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Astronomy - Astronomy, Observations and Techniques | Eclipses, Transits, and Comets of the Nineteenth Century - How America's Perception of the Skies

Eclipses, Transits, and Comets of the Nineteenth Century

How America's Perception of the Skies Changed

Cottam, Stella, Orchiston, Wayne

2015, XI, 336 p. 240 illus., 83 illus. in color.

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  • Explains how astronomical events, such as comets, eclipses and planetary discoveries, in the late nineteenth century made astronomy much more popular with the general public and advancements in the science helped the United States emerge as a scientific power
  • Demonstrates the variety of means by which the non-professional was educated in scientific topics in the pre-technological age
  • Documents the long history of amateur astronomy in the US

Grabbing the attention of poets, politicians and the general public alike, a series of spectacular astronomical events in the late 1800s galvanized Americans to take a greater interest in astronomy than ever before. At a time when the sciences were not yet as well established in the United States as they were in Europe, this public interest and support provided the growing scientific community in the United States with the platform they needed to advance the field of astronomy in the United States.  

Earlier in the 19th century comets, meteors and the discovery of the planet Neptune were all sources of inspiration to the general public. The specific events to be considered here are the total solar eclipses of 1868, 1869 and 1878 and the transits of Venus of 1874 and 1882. The available media responded to public interest as well as generating more interest. These events laid the groundwork that led to today's thriving network of American amateur astronomers, and provide a fascinating look at earlier conceptions of the stars.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » 19th Century Media Coverage - 19th Century Solar Eclipses - American Astronomy History - Historical Media Coverage of Astronomy - History of Popular Astronomy - Popularization of Astronomy - Public Reaction to Astronomy - Reaction to Discovery of Neptune - Transit of Venus

Related subjects » Astronomy, Observations and Techniques - History & Philosophical Foundations of Physics - History of Science

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