoretical flux, most astronomers came to accept the emerging mainstream view that quasar redshifts are produced by small, high energy, active galaxies located at cosmological distances. A vocal minority, led by the late Halton C. Arp, argued instead that the evidence showed quasars to be peculiar companions to nearby galaxies. This paper will discuss the course of the resulting controversy from its inception to the present day to show how a scientific community copes with the threat of conflict from within when alternative theoretical views are introduced by dissident colleagues.

Susana Biro, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
“Authority through Performance: The Total Solar Eclipse of 1923”
Abstract: Mexican astronomers in the nineteenth century worked hard to be recognized by the government and society in Mexico, as well as by the relevant international scientific groups of the time. In little more than two decades the National Astronomical Observatory (NAO) became the authority on all things astronomical at home. At the same time, Mexican astronomers came to be considered part of the international community. However, after the Mexican Revolution and World War I, everything had changed and they had to start all over again. In this context, the total solar eclipse of 1923 was a great opportunity. Joaquín Gallo, then director of the NAO, used this spectacular, visually attractive phenomenon to give an impressive performance hoping to strengthen the position of the astronomical community in Mexico and abroad. Over a period of six years Gallo aided the national and international scientists interested in the eclipse. In the process, he became part of the community dedicated to the subject. On the national front, as a result of intense lobbying, he obtained support in the form of work from other Mexican scientists, funding and protection from the government, and the interest of members from all walks of society. Both the scientific observations and its public performance were a success. Once again the NAO began to be recognized by the audiences they considered important.

James Brannon, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Teaching Astronomy in Medieval Western Europe: Dragmaticon vs De Sphaera
Abstract: Scholars have long cast Sacrobosco’s De Sphaera (ca. 1225) as the authoritative introductory work on medieval astronomy, due to its concise subject matter and centuries-long use in European universities and intellectual centers. Yet less than a century (ca. 1145) prior to De Sphaera, William of Conches composed the heuristic Dragmaticon that possessed fame as a handbook of natural philosophy. Its tour-de-force depiction of astronomy also garnered authority as it represented both the culmination of a thousand-year Latin tradition and a showcase for the new Arabic and Greco cosmologies. No other twelfth-century work could make that claim. The Dragmaticon and De Sphaera were studies in contrast: dialogic narrative versus descriptive fact; one a product of courtly patronage, the other of a university; a natural philosophy encyclopedia against a student textbook; the former well-illustrated while the latter had but few diagrams in the manuscripts. Such differences prompt questions regarding Sacrobosco’s canonical status. By providing a detailed comparison of four topics found in both works – the heavenly circles, the order of the planets, the number of celestial spheres, and planetary retrogression - this paper argues that the Dragmaticon, like De Sphaera, wove together the old and new cosmologies, and in the process served to adumbrate much of what Sacrobosco would later compile. Nonetheless, De Sphaera achieved a level of use and fame that eluded the Dragmaticon. Did De Sphaera’s authority result from its facile intelligibility and topic selection, or was it more reflective of the era and institutional setting of its author? What qualities did De Sphaera possess that were lacking in the Dragmaticon? This paper concludes by addressing these questions, and argues that the five-century longevity of De Sphaera’s classroom use, and its textual authority, resulted from a variety of elements. These include its association with the University of Paris, its succinct textbook format, its inclusion as part of a set of curricular works on mathematics and astronomy, its identifications with the “new” Arabic and Greco astronomy, and a conservative European approach to university instruction.

