The Smithsonian Institution Libraries is pleased to announce that Dr. Albert Van Helden will give the Dibner Library of the History of Science & Technology's Annual Lecture. He will speak on "Huygens's Ring, Cassini's Division, and Saturn's Family: The First Explorations of the Solar System."
The Lecture will be held on Wednesday, October 27th at 5:00 PM in the Carmichael Auditorium, located on the first floor of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Behring Center, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Lecture, supported by The Dibner Fund, is free and open to the public. A reception will immediately follow the lecture.
The beginnings of telescopic astronomy can be dated with precision to the summer of 1609, when Thomas Harriot made a drawing of the telescopic appearance of the Moon. This was less than a year after a patent on a simple spy glass was requested (and turned down) in the Netherlands. Seven months after Harriot's first observation, Galileo Galilei published his Sidereal Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius), a book that shook the learned world of Europe. Galileo opened up a new dimension in astronomy, the way space astronomy did in the 1960s. One discovery that puzzled everyone for half a century was the strange appearances of Saturn. As studies of the Moon, Sun, and Jupiter dominated the first half century of telescopic astronomy, the system of Saturn dominated the second half. Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) discovered the first satellite (now named Titan) of the planet in 1655 and three years later published his celebrated ring-hypothesis to explain Saturn's puzzling appearances; Giovanni Domenico (or Jean Dominique) Cassini found four further satellites of Saturn and discovered the gap in the ring named after him. It is a story about telescopes, but also about the eyes and brains behind the telescopes. And this means that human emotions-ambition, pride, envy, prejudice-were involved in a community in which reputation was everything. As the planets developed, as it were, individual personalities, the personalities of the explorers on Earth were, and are, equally fascinating.
Since 2001, Dr. Van Helden has been professor of history of science at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. During his tenure at Rice University (1970-2001), Van Helden was instrumental in establishing the "Galileo Project," a web-based source of information on the life and work of Galileo Galilei and the science of his time. Van Helden has published some excellent books and articles about the history of science, including the translation of Galileo's "Sidereus Nuncius" into English.
Begun in 1992, the Dibner Library Lecture is held annually and features a distinguished scholar, who has made significant contributions to his or her field of study. Since 2000, the Dibner Library Lecture has become available in published form. Previous lectures and links to their digital versions can be found at http://www.sil.si.edu/Exhibitions/lectures.htm.
The Dibner Library of History of Science and Technology is the Smithsonian's collection of rare books and manuscripts relating to the history of science and technology. The Dibner Library was established in 1976 with a gift from the Burndy Library of Norwalk, Connecticut (created by Bern Dibner). Contained in the Library's collection of 25,000 rare books and 10,000 manuscripts are many of the most important works dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the history of science and technology including engineering, transportation, chemistry, mathematics, physics, electricity, and astronomy. The Dibner Library shares this collection with the public through exhibitions in an adjacent gallery, through loans to other institutions' exhibits, and through public programs. For more information about the library and its collections please visit http://www.sil.si.edu/Libraries/Dibner/index.htm.
Head of Special Collections and Curator of Science & Technology Rare Books
Smithsonian Institution Libraries
P.O. Box 37012
Dibner Library of the History of Science & Technology
NMAH 1041, MRC 672
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 633-3872 phone
(202) 633-9102 fax Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.sil.si.edu/Press/index.htm#VanHelden
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