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The Heavens on Earth: Observatories and Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century Science and Culture [Paperback]

David Aubin , Charlotte Bigg , H. Otto Sibum

Price: CDN$ 29.90 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Jan. 26 2010 Science and Cultural Theory
"The Heavens on Earth" explores the place of the observatory in nineteenth-century science and culture. Astronomy was a core pursuit for observatories but usually not the only one. It belonged to a larger group of 'observatory sciences' that also included geodesy, meteorology, geomagnetism, and even parts of physics and statistics. These pursuits coexisted in the nineteenth-century observatory; this collection surveys them as a coherent whole. Broadening the focus beyond the solitary astronomer at his telescope, it illuminates the observatory's importance not only in advancing and popularizing the mathematical, physical, and cosmological sciences, but also to technological, military, political and colonial undertakings of the nineteenth century. The contributors examine 'observatory techniques' developed and used in connection with observatories, by instrument makers in their workshops, navy officers on ships, civil engineers in the field, and many others. These techniques included the calibration and coordination of precision instruments for making observations and taking measurements; methods of data acquisition and tabulation; and the production of maps, drawings, and photographs, as well as numerical, textual and visual representations of the heavens and the earth. They also encompassed the social management of personnel within observatories, the coordination of international scientific collaborations, and interactions with dignitaries and the public. The state observatory occupied a particularly privileged place in the life of the city. With their imposing architecture and ancient traditions, state observatories served representative purposes for their patrons, whether as symbols of a monarch's enlightened power, a nation's industrial and scientific excellence, or republican progressive values. Focusing on observatory techniques in settings from Berlin, London, Paris, and Rome to Australia, Russia, Thailand, and the United States, "The Heavens on Earth" is a major contribution to the history of science.

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"This impressive volume is the first to offer a panoramic view of the observatory as site of science, empire, and modernization during its golden age. At the forefront of precision measurement, standardization, number-crunching, and worldwide networking, the nineteenth-century observatory made globalization a reality."--Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin "The Heavens on Earth raises the bar for the historiography of astronomy and observatory techniques. The collection stands out from the existing literature in its attention to the broad cultural context of observatory work and techniques; continental Europe in addition to Great Britain and the United States; the connections between the observatory and 'popular' astronomy; and the links between astronomy and concerns such as geodesy, the rating of chronometers, and military science. It is a major contribution to the history of not only astronomy but also nineteenth-century science and its culture."--Robert W. Smith, University of Alberta

About the Author

David Aubin is Professor of History of Science at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, and a member of the Institut de Mathematiques de Jussieu.Charlotte Bigg is a research scientist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Centre Alexandre Koyre, Paris).H. Otto Sibum is Hans Rausing Professor of History of Science and Director of the Office for History of Science at Uppsala University in Sweden.

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