AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 37. HAD III: Biography of 19th and 20th Century Astronomers
Oral, Monday, January 6, 2003, 2:00-3:30pm, 613-614

[Previous] | [Session 37] | [Next]

[37.02] Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, 19th Century Artist and Astronomer

B. G. Corbin (U. S. Naval Observatory)

Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, born in France in 1827, came to the United State with his family in 1855, settling in Massachusetts. He supported his family as an artist, but became interested in astronomy after observing and sketching auroras in the 1870s. When astronomers at Harvard saw the quality and detail in these drawings, they invited him to join the staff and use their telescopes for observation and making drawings of celestial objects. In 1875 the U. S. Naval Observatory invited him to Washington to use the 26 inch refractor, at that time the world's largest refractor. Through the years he made more than 7000 drawings which were highly regarded by astronomers who saw them, especially for the fine detail of the drawings. Trouvelet wanted to publish a portfolio of some of the best drawings and approached Charles Scribner's Sons, publishers in New York. The 15 drawings he chose were produced as chromolithographs, and the set was published in 1881 selling at $125. Very few complete sets remain in institutions today, and one set sold at auction within the last few years for many times the original price. However, Trouvelot will always be remembered not for his astronomical artistry but as the person who introduced the gypsy moth into the United States. In his attempt to bring better silk producing caterpillars into the country, some egg masses escaped and the rest is history.

[Previous] | [Session 37] | [Next]

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34, #4
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.