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The Reminiscences of an Astronomer   By: (1835-1909)

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E text prepared by Ferdinand van Aartsen






The earlier chapters of this collection are so much in the nature of an autobiography that the author has long shrunk from the idea of allowing them to see the light during his lifetime. His repugnance has been overcome by very warm expressions on the subject uttered by valued friends to whom they were shown, and by a desire that some at least who knew him in youth should be able to read what he has written.

The author trusts that neither critic nor reader will object because he has, in some cases, strayed outside the limits of his purely personal experience, in order to give a more complete view of a situation, or to bring out matters that might be of historic interest. If some of the chapters are scrappy, it is because he has tried to collect those experiences which have afforded him most food for thought, have been most influential in shaping his views, or are recalled with most pleasure.


I THE WORLD OF COLD AND DARKNESS Ancestry. Squire Thomas Prince. Parentage. Early Education. Books read.

II DR. FOSHAY A Long Journey on Foot. A Wonderful Doctor. The Botanic System of Medicine. Phrenology. A Launch into the World. A Disillusion. Life in Maryland. Acquaintance with Professor Henry. Removal to Cambridge.

III THE WORLD OF SWEETNESS AND LIGHT The American Astronomical Ephemeris. The Men who made it. Harvard in the Middle of the Century. A Librarian of the Time. Professor Peirce. Dr. Gould, the "Astronomical Journal," and the Dudley Observatory. W. P. G. Bartlett. John D. Runkle and the "Mathematical Monthly." A Mathematical Politician. A Trip to Manitoba and a Voyage up the Saskatchewan. A Wonderful Star.

IV LIFE AND WORK AT AN OBSERVATORY A Professor, United States Navy. The Naval Observatory in 1861. Captain Gilliss and his Plans. Admiral Davis. A New Instrument and a New Departure. Astronomical Activity. The Question of Observatory Administration. Visit from the Emperor of Brazil. Admiral John Rodgers. Efforts to improve the Work of the Observatory.

V GREAT TELESCOPES AND THEIR WORK Curious Origin of the Great Washington Telescope. Congress is induced to act. A Case of Astronomical Fallibility. The Discovery of the Satellites of Mars. The Great Telescope of the Pulkova Observatory. Alvan Clark and his Sons. A Sad Astronomical Accident.

VI THE TRANSITS OF VENUS Old Transits of Venus. An Astronomical Expedition in the 18th Century. Father Hell and his Observations. A Suspected Forger vindicated. The American Commission on the Transit of Venus. The Photographic Method to be applied. Garfield and the Appropriation Committee. Weather Uncertainties. Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope. The Transit of 1882. Our Failure to publish our Observations.

VII THE LICK OBSERVATORY James Lick and his Ideas. Mr. D. O. Mills. Plans for the Lick Observatory. Edward E. Barnard. Professor Holden. Wonderful Success of the Observatory.

VIII THE AUTHOR'S SCIENTIFIC WORK The Orbits of the Asteroids. The Problems of Mathematical Astronomy. The Motion of the Moon and its Perplexing Inequalities. A Visit to the Paris Observatory to search for Forgotten Observations. Wonderful Success in finding Them. The Paris Commune. The History of the Moon's Motion carried back a Century. The Harvard Observatory. The "Nautical Almanac" Office and its Work. Mr. George W. Hill and his Work. A Wonderful Algebraist. The Meridian Conference of 1884, and the Question of Universal Time. Tables of the Planets completed. The Astronomical Constants. Work unfinished.

IX SCIENTIFIC WASHINGTON Professor Henry and the Smithsonian Institution. Alumni Associations. The Scientific Club. General Sherman. Mr. Hugh McCulloch. A Forgotten Scientist. The National Academy of Sciences... Continue reading book >>

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