Howard Carlton, University of Birmingham
“Condensing from a Fluid Haze: John Pringle Nichol, the Nebular Hypothesis, and Nineteenth-Century Cosmogony”
Abstract: A significant astronomical debate of the mid-nineteenth century revolved around competing hypotheses of cosmogony. Centuries of church authority lay behind the received wisdom that God had created a static cosmos nearly six thousand years ago. Two potentially credible astronomers, however, had begun to believe that traces of the developmental processes which led to the birth of stars and planets still persisted in the form of the unresolvable nebulae. This paper will look specifically at the work of the Scottish political economist and radical polemicist John Pringle Nichol (1804 – 1859) who was a proponent of a paradigmatic re-imagining of cosmic time and distance and of a developing, as opposed to static, universe. He was opposed by astronomers and theologians of a more conservative religious and political mien, for whom the idea of continuing cosmogony conflicted with their beliefs in final causes and potentially threatened to undermine social stability. Many commentators believed that the claimed resolution of the Orion nebula by Lord Rosse’s giant telescope in the mid-1840s had destroyed Nichol’s argument for ongoing stellar development. In practice, however, Nichol repurposed the evidence produced by his opponents and proceeded to promote his alternative views to a generally receptive popular audience. He thus paved the way for an absolute expansion of universal time and distance, the acceptability of evolution and a general move towards rationalist religious views during the later nineteenth century.

Clifford J. Cunningham, National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT)
“The Spurious Moons of Uranus: How the Authority of William Herschel Caused Astronomers and the Public to Be Misled for a Century”
Abstract: When William Herschel announced the discovery of four additional moons of Uranus in the 1790s, it was universally accepted because of his unquestioned authority as the discoverer of the planet (in 1781) and its moons Titania and Oberon (in 1787). It was not until William Lassell discovered Ariel and Umbriel in 1851 that astronomers were confronted with a serious problem. The four moons of Uranus announced by Herschel did not match either of Lassell’s discoveries, thus leading to an undermining of the astronomical authority of Herschel. For some people, though, the authority of Herschel was so great they conflated the real discoveries of Lassell with the real and imagined discoveries of Herschel, leading to reports of Uranus and its eight moons. Throughout the entire century after Herschel’s claims, popular literature quoted various numbers of Uranian moons, thus confusing and misleading the public. The ramifications caused by the four spurious moons will be examined in the fields of celestial mechanics, solar system cartography and literature.

Keith W. Davis, University of Notre Dame
“The Words of Discovery: Digital Imagery of the High-Z Supernova Team’s Communications Surrounding the Nobel Prize Winning Discovery of Dark Energy”
Abstract: In 1998 two competing teams discovered, through measurement of the brightness of distant supernovae, that the expected deceleration of the expanding universe was in fact an acceleration. This lead to the awareness of a perviously unknown “dark energy” permeating the universe. To archive and create a unique exploration of this subject for public audiences, we have assembled a team of astrophysicists, designers, playwrights, and dramaturges to create a unique planetarium installation. In completion of this work we have been granted direct access to the majority of the scientists of the team, and have collected over 24 hours of interviews and 3000 of their e-mails around the time of discovery. Dr. Keith Davis will present the goals for the project and his efforts to digitally explore and visualize their correspondence at the time of the discovery. We will also seek feedback on our efforts to treat this project as both an archival effort and a planetarium installation to share the human endeavor of science with the public.

Christopher M. Graney, Jefferson Community & Technical College
“Georg Johann Locher’s Disquistiones Mathematicae
Abstract: Recently I have been translating into English Johann Georg Locher’s 1614 Disquisitiones Mathematicae, an anti-Copernican work that Galileo references extensively (and not positively) in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican. Locher’s work seemed like a good candidate for translation not only because of its connection to Galileo, but also because of its many captivating illustrations, and because it is short—all of which would seem to make it appealing to potential publishers. However, the book turns out to be interesting for many more reasons. It is anti-Copernican, while favorable to the Copernican Galileo, and dismissive of the anti-Copernican Simon Marius, and at times even of the anti-Copernican Tycho Brahe. Contrary to Galileo’s characterizations, its anti-Copernican arguments are solid, and include Brahe’s all-important argument regarding star sizes. It embraces the telescope and telescopic discoveries. Locher characterizes the telescope as endorsing an ancient world system—that of Martianus Capella (which in Locher’s view has been appropriated by Brahe). Scripturally based arguments are all but irrelevant in regards to the world system debate, making at best a token appearance in the Disquisitiones. Contrary to the stereotype of the geocentrist reeling before the telescopic discoveries that have smashed his world view, Locher is an anti-Copernican who is confident that new science supports the immobility of the Earth, and busy thinking up new ways to apply the telescope toward expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

