Civic Astronomy: Albany’s Dudley Observatory, 1852–2002 by George Wise

By George Wise

The founding of the Dudley Observatory at Albany, N.Y., in 1852 was once a milestone in humanity's age-old quest to appreciate the heavens. because the top built astronomical observatory within the U.S. led via the 1st American to carry a Ph.D. in astronomy, Benjamin Apthorp Gould Jr., the observatory helped pioneer world-class astronomy in the US. It additionally proclaimed Albany's prestige as a massive nationwide middle of tradition, wisdom and affluence. This booklet explores the tale of the Dudley Observatory as a one hundred fifty 12 months lengthy episode in civic astronomy. the tale levels from a sour civic controversy to a enterprise into house, from the banks of the Hudson River to the highlands of Argentina. it's a special glimpse at a course no longer taken, a manner of doing technological know-how as soon as promising, now vanished. As discoveries by way of the Dudley Observatory's astronomers, specifically its moment director Lewis Boss, made major contributions to the trendy imaginative and prescient of our Milky means galaxy as a rotating spiral of greater than 1000000 stars, the development of astronomy left that little observatory behind.

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Again, the issue was reconciling seeing from and being seen. The scientists viewed themselves as patiently and cautiously building an observatory on a sound physical and intellectual base. Those foundations stones Gould replaced symbolized the scientists’ concerns. Only from a solid foundation could the stars be seen with sufficient accuracy to contribute to the new plan astronomy. Only with enough money on hand could the laborious work of reduction and calculation be carried out to turn observation into knowledge.

That route had seemed sufficiently obvious for Everett to glorify it as America’s particular genius. But in fact, though civic pride might create a scientific institution, only such additional boosts as a clearly defined mission, a dynamic organizer or investigator, connection with a strong college or university, and the tapping of sources of wealth on a grand, and ultimately national, scale, could sustain one. Nor was a city’s ambition a good reason for locating an astronomical observatory there.

121. Star war 28 Olcott’s local rival, agreed to fund the purchase of a highly accurate astronomical clock. 38 Gould's triumphal 1855 tour included a meeting in London with “my old and valued friend Mr. Babbage. ” (Charles Babbage, then known as a multitalented scientist, is today renowned as a forefather of the computer). Gould went on to talk with the British Astronomer Royal, George Airy, who reminded Gould of the importance of insisting on an adequate endowment, and showed him the Greenwich system for distributing accurate time readings.

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