Electronic Newsletter for the History of Astronomy - Number 53

*                                                                         *
*                                                                         *
*      Published by the Working Group for the History of Astronomy        *
*                  in the Astronomische Gesellschaft                      *
*                                                                         *
*                    Number 53, November 17, 2003                         *
*                                                                         *
*           Edited by: Wolfgang R. Dick and Hilmar W. Duerbeck            *
*                                                                         *


1. The Society for the History of Astronomy

2. David A. King: New website on medieval astronomical instruments

3. International Conference: Zdenek Kopal's Binary Star Legacy

4. XXIII Scientific Instrument Symposium



Item 1                                           ENHA No. 53, Nov. 17, 2003

The Society for the History of Astronomy
As 2003 begins to wind down, the Society for the History of Astronomy is
looking back on a time of worthwhile progress and significant achievements.

Founded on June 29, 2002 at Wadham College, Oxford, by Stuart Williams,
FRAS and well-known astronomy historian Dr. Allan Chapman of Wadham
College, with the able assistance of Ken Goward, FRAS, the UK's new
national society for the history of our great science has already passed a
few milestones in its short but memorable history!

The SHA's first Council was elected at the Founding Meeting, and consisted
of Chair Emily Winterburn, Secretary Stuart Williams, FRAS, Treasurer Ken
Goward, FRAS, and Councillors Roger Jones, Kevin Kilburn, FRAS and Dr. Nick
Kollerstrom. Honorary Councillors Hon. President Dr. Allan Chapman and Hon.
Vice Presidents Sir Patrick Moore and Dr. Michael Hoskin were appointed
shortly thereafter.

The Society began in earnest by setting up an Archive at the Library of the
Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, under the supervision of Institute
Librarian and SHA member, now Archivist, Mark Hurn. In parallel with this,
a Members' Lending Library was founded by professional Librarian Madeline
Cox, FRAS. Both have gone from strength to strength in following months and
will be developed in 2004.

A Newsletter and Website were created by Callum Potter, the Society's
Editor, both essential tools of communication and outreach to SHA members
and the public, especially as 90% of SHA members use email. The Newsletter
will continue to be developed in 2004 by a new editorial team. Our outreach
to local astronomical societies and the Regions was begun successfully by
Kevin Kilburn, FRAS, of Manchester Astronomical Society, and has been
strongly followed up by Martin Lunn, MBE, of Yorkshire Museum, who replaced
Kevin on Council during summer 2003.

The Society's Survey of the Astronomical Geography of the UK, a core
element of its work, was swiftly set up by SHA Councillor Roger Jones with
the assistance of Stuart Williams, FRAS. The Survey aims to reveal the
depth of local history of astronomy in particular across the UK over coming
months and years.

The SHA held its first Members' Meeting on November 2, 2002 at Soho House
in Handsworth, Birmingham, 18th century home of Matthew Boulton and The
Lunar Society, where new discoveries by SHA member Andrew Lound relating to
Boulton's astronomy and his connections with William Herschel were revealed
for the first time.

Reaching more than a hundred members across the UK and beyond by the end of
the year, the SHA went on to hold its historic first AGM & Conference on
February 22, 2003 at the old Royal Observatory Greenwich and National
Maritime Museum in February. The Conference provided the first opportunity
for Members' research papers to be presented and saw the formal launch of
the SHA Survey. As a matter of principle, the Society makes its meetings
accessible nationwide, and in 2004 the AGM & Conference moves to the
Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, heading further north in 2005.

The Society was delighted to be invited to organise Session 51: History of
Astronomy, at the National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin on April 10, 2003.
This successful session, chaired by SHA Chair Emily Winterburn, Curator of
Astronomy at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and co-organised by SHA
Secretary Stuart Williams, FRAS, set the tone for future such sessions and
the SHA has been invited to do the same at NAM 2004, being held at the Open
University in Milton Keynes.

A fine social event was held on July 5, 2003 with the SHA's first Annual
Picnic, returning to the home of its founding at Wadham College, Oxford.
Future Annual Picnics, celebrating the founding, will alternately tour the
UK, with the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, Woolsthorpe Manor, being the
venue proposed for 2004, and the Picnic will return to Wadham College in

The SHA has made a point of participating in events dedicated to 'grass
roots' astronomy, and has fielded stands at the British Astronomical
Association Exhibition Meetings, Federation of Astronomical Societies
Conferences, Leeds AstroMeets and Orwell Astronomical Society events since
its foundation, now with a spectacular new 'Baroque' display, complete with
William Herschel organ music! These public appearances will continue in
similar vein and we look forward to making many more new friends around the
UK as a result.

