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Research: Strange Image of the planet Mars, Royal Observatory

This is a real puzzle. a 10 x 10 inch silver print of an early illustration of Mars. At the bottom,  "H. Spencer Jones". He was the British Royal Astronomer from 1933-1955 at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.  

I have no Idea why his name would be printed below a clearly earlier illustration of Mars. My Idea is that because this is a square image, it may be a copy of a lantern slide, used in one of his lectures????

Any Guesses out there?  

Thanks, David

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Comment by Rose Teanby on March 17, 2017 at 22:45

Hi David,

Howlett owned two telescopes, a Gregorian and a Newtonian.  His work with De la Rue involved photographing negative moon images into a positive format but his main input was concerning collodion sensitivity.  It was a huge step forward when he helped to display De la Rue's stereoscopic moon images, taken at different angles of libration.  These were exhibited at the Royal Astronomical Society in a specially constructed back lit reflecting stereoscope with transparent images on glass enlarged by Howlett.

This was greeted as a major achievement but Howlett died three weeks later - so tragic. I plan to recreate this reflecting stereoscope and moon display next year to commemorate its 160th anniversary in tribute to both Howlett and De la Rue.  Watch this space!

Best wishes, Rose

Comment by David McGreevy on March 17, 2017 at 20:15

Hi Rose,

That is amazing. Great sleuthing on your part! 

I am finding more and more that whenever I research any early scientific image of any type, it invariably leads me back to one of the great early photographers. The worlds of science, archaeology, botany, astronomy, etc must have been very connected to that of photography.

The idea that Howlett was in any way involved in astronomy images just blows my mind!

I would love to hear more about his involvement in the de la Rue Moon images.

Many thanks to you for contacting Mr. McKim. Please convey my sincere thanks for his reply.

--He may also be interested in my query about unrecorded ambrotypes of the British astronomer Dr. John Lee.

Best Wishes!

David McGreevy

Comment by Rose Teanby on March 17, 2017 at 19:41

Hi David,
In the course of my Robert Howlett biographical research I was fortunate to meet the Director of the Mars section of the British Astronomical Association. This may sound a bit unlikely but Howlett was involved in the production of some of the first stereoscopic images of the moon in collaboration with astronomer Warren de la Rue.
I contacted the Mars Director, Richard McKim with your query and this is his amazing response - " The slide is of a drawing made in 1909 September of mars by the Greco-French astronomer Eugene M. Antoniadi who at the time Directed the BAA Mars Section. It is not the best of copies and omits delicate halftones in the drawing, which was taken with the largest refracting telescope in Europe, the 33 inch at Meudon, Paris. H. Spencer Jones no doubt used a copy in the form of a 3x3 inch lantern slide. He did write a popular book about life on the planets in the 1930s and I suppose the slide was used at astronomical meetings."

I hope this helps!

Best wishes, Rose Teanby

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