Mónica de la Guardia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
“The Expert Apprentice: Ángel Anguiano’s Astronomical Career”
Abstract: Ángel Anguiano (1840–1921), was appointed in 1876 as the first director of the new Observatorio Astronómico Nacional Mexicano (National Astronomical Observatory of Mexico). This made him responsible of setting up the new Observatory, deciding on what instruments were required, their features, and hiring the staff. His position as head of the Observatory placed him as one of the main astronomy authorities in the country, at the forefront of the emergent community of Mexicans astronomers. This paper examine briefly Anguiano’s career during the first two decades on his work at the National Observatory, and pinpoints the ambivalence of his position: an expert among the local community, but a novice in the international context. In doing this, it will also explore the spaces of legitimation deployed by Anguiano to guarantee the Observatory survival, along with the incipient Mexican astronomical community. This case study exemplifies how the acknowledgement of expertise—and authority-is closely linked with context, and with the perceptions of expertise held by the relevant communities—political, scientific, social-involved in its shaping.

George Beke Latura, Independent Researcher, and Reza Assasi
“Zodiacal Light: Lost to the West for 1200 Years”
Abstract: Although “scientifically, it seems fair to leave the credit for the discovery of the zodiacal light to Cassini…” (Interplanetary Dust, 2001: 6), it seems far-fetched to think that no one had ever noticed this celestial phenomenon before the 1600s. Islamic tradition (hadith) warns about the timing of the morning prayer, which has to be said at dawn in order to be effective. The “false dawn” or “tail of the wolf” is vertical – the zodiacal light – while soon thereafter the true dawn appears horizontally along the horizon. With the zodiacal light commonly known in the Muslim world from the time of Muhammad (c. 620 AD), a link to earlier times seems not unlikely. In ‘Illuminated in Lightland’ (ARCE Bulletin Spring 2006), Gary and Talcott suggest that the triangular form of the benben stone and of pyramids was inspired by the pyramidal shape of the zodiacal light. Already in the first Egyptian Pyramid Texts (c. 2300 BC), a ladder to the sky is assembled for the Pharaoh by the Sun (Allen, 2005: 50), best explained as the zodiacal light that’s composed of interplanetary dust that reflects the sun’s light and enfolds planets along the ecliptic. The ladder to the sky could be found in Egyptian funerary texts as they evolved from Pyramid Texts to Coffin Texts to the Book of the Dead, a period that straddled millennia. In Astronomica (Book I, 666–683), the Roman writer Manilius claimed that the path of the planets is brightly visible to the human eye, which is true only if you know when to look for the zodiacal light. The Greek Mysteries of Eleusis that endured for a thousand years celebrated the Lesser Mysteries in spring and the Greater Mysteries in fall, coinciding with the zodiacal light that’s best viewed in temperate zones at the equinoxes. The all-night vigil of the Greater Mysteries suggests that initiates would witness the zodiacal light that envelops planets along the ecliptic like a stairway to heaven (Latura, Proceedings SEAC 2013 Conference). Once the long-declining Mysteries were shut down on the authority of Theodosius in 392 AD, the zodiacal light disappeared from Western memory until Cassini and others ‘discovered’ it a millennium later.

Li Hui, Shanghai Institute for Science of Science
“Techniques in Counting Xiu Fate”
Abstract: Fate 命 is one important concept in Chinese culture. So far it is discussed mostly from philosophy, religion, anthropology and folk custom angles. However, the technology of counting fate 算命is the basis for a school of fortune telling to be established and to succeed. Only truly understanding the technology of counting fate, we could understand how fortune tellers forecast collective and individual fate. Unfortunately, because the skills of counting fate are secrets of fortune tellers, it is very hard for today’s scholars to recover them.