National Astronomy Week 2003 was very enjoyable for the SHA. The Society
was particularly pleased to be invited to organise a morning Open Session
at the Centenary Astro Day of Manchester Astronomical Society on August 30,
following lectures organised jointly with The Planetary Society at Soho
House, Handsworth, the previous weekend. The Open Session of talks and
presentations by SHA members provided a wonderful opportunity to prove the
SHA's commitment to the Regions and the chance for SHA members to meet
like-minded friends from the historic Manchester AS and the rest of the
north of England. It was also the occasion of the official Public Launch of
the SHA Survey and its online presence on the SHA website.

Finally, the SHA ends the year with a special visit of the SHA Council and
guests to the Royal Astronomical Society Library at Burlington House in
December. We aim to foster cordial relations with the RAS at all times, as
well as the other national, regional and local groups. We have already
affiliated to the British Astronomical Association, and will in future be
maintaining a working relationship with the Historical Section of the BAA.
We would welcome contact with any group with which we have common
interests, and new members of course continue to be welcome.

The Society for the History of Astronomy does not plan to rest on its
laurels. There is much to do in 2004, which will see the launch of our
annual journal 'The Antiquarian Astronomer' under the Editorship of Callum
Potter. We will continue to tour the UK and proceed apace with our national
Survey, the first of its kind in the history of astronomy. We exist to help
preserve astronomy's history for posterity, and look to the future with
great anticipation and enthusiasm.


Stuart Williams, FRAS, Secretary, SHA, 26 Matlock Road, Bloxwich, WS3 3QD,
UK (please enclose a stamped s.a.e. if a reply is required).
Email: secretary@shastro.org.uk
Website: www.shastro.org.uk

[Source: Society for the History of Astronomy, Press Release,
6 October 2003]

Item 2                                           ENHA No. 53, Nov. 17, 2003

New website on medieval astronomical instruments

By David A. King, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

(From: "Elektronische Mitteilungen zur Astronomiegeschichte" Nr. 64,
9. Nov. 2003, Item 6.)

There is now an updated website giving information about research on
medieval Islamic and European astronomical instruments that has been
conducted in Frankfurt over the past 10 years.

Some of this activity has been made possible by generous support from the
German Research Foundation (DFG).

The new website features a list of publications, works in press, and works
in preparation by members of the Frankfurt team, past and present. In these
publications we have tried to use astronomical instruments as historical
sources within their cultural and geographical contexts. Thus, for example,
it was possible to show that the astrolabe supposedly dedicated by
Regiomontanus to his patron Cardinal Bessarion in 1462 but branded fake,
was one of close to a dozen from the same or closely-related workshops,
some even by the same maker. Again, it has been possible to show that
various medieval European instruments such as the quadrans vetus were known
already in 9th-century Baghdad. In the case of the elusive navicula de
Venetiis we have been able to show that all of the components were known in
the same milieu, as was a more complicated instrument for timekeeping by
the stars for any latitude. New evidence from manuscripts establishes the
context of three brass world-maps from 17th-century Iran bearing
highly-sophisticated grids preserving direction and (the sine of) the
distance to Mecca at the centre firmly in earlier (10th and 11th century)
Islamic mathematics. Some of the studies concentrate on the inscriptions
(such as names of the zodiacal signs and months in regional Latin or local
vernaculars), the geographical information explicit or implicit on
instruments, and others treat the instruments within the general context of
astronomical timekeeping or as historical works of art.

There is also a provisional table of contents (TOC) of the catalogue that
has been in preparation for the past few years. This TOC can serve for the
present and immediate future as an ordered list of instruments, arranged
chronologically by provenance. I would be grateful for information on any
early instruments that are not listed here.

The information on instruments from after ca. 1500 was compiled about 10
years ago and in the main has not been touched since. The entries for such
instruments in the TOC for later instruments have simply been picked up by
the automatic TOC generator: for many of them there are no descriptions,
and none are planned. Certain later sections of the catalogue/TOC have been
made redundant anyway by recent publications by Gerard Turner (English
Renaissance), Koenraad van Cleempoel (Flemish and Spanish Renaissance), and
the forthcoming publication by S. R. Sarma (Indian instruments with
inscriptions in Arabic-Persian-Sanscrit).

