Presented by the ASP History Committee

HISTORY I: Amateur Contributions to Astronomy
Sunday, 4 July 1999, University of Toronto


Thomas R. Williams, Rice University
    As interest in astronomy waxed during the second half of the nineteenth century efforts were made to form associations of amateur astronomers. However, it was not until 1911 that the first nation wide organizations for amateur astronomers, the American Association of Variable Star Observers and the American Meteor Society, were founded with the encouragement of professional astronomers. Amateurs whose interests did not include these specialized fields still lacked any organizational focus. After World War I organizing efforts increased with the advent of the amateur telescope making (ATM) movement. Sponsored by Scientific American editor Albert G. Ingalls and ATM patron saint Russell Williams Porter, that movement triggered the founding of a large number of local amateur astronomy clubs. For the next thirty years emphasis in amateur astronomy clubs was primarily on telescope making and astronomy as a recreational activity, though three interesting exceptions to this general observation will be discussed. After World War II, the foundation of several new organizations specifically focused on facilitating scientific observing programs (Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, International Occultation Timing Association and the International Comet Quarterly) provided broader opportunities for amateurs. The formation and role of the Astronomical League will also be considered.
    Tom Williams’ interest in the history of astronomy developed out of his life-long avocation as an amateur astronomer. He elected to pursue the history of astronomy in retirement, and he is now a graduate student in history at Rice University. His other astronomical interests have included variable stars and comets. He served as president of the American Association of Variable Star Observers from 1985 to 1987 and again in 1993, and he is currently a member of the ASP History Committee.

Peter Broughton, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
    From 1868 to the present, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has evolved through three phases distinguished by the extent of professional involvement. Examples will illustrate that amateurs and professionals have played symbiotic roles in encouraging, advancing and popularizing astronomy and related sciences.
    Peter Broughton, a retired mathematics teacher, is the author of Looking Up : A History of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Educated at the University of Toronto, he has held a number of offices in the RASC, including president in 1992-94.

10:20 Break

Richard A. Jarrell, York University
    Canadian professional and amateur astronomers had little contact until the late 1930s, when Millman established a meteor observation program at Toronto. (picture) After the war, as one of the world’s foremost experts on meteor spectra, he organized an amateur team at the Dominion Observatory and at the National Research Council. This effort was an essential part of Canada’s participation in the International Geophysical Year.
    Richard A. Jarrell is Professor of Natural Science at York University. Beginning with historical work on 16th-century astronomy (Michael Maestlin), he has been slowly working his way to the 20th century. Apart from numerous articles on history of astronomy (and science in general), he has written The Cold Light of Dawn: A History of Canadian Astronomy. He is a member of the ASP History Committee and chair of the Canadian Astronomical Society’s Heritage Committee.

Kenneth I. Kellermann, National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Following Karl Jansky's 1933 discovery of cosmic radio emission at Bell Laboratories, for more than a decade, a lone amateur, Grote Reber, exploited the opportunity to observe the Universe through this previously unexplored window. Using his own private resources, Reber designed and built the world's first radio telescope which he used to map the Galactic radio emission, and to detect radio noise from the sun and the center of the galaxy. Reber understood the non thermal nature of the Galactic radio noise which changed, in a fundamental way, our view of the universe. Reber's pioneering work was a precursor to the post war discoveries of radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, gravitational lenses, cosmic masers, the cosmic background radiation, and the first detection of planets beyond the solar system. Probably never before, or since, has a single amateur had such a profound impact on the development of astronomy and astrophysics. In recognition of his pioneering work, Grote Reber was the recipient of the 1962 Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific as well as the 1962 Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society.
    Kenneth Kellermann is a senior scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory headquarters in Charlottesville, VA. His book, Serendipitous Discoveries in Radio Astronomy, which he edited with B. Sheets, provides accounts of the dramatic growth and unexpected discoveries of radio astronomy by those who made it happen.

12:00 Break

HISTORY II: General History of Astronomy
Sunday, 4 July 1999, University of Toronto


1:30 (cancelled)

