Popular Astronomy in 19th-century Philadelphia
March 12, 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm$20
“No Limit to Space” with Robert Hicks, Ph.D.
Visitors to Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion might discover a curious object in the children’s room, a large 1871 cardboard planisphere that shows the stars, a rotating disk adjustable to the appearance of the night sky at any date or time. Designed for schools and the curious public, the planisphere speaks to the widespread interest in astronomy during the mid to late 1800s. This presentation surveys what discoveries were made in astronomy during the era and how it was promoted and taught. What did people then think about intelligent life elsewhere? The size and nature of the universe? Robert Hicks explores these topics through the work of a journalist who wrote the most popular guide to astronomy in America; the first professional woman astronomer and the first American scientist to discover a comet; and a lawyer, astronomer, and Civil War general who was the pre-eminent public lecturer on astronomy in the country. The presentation concludes with a virtual 1870s public observing night with a telescope!