I focus on the school of Xiu fate 宿命, which could be also translated as foreordination. In Chinese context, Xiu means lunar mansion, an astronomical concept, which could be equally seen as constellation in western astronomy. What I plan to do is to recover the technology of counting Xiu fate based on Chinese materials, to make clear how monks and fortune tellers in China use this concept to establish a systematic divination school.

Alberto A. Martínez, University of Texas at Austin
“From Bruno to Galileo: The Heresy of Many Worlds”
Abstract: For decades, historians and conscientious writers have plausibly argued that the theory of many worlds was of minor importance in the trials and execution of Giordano Bruno. However, on the basis of a systematic analysis of all extant primary sources on Bruno’s Venetian and Roman trials, plus hitherto unknown sources, I will show that his views on many worlds were far more important than previously surmised. I will show that immediately before Bruno began to publish his cosmological views, the Catholic Church had officially declared that belief in many worlds was heretical, under the code of law of Pope Gregory XIII and following the views of ancient Church Fathers. I will discuss how five residents of Rome at the time of Bruno’s execution, in 1600, immediately highlighted the censured heresy of many worlds. Next, I will summarize how, by 1616, nine prominent individuals linked the plurality of worlds to Galileo’s telescopic discoveries, and how their concerns affected the censorship of Copernicus’s work in 1620. As is well known, such considerations seem entirely absent from Galileo’s trial of 1633, yet I have found that a previously unanalyzed and unpublished manuscript by the Consultor for the Inquisition who provided the most critical expert opinion against Galileo, Melchior Inchofer, explicitly reveals that Galileo’s works were offensive, scandalous, and temerarious partly for defending the heresy of many inhabited worlds.

Durruty Jesús de Alba Martínez, Universidad de Guadalajara
“From Power to Education: Astronomical Knowledge around the Gregorian Calendar in México”
Abstract: Issued on February 24, 1582, the Inter Gravissimas papal bull from Gregory XIII is the seminal authority text that established a reform of the Julian calendar then in use. A review of some instructional publications on the now-called Gregorian calendar that were used in México (particulary in Jalisco State) is made along with astronomical knowledge that was taught from the decree date until the early twentieth century as well as the communication procedures and popularization actions undertaken in order to foster complete understanding and full adoption.

Zoë Misiewicz, New York University
“Astronomical Authority and Astrological Knowledge: Aristotle and Ptolemy in John Lydus’s On Celestial Signs
Abstract: In the sixth century CE, the imperial bureaucrat John Lydus assembled a collection of ancient knowledge about the skies in the form of an omen compendium. Lydus justifies his presentation of this material on several grounds: he asserts that he himself has observed its validity, and he draws on the authority of his venerable sources to support his claims. These sources include Ptolemy and Aristotle, whose ideas are presented as essential for an understanding of the universe. At the same time, Lydus is working within a Christian context and emphasizes the importance of divine providence as well. This Christian context seems not to have diminished the authority of the ancient scientific writers on cosmology and astronomy; if anything, Lydus engages more closely with their ideas than with the religious ideas of his day. This paper will examine the precise use that he makes of the works of Ptolemy and Aristotle in supporting his arguments about the skies.

Lisa Ruth Rand, University of Pennsylvania
“‘Our only chance is to fight’: Optical and Radio Astronomers and the Environmental Protection of Outer Space, 1957–1963”
Abstract: The absence of endemic biota in outer space does not preclude human-driven environmental change, laden with moral conflict and political exchange. A discourse of contamination, pollution, and toxicity has surrounded the orbital environment since the launch of the first satellite in 1957-far earlier than many current space policy analysts confronting a potential space junk crisis acknowledge. Optical and radio astronomers in Europe and America forged this discourse during the early 1960s while communicating concern that spacefaring states would, if unchecked, irrevocably contaminate and prematurely close the mythical final frontier.