Dorritt Hoffleit, Yale University
    Graduate degrees in astronomy were not awarded at Harvard until Harlow Shapley became the director of the Harvard College Observatory. During his regime, 1921-1952, fifty Ph.D. degrees in astronomy were awarded by Harvard or its associated women’s college, Radcliffe. The British Cecilia H. Payne was the first to fulfill the requirements. As Harvard steadfastly refused to award any degree to women, Radcliffe came to the rescue and awarded her the degree in 1925. The second under Shapley but the first awarded by Harvard was to the Canadian, Frank S. Hogg, in 1929. The third and fourth went to American women, to Emma T.R. Williams in 1930, and Helen B. Sawyer Hogg in 1931. (In 1930 Miss Sawyer married Frank Hogg, and soon after she obtained her degree, both settled in Canada.) The following year, 1932, an American woman, Carol Anger, and a Canadian, Peter M. Millman, earned the degree. Of the fifty doctorates awarded during Shapley’s directorship, fourteen went to women. Two more Canadians were F. Shirley Patterson in 1941 and Donald MacRae in 1943. All those in Canada became successful professional astronomers.
    Dorritt Hoffleit worked at Harvard College Observatory from 1929 to 1956. From 1956 to 1978 she served half-time as director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island, and half-time at Yale. Numerous of her projects after official retirement deal with variable stars and the history of 19th and early 20th century astronomy. Author or coauthor of several editions of the Bright Star Catalogue and The General Catalogue of Trigonometric Stellar Parallaxes, her historical books are Women in the History of Variable Star Astronomy, The Education of American Women Astronomers Before 1960, and Astronomy at Yale, 1701-1968. She is a recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s Annenberg Prize for outstanding contributions to science education through astronomy and the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Women in Science Award. She is a member of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. There is a profile of her in the February 1999 issue of Sky & Telescope.

2:50 Break

John W. Briggs, Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago
    Thomas Grubb of Ireland, born in 1800, was a talented engineer, and by the early 1830s, an active amateur astronomer with a 9-inch reflector. His first large contract was to mount a 13.3-inch lens, which at the time was the largest in the world, for the Markree Observatory. Thus began an extraordinary telescope making enterprise which, by the end of Grubb Parsons in 1985, had built many of the largest and most important telescopes in the world, including the 74-inch David Dunlap reflector in Toronto. This presentation will illustrate 150 years of achievement by Thomas Grubb, his more famous son Howard, and by Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons, and Company—the firm’s later and final incarnation.
    John W. Briggs is a research engineer based at the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory. In 1994, he served as a winter-over scientist at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station for the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica, then headquartered at Yerkes, and presently he is deployed at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, assisting with the operation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. John’s favorite hobby is the history of telescopes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Antique Telescope Society, and his collection includes items from small eyepieces to huge equatorials.

Barbara Becker, WestEd and University of California, Irvine
    In the mid-nineteenth century, a small group of chemists, physicists, and amateur astronomers adapted the spectroscope in order to analyze the light coming from celestial bodies. Their efforts gave birth to a hybrid science which they called the “new” astronomy, astronomical physics, or astrophysics. William Huggins (1824-1910), an English amateur astronomer, was recognized in his own lifetime as one of the principal founders of this new science. Late in life, he provided us with a published account of his pioneering efforts that shaped how we view the origins of astrophysics. This paper presents a more complex and interesting portrait of this self-styled pioneer based on new information that has come to light through examination of his observatory notebooks and his extensive correspondence.
    At WestEd (formerly Southwest Regional Laboratory), Barbara Becker is developing a new and innovative physical science curriculum, based on episodes in the history of science, for students in grades 8-10. Also an adjunct assistant professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, she wrote her doctoral dissertation in the history of science on William and Margaret Huggins.

HISTORY III: General History of Astronomy
Sunday, 4 July 1999 (all day), University of Toronto


Robert J. Dukes, Jr., College of Charleston; Saul J. Adelman, The Citadel; George McCook, Villanova University; Diane Pyper Smith, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    The Four College Consortium for an Automatic Photometric Telescope can trace its beginnings to the June 1984 Santa Cruz meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific followed by the serendipitous occurrence of the winter meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in January 1985 and of the workshop on "The Study of Variable Stars Using Small Telescopes" in June 1985, both held in Toronto. In this paper we present a history of this collaboration which received NSF funding to have two amateur astronomers construct and operate an Automatic Photometric Telescope. While this was not the first such funding to support this work it did occur at a critical juncture in the development of the program and is in part responsible for the very successful Fairborn Observatory operation at Washington Camp, Arizona.

Kitty Ferguson
    Not all "partnerships" are between contemporaries. Scotsman James Croll (1821-1890), mechanic, teashop-keeper, janitor, Fellow of the Royal Society; and Serb Milutin Milankovitch (1878-1958), astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, insisted that the solution to the mystery of Earth's ice ages lies in astronomy. Their idea, which fell into disfavor as dating of geological evidence failed to match the timescale given by astronomical calculations, is alive and well again today.
    Kitty Ferguson is a popular science author and lecturer. Her most recent book is Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Space and Time. She has also written Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of Everything;Prisons of Light: Black Holes; and The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion, and the Search for God.


Presented by the ASP History Committee
Katherine Bracher, Whitman College
Roy Garstang, University of Colorado
Richard A. Jarrell, York University
E.C. Krupp, Griffith Observatory
Donald E. Osterbrock, University of California, Santa Cruz
Joseph S. Tenn, Sonoma State University (chair)
Craig B. Waff, Encyclopedia Americana
Barbara Welther, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Thomas R. Williams, Rice University