Reading Nature, Observing Science: Examining Material Practices in the Lick Observatory Archives and Kenneth S. Norris Papers

Eclipse Expeditions in Context

The Lick Observatory Archives make it clear that we cannot think of the astronomers at the Lick as isolated scientists but that they were enmeshed in multiple networks. Firstly, they were in conversation with technicians, illustrators, artists, and amateur astronomers about how best to represent astronomical bodies. Similarly, the logistics of the eclipse viewing expeditions relied upon diplomatic networks to facilitate the logistics of transporting, assembling and operating the cameras, telescopes, and spectrographs.

Looking at these archives raises a number of questions: How did the geographic and political specifics of the different eclipse locations affect the reception, construction, and resulting images at each site? What role did relationships with local populations, colonial officials, and military personnel play in the eclipse expeditions? How does situating these expeditions within late eighteenth and early nineteenth century colonialism inform our reading of the experiments and the results?

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