Binoculars and Telescopes Online
This is an unusual book, combining as it does papers on astrobiology, history of astronomy and sundials, but-after all-Woody Sullivan is an unusual man. In late 2003 I spent two fruitful and enjoyable months in the Astronomy Department at the University of Washington (UW) working on archival material accumulated over the decades by Woody, for a book we will co-author with Jessica Chapman on the early development of Australian astronomy. The only serious intellectual distraction I faced during this period was planning for an IAU colloquium on transits of Venus scheduled for June 2004 in England, where I was down to present the 'Cook' paper. I knew Woody was also interested in transits (and, indeed, anything remotely connected with shadows-see his paper on page 3), and in discussing the Preston meeting with him it transpired that his 60th birthday was timed to occur just one week later. This was where the seed of 'Woodfest' began to germinate. Why not invite friends and colleagues to join Woody in Seattle and celebrate this proud event? I put the idea to Woody and others at UW, they liked it, and 'Woodfest' was born.
This volume of 12 studies, mainly published during the past 15 years, begins with an overview of the Islamic astronomy covering not only sophisticated mathematical astronomy and instrumentation but also simple folk astronomy, and the ways in which astronomy was used in the service of religion. It continues with discussions of the importance of Islamic instruments and scientific manuscript illustrations. Three studies deal with the regional schools that developed in Islamic astronomy, in this case, Egypt and the Maghrib. Another focuses on a curious astrological table for calculating the length of life of any individual. The notion of the world centred on the sacred Kaaba in Mecca inspired both astronomers and proponents of folk astronomy to propose methods for finding the qibla, or sacred direction towards the Kaaba; their activities are surveyed here. The interaction between the mathematical and folk traditions in astronomy is then illustrated by an 11th-century text on the qibla in Transoxania. The last three studies deal with an account of the geodetic measurements sponsored by the Caliph al-Ma'mA"n in the 9th century; a world-map in the tradition of the 11th-century polymath al-BA(R)rA"nA(R), alas corrupted by careless copying; and a table of geographical coordinates from 15th-century Egypt.
How Astronomy contributed to the educational enlightenment of Glasgow, to its society and to its commerce
The words 'Astronomy' and 'Glasgow' seem an incongruous juxtaposition, and yet the two are closely linked over 500 years of history. This is a tale of enlightenment and scientific progress at both institutional and public levels. Combined with the ambitions of civic commerce, it is a story populated with noteworthy personalities and intense rivalries.
It is remarkable to realise that the first Astronomy teaching in the Glasgow 'Colledge' presented an Earth-centred Universe, prior to the Copernican revolution of the mid sixteenth Century. Glasgow was later known astronomically for the telescope observations of sunspots made by Wilson in the 1760s, but less well known are the ideas related to mono-chromaticity within light, to dew point and hoar frost, and Herschel's discovery of infra-red energy in solar radiation by application of Glasgow-made thermometers.
This engrossing and entertaining scientific history includes the story of Glasgow's 'Big Bang' of 1863, the controversy over 'Astronomer Royal for Scotland' and a historical survey of the eight observatories that once populated Glasgow. David Clarke brings us a complex weave of science and accompanying social history in this unique and fascinating work.
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