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Metascience

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 223–226 | Cite as

Minding the nebulae

Omar W. Nasim: Observing by hand: Sketching the nebulae in the nineteenth century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013, vii+304pp, $45.00 HB
  • David DeVorkin
Book Review

In the years before stars, planets and the nebulae ‘recorded themselves’ by impressing their light on photographic film, astronomers peering through big telescopes were faced with the challenge of recording what they saw, and translating that experience somehow to a permanent communicable medium so others could share in the observations to discern what messages they held about the universe. Since this was prior to the late nineteenth century, few astronomers were affected, mainly because the mainstream goal of the day was to make quantitative measures of the positions and brightnesses of things seen through the eyepiece, using a variety of micrometric devices to record them from readings on dials and scales. But for those who wished to describe and then understand the amorphous dimly shining shapes seen through their telescopes, scattered over the entire sky, numbering in the hundreds in the late eighteenth century and amounting to thousands in the mid nineteenth century, doing so...

Copyright information

© US Government 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Space HistoryNational Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA

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