This paper examines how communities of professional astronomers around the world participated in building a system of governance in near-Earth space, advocating for what we would now call a “sustainable” approach to using a globally shared environment. Focusing on the first decade of the satellite age, including the detonation of nuclear weapons in space and an experimental military communications project that put a temporary copper ring around the Earth, this paper illuminates how a newly accessible and newly pollutable orbital landscape became a contested site of contemporary and anticipated astronomical practices and politics.

Astronomers—some on the cusp of expanding their disciplines into the promising realm of space science—wrestled with their own cultural roles as moral arbiters in Cold War Western society amidst internal disagreement over the future of astronomical practices that they sought to protect. Optical astronomers in particular were historically no strangers to environmental conflict, engaged as they were in what David Aubin has characterized as a century-long effort to preserve the skyward gaze in the face of urbanization and industrialization. They faced opponents in government, military, and industry seeking a greater share of authority in shaping early space policy. Building upon the analysis historians of science who have described the conflicting “insider” and “outsider” identities of Cold War physical scientists during the rise of federally supported Big Science, this paper examines how optical and radio astronomers used tactics including collective consensus and public engagement to promote their own political priorities in space. Intentionally or not, astronomers’ use of proto-environmentalist rhetoric in defense of the outer space environment resonated with lay publics around the world during the concurrent rise of mainstream environmentalism. Though motivated more by disciplinary priorities than disinterested environmental ethics, the response of astronomers to early space communications projects yielded concrete political fruit. Ultimately, astronomers’ fight for authority over the management of outer space was codified in the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1966, which requires international scientific consultation before launching any space project that might lead to “harmful contamination” of the outer space environment.

Sarah Reynolds, Indiana University
“The View from the Moon: Kepler’s Exercise in the Power of Alternate Perspectives”
Abstract: Although often overlooked due to their speculative nature, Kepler’s references to the possibility of extraterrestrial life are scattered throughout his published works. Kepler was particularly interested in inhabitants of the Moon and other planets because they could serve as immediate remote observers for his exercises in implementing Copernican astronomy. However, as I shall argue in this talk, postulating such observers was not just a philosophical or literary device. For Kepler, the decentering of Earth in the Copernican worldview required a similar move away from the pursuit of a singular, authoritative perspective, to an awareness and appreciation of multiple points of view. Living in a time of intense political, religious, and scientific conflict, Kepler saw the ability to understand other points of view as a crucial, but often lacking, skill. Thus, in his Somnium, Kepler sought to assist a broader audience in envisioning the universe from a different vantage point through an allegorical voyage to the Moon. In doing so, Kepler demonstrated that his authority as a scholar lay not in his ability to discover and promulgate a unique and certain point of view, but instead in his demonstrated skill in adaptively engaging with a universe teeming with possibilities.

Voula Saridakis, Lake Forest College
“From Creative Invention to Symbol of Authority: The Expanding Role of Telescopic Sights in the Seventeenth Century”
Abstract: By 1640, English astronomer William Gascoigne began using crosshairs in his telescopes after observing the threads of a spider in the focal plane of one of his telescopes. He later applied the use of these telescopic sights to positional measuring instruments such as quadrants and sextants. Sadly, he was killed during the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644 during the English Civil War. Fortunately, he had corresponded with two acquaintances, William Oughtred and William Crabtree, before his death and had communicated to them the invention he had stumbled upon. But it was not until the 1660s that the story of telescopic sights resurfaces. A priority dispute between English and French astronomers cast a spotlight on this invention once more. Once the controversy was resolved (with the English on the winning side), telescopic sights would become the focus of another controversy involving Johannes Hevelius and the better part of the scientific community of the late seventeenth century. By the time of Hevelius’s death, the telescopic sight had become a symbol of authority and anyone pursuing serious astronomical study and observation was expected to have and use telescopic sights in his arsenal of instruments. This paper will trace the humble origins of the telescopic sight from a splendid example of scientific creativity in the mid-1600s to an indispensible symbol of authority by the end of the seventeenth century.