The descriptions of instruments from before ca. 1500 are in reasonable
shape but are not yet publishable. The long-term goal was/is to make the
descriptions available, starting with early Islamic instruments (to 1200)
and then the earliest European instruments. This will be done in small
batches, and some sample descriptions will eventually be put on this site.

For the rest there is still plenty of work to be done. Any serious
researcher working on a specific group of instruments is welcome to inspect
the materials available here or take over the descriptions of such a corpus
of instruments.

A major problem is the lack of adequate photographic documentation. Only a
minority of museums are capable of preparing decent photos of instruments,
and costs have skyrocketed. See the site EPACT mentioned below for some
good photos.

More serious problems are: 1) the fact that funding for the project is
virtually exhausted, and 2) the fact that most of the young scholars who
have been trained here in the study of instruments have moved on.

The website is:

I hope that it will stimulate some serious interest in these "forgotten
treasures of the Middle Ages".

Please note: The website
EPACT: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe,
provides illustrations and descriptions of European instruments
in Oxford, Florence, London (BM) and Leiden.

Author's address:
Prof. Dr. David A. King
Institute for History of Science
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
D 60054 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
e-mail: king@em.uni-frankfurt.de or kingabumax@aol.com
Tel. +49-69-7982-2754 / -2337 / -2338, Fax: -3275

[Source: David A. King to Rete Mailing List, rete@mhs.ox.ac.uk,
27 June 2002]

Item 3                                           ENHA No. 53, Nov. 17, 2003

International Conference: Zdenek Kopal's Binary Star Legacy

First Announcement of an International Conference:


Litomysl, Bohemia, Czech Republic

31 March to 3 April 2004

On the occasion of the 90th birthday of late Professor Zdenek Kopal a
conference will be held from March 31 to April 3, 2004 in the estates of
the castle of the Bohemian town of Litomysl, where Zdenek Kopal was born.


* Astronomical Institute of Charles University, Prague
* Astronomical Institute of Academy of Science, Ondrejov
* Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Brno
* B.R.N.O. - Variable Star Section of the Czech Astronomical Society

The international conference is especially dedicated to remind the
achievements of a great astronomer, but will also aim at more general
aspects of contemporary binary star astronomy.


1. Introductory session

         - Appreciation of Kopal's work
         - Reminiscences and fellows' views of a great astronomer

2. Binary star morphology

3. Mathematical physics and numerical modelling

INVITED SPEAKERS of the Introductory Session (preliminary list):

1. Introductory Session

A. Batten:               Digging Foundations for the Royal Road
E. Budding:              A fellow's view of Kopal's
                         royal road to binary stars
A. M. Cherepashchuk:     Atmospheric Eclipses in Wolf-Rayet Binaries: 
                         from Kopal and Shapley to Present Days
M. Kitamura:             Reminiscences of a Japanese contemporary

(For invited speakers of the other sessions see the web site indicated


Alan Batten              Dominion Astrophysics Observatory,
                         Victoria, Canada
Dmitrij V. Bisikalo      Inst. of Astronomy, Russian Academy of
                         Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Edwin Budding            CIT/Carter Observatory, Wellington,
                         New Zealand
Osman Demircan           Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University,
                         Canakkale, Turkey
Horst Drechsel (chair)   Dr. Remeis Observatory, Astron. Institute,
                         Univ. Erlangen-Nuernberg, Bamberg, Germany
Petr Hadrava             Astron. Institute Ondrejov,
                         Academy of Sciences of CZ
Pavel Mayer              Astronomical Institute, Charles University, 
                         Prague, CZ
Zdenek Mikulasek         Inst. of Theoretical Physics and
                         Astrophys., Masaryk University, Brno, CZ
Izold Pustylnik          Tartu Observatory, Estonia
Nikolaj N. Samus         Institute of Astronomy, Russian Academy 
                         of Sciences; Sternberg Astronomical Inst.,
                         Moscow, Russia
Dimitar Sasselov         Harvard University, Dept. of Astronomy, USA
Augustin Skopal          Astron. Institute, Tatranska Lomnica,
                         Academy of Sciences, Slovak Republic
Robert Wilson            Astronomy Dept., University of Florida, USA
Marek Wolf               Astronomical Institute, Charles University, 
                         Prague, CZ
Miloslav Zejda           N. Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium,
                         Brno, CZ


