British photographic history

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Talk: Photography and the British eclipse expedition of 1871 / Warwick, 11 December 2021

As part of the British Society for the History of Mathematics meeting being held at the University of Warwick on 11 December Deborah Kent will give a paper “Fit for making a decent observation”? Photography and the British eclipse expedition of 1871. 

The abstract reads: 
Nineteenth-century mathematical innovations revolutionized eclipse prediction to allow ample time for organising viewing expeditions. From the 1850s onwards, developing technologies of photography and spectroscopy offered new tools to train on open questions about the size of the universe and the chemical composition of the corona. After opportunities to observe eclipse totality in India in 1868, in North America in 1869, and in Spain in 1870, hopes ran high for additional insights in 1871. The utility of photography was particularly under scrutiny in anticipation of a much rarer Transit of Venus in 1874. The work of British observing parties in 1871 not only confirmed and extended prior results, but also gained some notoriety for an indigenous Indian astronomer and solidified the significance of photography as a research tool.

Details and registration here:

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Comment by Alan Hodgson on December 13, 2021 at 12:56

Excellent event. Aoife Kearins (Cambridge) presentation covered the postal collaboration of Stokes and Crookes, particularly facilitating Crookes' work.

Deborah Kent (St Andrews) presented the eclipse photography expeditions using wet collodion. Deborah is publishing her work in Astronomy & Geophysics in February 2022.


Comment by Alan Hodgson on December 6, 2021 at 11:21

Event looks interesting and some parallels with the history of photography. Penny post and maths in biology.

I am no mathematician but have signed up. Eclipse photography is of great interest to me too!

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