Craig B. Waff (posthumous) and Trudy E. Bell, Independent Scholar
“‘Winged and Luminous Analysis’: The Voice of Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel”
Abstract: Between 1842 and 1862, Cincinnati Observatory director Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel became famous as a riveting public speaker who filled entire concert halls and captivated audiences of 1,000 or more for 90 minutes straight simply with the power of his spoken word, without any visual aids. So inspiring a popular lecturer was Mitchel that he aroused public interest in founding several nineteenth-century American astronomical observatories; indeed, his compelling lectures were significant in spurring the U.S. observatory-building boom unparalleled in any other nation, giving him authority in the popular mind as a key spokesman for astronomy. What made Mitchel’s delivery so enthralling? No audio technology existed to record his talks, and his best-selling books on popular astronomy-although based on his lectures—were (according to Mitchel himself) heavily edited for print publication. Is there any way today to gain some closer sense of the verbal magic and power he wielded over audiences? The late historian of astronomy Craig B. Waff (1946–2012) spent the last four years of his life identifying all Mitchel’s lectures in New York City, Boston, and a dozen other major cities. From newspapers on microfilm, Waff also found and photocopied articles written by reporters who covered the talks, some accounts being longer than an entire newspaper column, including extended quotes that are essentially verbatim transcripts. From careful analysis of accounts of Mitchel’s live talks, this talk will demonstrate how Mitchel commanded audiences, employing vivid visual imagery, turns of phrase, vocal rhythms, stillness, suspense, and other verbal techniques and stagecraft to (in the words of an Albany newspaper) “enchain and carry with him his audience through the fathomless arches of the heavens.”

Erik C. Young, Olivet Nazarene University
“‘Let them serve as signs’: The Celestial Lights in the Literature of the Early Church Fathers”
Abstract: The relationship between the Christian Church and natural philosophy has been complicated since the first century of the Common Era. The hermeneutic work of the early Church Fathers was primarily concerned with establishing the authority of Holy Scripture in matters of faith and practice. Objectivity and pure reason were not paramount to the writings of the Fathers. Their task was an apologetic endeavor. Owing to the apologetic nature of the extant writings, they have been overlooked by natural historians outside the Church. Exceptions to this are Origen’s De Principiis and St. Basil’s Hexaemeron. Their treatment of the created order and obvious engagement with natural philosophy make these two works useful to the history of science. Still, the end of these seminal theological and philosophical efforts is apologetic. Of particular interest to the Fathers was the nature of stars and other celestial lights. Stars presented to the early Church a particular conundrum. While the authority of scripture insisted celestial lights were clearly and explicitly created by God “for signs and for seasons,” the apologetic work of the Fathers insisted that they distinguish the Christian faith from non-Christian cults in which the stars were believed to be, among other things, the souls of the dead. In the survey of literature that follows and in an effort to better understand the role of early Christian literature in the relationship between the Christian faith and science, my attention will be directed toward the various early Church theologians’ opinions about the nature and significance of the celestial lights.

Huib J. Zuidervaart, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
“For the Count’s Prestige: Astronomy as Tool for the Fashioning of a Ruler’s Authority; The Case of Dutch Colonial Brazil (1638–1644)”
Abstract: In 1637 Johan Maurits, count of Nassau-Siegen, became the governor of Dutch Colonial Brazil. Part of the count’s education had been in Kassel (Germany), where he experienced the local Court culture, which included an astronomical observatory. So, when Johan Maurits founded the new city of Mauritiopolis (in present day Recife), he also introduced Court culture into Dutch Brazil, not only by the construction of two palaces, but also by having employed painters, botanists and .. .. an astronomer.