Miloslav Zejda (chair), Miroslav Broz, Petr Hajek, Ondrej Pejcha
(BRNO-VSS), Eva Piknova, Michaela Severova (Litomysl), Jan Janik (FS MU)

The organizers can look back to a more than 40 years lasting period of
continued observational and publication activities in the field of variable
star research, on an almost equally long tradition of holding national
conferences (mainly in Brno), and a 20 years history of international
contacts. While previous variable star meetings were held at Brno
Planetarium, this conference in honour of Prof. Kopal will exceptionally
take place at the castle of the marvelous Bohemian town of Litomysl,
Kopal's birth place. The organizers hope that the meeting will not only
help to remind Zdenek Kopal as an esteemed colleague and outstanding
astronomer, but will also serve to present new aspects and trends in binary
star research and as a forum for discussion among astronomers from many


M. Zejda:  N. Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium,
           Kravi hora 2, 61600 Brno, CZ
           Phone:  420 541321287, fax 420 541233389
           WWW:    http://var.astro.cz/kopal

E-mail:    H. Drechsel (SOC):   drechsel@sternwarte.uni-erlangen.de
           M. Zejda (LOC):      zejda@hvezdarna.cz


Early registration: 15 February 2004
Late registration:  15 March 2004
Abstracts:          29 February 2004
Proceedings:         1 October 2004


The East Bohemian town of Litomysl emerged in the 13th century on the site
of an older fortified settlement on the Trstenice path - an important
trading route linking Bohemia and Moravia. The dominant feature of Litomysl
is the monumental Renaissance castle dating from the years 1568-1581. The
buildings of the castle precincts are not only exceptional for their
architectural refinement, but have also inscribed themselves in history as
the birth place of the Czech national composer, Bedrich Smetana. On the
elongated square, which is one of the largest in the Czech Republic, a town
hall of Gothic origin and a series of Renaissance and baroque houses are
found, many of them with arcades and vaulted groundfloor rooms. One of the
most important of these is the House At the Knights (U Rytiru) with its
remarkable facade. In the past the town was also a significant religious
centre; it was in Litomysl in 1344 that the second bishopric to be
established in Bohemia was founded. The cultural traditions of the town go
much beyond regional and national frontiers. The exquisite interiors of the
castle, especially the baroque castle theatre, the amphitheatre in the
castle park and Smetanas' house, all offer varied programmes of concerts
and theatrical performances and thus enrich the life of the town throughout
the year. Litomysl came to public notice in a political context as well: in
1994 the meeting of the seven Central European presidents took place at the
castle, and in 1995 the Spanish royal couple visited the town. The chateau
complex was included in the UNESCO list of cultural monuments 1999.
Litomysl was awarded the title "Historical town of the year 2000".

(for more information see www.litomysl.cz)


Working language is English.

The Proceedings will be published as a special issue of the Kluwer journal
Astrophysics & Space Science, which was founded by Kopal. If you are
interested in presenting a paper please submit your abstract before
February 29, 2004. Abstracts received after this deadline will not be
included in the booklet of abstracts to be distributed at the beginning of
the conference.


The registration fee is 130 EUR, late registration fee 160 EUR, and reduced
fee for accompanying person is 35 EUR. The full registration fee includes
coffee, admission to party, excursion, concert, abstract booklet, and a
copy of the proceedings. The reduced registration fee will only cover
admission to conference sessions and concert, and coffee.

Early registration deadline is 15 February 2004. The ultimate deadline for
acceptance of conference applications will be March 15.


The organisers have only very limited possibility to support a few
participants. We will do our best to help you in any respect if necessary.
You can send your request to the LOC.


Litomysl is located 150 km away from Prague, 85 km from Brno, 50 km from
Hradec Kralove. You can use busses from Prague or Brno or (international)
trains to Ceska Trebova, and from there local trains or busses to Litomysl.

For a map of the Czech Republic see http://www.mapy.cz .

We look forward to meeting you in Litomysl in Spring 2004.

Miloslav Zejda            Horst Drechsel
chairperson of LOC        chairperson of SOC

Other events:

Saturday-Sunday  Congress of the Czech Astronomical Society
3-4-Apr          Public lessons

Sunday     11:00 Unveiling of a tablet at Kopal's house

More information and a Conference Application Form are available at

[Source: http://var.astro.cz/kopal/announce.txt, abbreviated here]

Item 4                                           ENHA No. 53, Nov. 17, 2003

XXIII Scientific Instrument Symposium

The XXIII Scientific Instrument Symposium (SIS 2004) of the International
Union of the History of Science will be held in Dresden, capital of the
State of Saxony, Germany, September 6 - 11, 2004.

