Unravelling Starlight at Armagh Observatory

Dr Barbara Becker, the recently retired historian of science at the University of California, Irvine, USA, will deliver a talk entitled "Unravelling Starlight: William Huggins and the Crucial Role of Thomas Romney Robinson in the Rise of Astrophysics" at the Armagh Observatory on Monday, 6th June at 11.30 a.m.

In 1868, William Huggins was feeling limited in his ability to extend his novel programme of spectroscopic study of celestial bodies. His Thomas Cooke refractor with its fine 8-inch Clark objective was simply incapable of gathering sufficient light to study the spectra of faint objects. Unsure how to satisfy his special observing needs, he sought the sage advice of Thomas Romney Robinson, the long-term director of the Armagh Observatory. Dr Becker will show in her talk how Huggins' timely enquiry triggered a tireless effort on Robinson's part to persuade the Royal Society of London to underwrite the construction of a state-of-the-art telescope expressly for Huggins' use in his home observatory at Tulse Hill, London.

Dr Becker graduated with a bachelor's degree in Physics from Goucher College, Towson, Maryland in 1968. She received a Master of Liberal Arts degree (1971) and a PhD degree (1993) both from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her doctoral thesis dealt with the Huggins' husband-and-wife team and the origins of astrophysics. She has written many articles on the history of astronomy and has contributed to secondary school and college science cirricula. She also served as Advisor to the television series "Women in Science", as well as being on the Committee of the American Astronomical Society's History of Astronomy Division.

Dr Becker's book, "Unravelling Starlight: William and Mary Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy" was published earlier this year by Cambridge University Press.

Admission to the lecture, which will be held in the Library of the Armagh Observatory, is by ticket only. For your free ticket for this event, please contact Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, Tel.: 028-3752-2928; Fax: 028-3752-7174; or e-mail: ambn@arm.ac.uk.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; Email: jmfat signarm.ac.uk.

Last Revised: 2011 May 20th