AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 1. HAD I: Exhibiting the History of Astronomy
Historical, Oral, Sunday, May 30, 1999, 1:00-5:30pm, Adler Planetarium

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[1.05] From Heaven to Earth and Back, 1700 to the Present

M. P. Bolt (Adler Planetarium)

Astronomy has long proven a successful choice for displaying the wonders of the world and the principles of science to public audiences. The public lecture became an especially common vehicle in the 19th century for popular astronomy, as well as for the popularization of natural philosophy as it transformed into the various branches of science. The popular astronomy lecture blossomed also alongside two other media, popular astronomical texts and scientific instruments. We will look at each of these three media, examining a few of their characteristics and their intersection from ca. 1700 to the present. In so doing, we will take advantage of the Adler Planetarium's historical instrument and rare book collections in order to discuss and to examine four generations of planetaria, from the first orrery ever built (by George Graham, ca. 1705) as well as its immediate descendants, to the room-size Atwood Sphere (1913), to the Zeiss optical projection system (1930, 1970s), and finally to the latest computer-driven technology in the form of the StarRider Digistar system (1999). We will also look at the connection between these planetaria, the synchronic state of astronomical knowledge, and contemporary technological limits.

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