The Victorian amateur astronomer: when amateurs ruled astronomy

The Victorian Amateur Astronomer: When Amateurs Ruled Astronomy

Amateurs have always played a major role in astronomical research, education, and outreach. And nowhere greater than in Victorian Britain. Nineteenth-century astronomy was developing rapidly, and much depended on new technologies of various kinds: large mirrors in great precision-engineered mounts, photography, and spectroscopy. All of these new research technologies were devised, built, and used by independent self-funded researchers. Yet in addition to the wealthy 'Grand Amateurs', astronomy became a serious interest for a host of less well-off folk, including teachers, doctors, craftsmen, and self-educated labourers. It was a fascinating world, where astronomy, enterprise, and aspiration came together.

 

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About Allan Chapman

Allan Chapman is a historian of science at Oxford University, with a special interest in the history of astronomy.  He has written 12 books and numerous academic articles, and made several television programmes.  He has received honorary doctorates and awards from the Universities of Central Lancashire, Salford, and Lancaster, and in 2015 was presented with the Jackson-Gwilt Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society.  His latest books include Stargazers: Copernicus, Galileo, the Telescope, and the Church. The Astronomical Renaissance, 1500-1700 (Lion Hudson, 2014), and Comets, Cosmology, and the Big Bang: A History of Astronomy from Edmond Halley to Edwin Hubble – and Beyond (Lion, to be published in autumn 2018).  Additionally, his The Victorian Amateur Astronomer has just been reissued in a revised edition (Gracewing, 2017).