Allan Chapman is a historian of science at Oxford University, with a special interest in the history of astronomy. He has written 13 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), a revised edition of The Victorian Amateur Astronomer: Independent Astronomical Research in Britain 1820-1920 (Gracewing, 2017), and Comets, Cosmology, and the Big Bang: A History of Astronomy from Edmond Halley to Edwin Hubble, 1700-2000 (Lion Hudson, 2018).
Astronomy, fellowship, and feuds: the RAS, 1820-2020, and the origins of the British scientific society’
Saturday 1st February 2020: Session Four
On 12 January 1820, fourteen astronomical friends met for dinner in the Freemasons’ Tavern, London, and went on to found the Astronomical Society of London, which in 1831 was Royal Chartered as the RAS. They were not astronomical professionals, but ‘Grand Amateurs’: barristers, businessmen, clergymen, a surgeon, and private individuals. All shared a passion for serious astronomical research and discovery. They were in exactly the same tradition as the founders of the Royal Society, the Antiquaries, and the Geologists who, between 1660 and 1807, had established a series of private ‘fellowships’, committed to advancing science at their own expense and for the good of all. This independent fellowship form of association would lie at the heart of our modern-day Astronomical Societies and public ‘outreach’ bodies.