Registration will take place in the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (MPS)
in the Baroque Zwinger, and the conference sessions will be held in the
re-built Palace and in the city's Technical Collections.

The symposium hotel is located within a ten-minutes' walk from the Zwinger,
the Palace, and the historic city center. Coffee and tea as well as
arrangements for lunch will be provided.

The symposium is open for all studies touching on historic scientific
instruments. SIC members are invited to organize sessions on particular

The following proposals for sessions have been received:

  - Suzanne Debarbat: Instruments for Weights and Measures
    (e-mail: suzanne.debarbat@obspm.fr)

  - Roland Wittje: Acoustics: On the Threshhold Between Scientific and
    Musical Instruments (working title)
    (e-mail: roland.wittje@phys.ntnu.no)

  - Peter Plassmeyer: Central European Instruments of the 16th-18th
    (e-mail: peterplassmeyer@web.de)

  - Sven Dupre and Michael Korey, Scientific Instruments in Kunstkammer
    and Court Collections
    (e-mail: m.korey@web.de and sven.dupre@ugent.be)

Preliminary Program:

Monday, Sept. 6th Afternoon: Registration, reception, and exclusive
viewing in the MPS

Tuesday, Sept. 7th Morning and Afternoon: Sessions

Wednesday, Sept. 8th Morning and Afternoon: Sessions, Poster session

Thursday, Sept. 9th Morning: Viewing of the Dresden university collections
Afternoon: Sessions
17:00 Plenary meeting SIC
19:00 Conference Dinner
(Steamboat cruise on the Elbe River to the summer palace at Pillnitz)

Friday, Sept. 10th Excursions to severals significant (and largely unknown)
collections in Saxony are planned, including Freiberg and Waldenburg,
Goerlitz and Bautzen. (Details will appear on the registration form.)

Saturday, Sept. 11th Morning: Sessions possible
All day: A visit to several museums in Dresden is planned, including the
Gruenes Gewoelbe, the Ruestkammer, and the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum.
(Details to be provided.)

Contact address:

SIS 2004
Dresden State Art Collections
Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon
D-01067 Dresden, Germany
TEL. +49 (0) 351 4914 -661
FAX. +49 (0) 351 4914 -666

e-mail: info@sis2004-dresden.de

More information:

[Source: http://www.sis2004-dresden.de]



For directly sending us information we thank Stuart Williams.



Electronic Newsletter for the History of Astronomy (ENHA)

Published by the Working Group for the History of Astronomy in the
Astronomische Gesellschaft

Editors: Dr. Wolfgang R. Dick  and Dr. Hilmar
W. Duerbeck 

All items without an author's name are editorial contributions.
Articles as well as information for the several sections are appreciated.

Subscription for ENHA is free. Readers and subscribers are asked for
occasional voluntary donations to the working group.

Copyright Statement:
The Electronic Newsletters for the History of Astronomy may be freely 
re-distributed in the case that no charge is imposed. Public offer in
WWW servers, BBS etc. is allowed after the editor has been informed. 
Non-commercial reproduction of single items in electronic or printed media
is possible only with the editor's permission.

Archives: Previous issues of ENHA may be found at
http://www.astrohist.org/aa/enha/ .

Arbeitskreis Astronomiegeschichte / Working Group for the History of

URL: http://www.astrohist.org/

Chairman: Prof. Dr. Peter Brosche, Observatorium Hoher List der
Sternwarte der Universitaet Bonn, D-54550 Daun, Germany, 
Tel.: +49(0)6592 2150, Fax: +49(0)6592 985140

Secretary: Dr. Wolfgang R. Dick, Vogelsang 35 A, D-14478 Potsdam,
Germany, e-mail: wdick@astrohist.org

Bank Acct. of the Astronomische Gesellschaft:
Acct # 310 330 402, Volksbank Coesfeld-Duelmen (BLZ 401 631 23)
Contributions from foreign countries: acct # 162 18-203, Postbank
Hamburg, BLZ 200 100 20
Please sign with: "Fuer Arbeitskreis Astronomiegeschichte" 


zum Seitenanfang top of page
interner Verweis list of all Electronic Newsletters
interner Verweis starting page of the working group