AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 10 Astronomy Education: Middle School to College
Poster, Monday, May 26, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, West Exhibit Hall

[Previous] | [Session 10] | [Next]

[10.16] Rare Books As Teaching Tools

M. C. Gino, G. Wise (Dudley Observatory)

The use of historic science illustrations in the classroom offers unique opportunities to meet the National Science Standard that "students should develop understanding of science as a human endeavor, of the nature of scientific knowledge, and of historical perspectives" (Content Standard G, Science Education Standards, 1996, National Academy Press, Washington, DC). The Dudley Observatory has launched an effort to use its outstanding collection of rare astronomy books to meet this challenge. The example featured here is the illustration "Systema Solare et Planetarium" from the book Atlas novus coelestis (1742) by Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr (1671-1750).

This illustration is significant in the evolution of astronomy because it is one of the first popular depictions of the solar system picturing the planets in their accurate relative sizes and providing numerical estimates of planetary and solar dimensions and distances. Perhaps at least as important, from the educational viewpoint, it is visually appealing, culturally intriguing and filled with puzzling items that might serve as the basis for inquiry-based learning. For example, why is the page sprinkled with what appear to be appeals to theology ("Ex His Creatorem") and expressions of wonder or even horror ("perceptum horridem")? Why does its map of the world depict California as an island?

A structure for using this and other historic illustrations in the classroom might be based on the following general questions: What is the purpose of the illustration? What is included that a modern scientist might leave out, or left out that a modern scientist might include? How accurate are the quantitative results presented? How does the conceptual treatment resemble and differ from modern treatments? Viewing the heavens as an 18th century astronomer wanted his public to see them is an excellent approach to achieving the humanistic and historical perspective that the educational standard seeks.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: dudley@union.edu

[Previous] | [Session 10] | [Next]

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #3
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.