In 1638 Johan Maurits allowed Georg Marggrafe, a German scholar educated in medicine, botany, alchemy and astronomy, to erect a Tychonic astronomical observatory in Recife at the count’s cost. This site remained operational until 1644, when Marggrafe suddenly died, shortly after the count’s return to Europe. At Johan Maurits’ request, Marggrafe’s scholarly documents were sent to Holland to be spread among different scholars. The biological notes were reworked into the Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (Leiden, 1648), the influential first account of Brazil’s zoology and botany; the cartographical documents were given to Johannes Blaeu to compose a large wall map of Northern Brazil, and the astronomical papers were presented to the Leiden Professor of Astronomy, Jacob Golius. All these project had the intention to boast the prestige of Johan Maurits, who also financed part of the editorial project.

In my presentation the fate and usage of the astronomical documents is discussed, as well as the count’s strategy to use the scholarly yield of his Brazilian reign for his future career.

Poster Paper

“Saving Plato’s Soul”
George Beke Latura, Independent Scholar
Abstract: In the Vatican, in Raphael’s fresco ‘School of Athens,’ Plato stands centrally and points to the heavens, while in his left hand he holds the book Timaeus. The Church’s fascination with this tome is understandable, as Plato describes not only the creation of the cosmos but before that the creation of the Cosmic Soul that the Christian apologist Justin Martyr would equate with the Son of God (Apology On Behalf of Christians, LX). Starting with a primordial cosmic mélange, the Demiurge draws out a long filament that he splits lengthwise (Timaeus: 36b). He bends the two strands into two circles that intersect each other at two places like an X (36c). Although the World Soul is invisible (36e), the Creator will fashion the material universe to resemble the X-shaped Soul as closely as possible (37d). Plato reveals that one of the circles is the path of the classical Planets (36d), and at the very end of Timaeus (92c), Plato points to a visible and discernible god in the heavens (Bury, 1929: 253; Zeyl, 2000: 88). Around the time of Augustus, Manilius honored Plato by placing him in the Milky Way with other sages and heroes (Astronomica, I: 774) and he described the visible intersection in the night sky (I: 677-684) that is best explained as the intersection of the Milky Way and the zodiacal light that appears along the ecliptic, the path of the planets. Numerous authors in antiquity echoed this cosmology, most notably Macrobius, whose Commentary on the Dream of Scipio provides a link - through Cicero - to Plato himself (Latura, Proceedings SEAC 2012 Conference). Around 160 AD, the theurgist authors of The Chaldean Oracles identified Plato’s X-shaped Cosmic Soul with Hekate, the goddess of crossroads (Majercik, 1989: 4; Johnson, 1990: 13). At the intersections of the Milky Way and the Zodiac (the path of the Planets) stood the portals to the beyond where Hekate, the goddess who helped Demeter find her daughter in the Mysteries of Eleusis, opened and closed the gates of Hades (Latura, Proceedings SEAC 2013 Conference). The Milky Way as heavenly abode can be found in Ovid (Metamorphoses, I: 168), Cicero (De Re Publica, VI: 16), Manilius (Astronomica, I: 774), Macrobius (Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, Book I: XII: 1), and Martianus Capella (Marriage of Philology and Mercury, Book II: 208), while the intersecting path of the planets assembles a visible stairway to heaven. Yet in Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus (c. 450 AD, Book III: Part II: 238: 2) as well as in Cornford’s Plato’s Cosmology (1937: 72), we are told that Plato’s X in the heavens stands for the intersection of the path of the planets and the celestial equator, a mathematical projection of the Earth’s equator into the sky. Devoid of cultural context, the celestial equator is an invisible calculation that does not suit Plato’s cosmic vision, in which the World Soul indicates celestial gates that stand at the visible intersections in the heavens. How did such divergent views come about?

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