Amateur Astronomy from Its Origins to Camille Flammarion

  • Jean Seidengart
Conference paper


It is not possible to sketch the history of astronomy by amateurs without first defining what the term “amateur astronomer” truly means. But we must avoid using “the benefit of hind-sight” to interpret the past in terms of a concept, the relevance of which has been perceived only during the course of the last one hundred years. In order to avoid the sophistry arising from such a purely imaginary history that is based on false conceptions, it is useful to examine amateur astronomy’s precise status, since its emergence in the dawn of classical science, by outlining the type of relationship that it has had with “professional” astronomy. In doing so, we can evoke some of the major developments in amateur astronomy, the scientific contributions of which, although often of high quality, have at times reached the very forefront of the discipline of astronomy.


Planetary Nebula Chromatic Aberration Amateur Astronomer Successive Edition False Conception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Plato, in Timaeus,91 D-E, trans. Cornford, F.M., London, 1937; see also The Republic,Book VII, 529, A-CGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    D’Alembert, Encyclopédie,1756, Tome 1, p.783Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Op. cit., cf note 2Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fontenelle, Entretien sur la pluralité des Mondes,1742 edn, prefaceGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fontenelle, ibid.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fontenelle, op. cit., ed. Marabout, after edn of 1742, p.121Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Christiaan Huygens, Kosmotheoros, sive De Terris Coelestibus, earumque ornatu, Conjecturae,den Haag, 1698. [2nd English-language edition: The Celestial Worlds Discovered…,London, 1722 — Eds.]Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lesley Murdin, Under Newton’s Shadow, Bristol & Boston, Adam Hilger, 1985Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bigourdan, Histoire de l’astronomie d’observation et des observatoires en France,Paris, 1930Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kant, Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels, Königsberg & Leipzig, 1755. [Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens,trans. Hasties, W., Univ. Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1969, or the same author’s Kant’s Cosmogony,London, 1900, — Eds.]Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This “planetary nebula” is probably NGC 1514, magnitude 10.8, situated at a distance of 4300 light-years; α4h06.2m, δ +30° 38’.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    c.f. Philosophical Transactions,1811, p.269 et seq.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Laplace, Exposition du système du monde,4th edition, Paris, 1813, p.431Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Seidengart
    • 1
  1. 1.Université de Paris XNanterre CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations