CfA Colloquium Schedule Fall 2014
 18 September 2014

18 September 2014

Speaker: Barbara Becker (UC Irvine)

Title: Photographing the Solar Corona without an Eclipse: The Forgotten Efforts of William Huggins

Abstract: Following the solar eclipse of May 1882, amateur astronomer William Huggins was encouraged by observers' reports to attempt a bold plan for photographing the solar corona without an eclipse. His initial perception of success in this project led him to pursue it for many years with great zeal and conviction. However, these efforts are notably absent from his own retrospective account of his life's work which appeared in 1897. Reliance on this account led his biographers and later historians to exclude his imaginative and influential solar corona work. Building on an examination of Huggins's observatory notebooks and unpublished correspondence, this paper brings to light these long forgotten efforts. His difficulties in achieving his goal, rather than stifling his research efforts, motivated him to improve his research methods and instrumentation. They forced him to hone his rhetorical and technical skills in order to persuade his colleagues of the validity of his observations. And, his struggle to convince others of the validity of his coronal photographs renders visible the ordinarily tacit discussion of how a scientific community achieves consensus on what counts as conclusive evidence.


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