domingo, 3 de novembro de 2013

On Astronomical Drawing by Simon Shaffer

Our object is, or ought to be, not the mere imitation, but the rivalship of nature.
—Charles Piazzi Smyth, On Astronomical Drawing, 1841


Worries about the adequacy of scientific pictures are part of commonplace work that separates genuine objects from parasites and artifacts. This work is not applied instantly to singular images but to prolonged series of pictures, techniques, and per­sonnel. The psychologist Richard Gregory has used Victorian drawings of nebulae as an example: “it may be doubted if it is possible to make a single observation of any­thing,” he suggests, because observational judgments “take time and knowledge to develop.”1 Images supposed to convey their meaning at a glance were thus made as a result of astronomers’ laborious gaze. The gaze and the glance in Victorian nebular astronomy are the themes of this chapter. Many astronomers and draftsmen worked hard between the 1830s and the 1860s with a range of instruments, drawings, and engravings to make an adequate image of a supposedly stellar object, the Great Nebula in Orion. The labor expended in taking such pictures was often publicly described to make images’ adequacy telling. Yet when this artful work became visible, the image might be seen rather as an artifact. Mid-nineteenth-century astronomy could be a hard case for the examination of this kind of labor, for it was the norm for a newly positivist theory of science that saw astronomy as a science of angles and times, and the observatory as a kind of institutionalized retina where celestial sights were imme­diately, almost effortlessly, recorded without prior judgment or experiment. But the norm neglected the systematic disciplines designed in the 1830s and 1840s to produce reliable observers and recorders; new experimental technologies, such as photography and spectroscopy; and the work of drawing and engraving, which mattered especially in stellar and nebular astronomy since images of these bodies needed sketches of mobile and granular shapes rather than merely a record of times and angles. Such sketches were often judged using conventions of physiognomy and caricature, ways of seeing common in the worlds of cheap graphic journalism. So this chapter uses the labors of nebular astronomy in the mid-nineteenth-century British Empire to see how astronomical picturing worked, the shared conventions by which it was governed, and the various milieux in which it mattered.

Nebular drawing was part of the project to establish, or undermine, a Nebular Hypoth­esis, a story about the evolution of solar systems through the gradual condensation of a spinning cloud of gaseous fluid told by several early-nineteenth-century astronomers and philosophers. They mainly relied on the claims by the Regency’s “natural histo­rian of the heavens,” William Herschel, that his big reflecting telescopes showed clouds of nebular fluid in deep space whence stars were produced by gravitational con­densation. Chief among Herschel’s specimens of truly nebulous fluid was the Great Nebula in Orion, “the most wonderful object in the heavens,” where he saw evidence of slow development from the “strata” of vast luminous clouds. By arranging well- crafted pictures of nebular types the senior Herschel was able to urge that “the heav­ens ... are now seen to resemble a luxuriant garden, which contains the greatest variety of productions, in different flourishing beds. . . .we can, as it were, extend the range of our experience to an immense duration.”2

Herschel reckoned that in his natural history of the heavens “seeing is in some respect an art, which must be learnt.” His art was often compared with contemporary imagery brought from the South Seas by imperial navigators. “European vision” of remote tropical and celestial zones was developed by the voyaging artists sponsored by Herschel’s patron, the aristocratic naturalist Joseph Banks, and in Alexander von Humboldt’s widely read physical geographies, which mapped contours and vegetation types across huge tracts of exotic territory.3 Humboldt proposed an aestheticized “physiognomy of plants”: “in determining those forms [on which] the physiognomy of a country’s vegetation depends, we . . . must be guided solely by those elements of magnitude and mass from which the total impression of a district receives its character of individuality.” Whereas in the tropics “the Earth reveals a spectacle just as varied as the starry vault of heaven, which hides none of its constellations,” isolated Euro­pean physiognomists must use representational techniques “to enjoy in thought the appearance of distant regions,” celestial and natural historical.4 Colonial naturalists and astronomers joined in projects of what Michael Dettelbach has acutely named “aesthetic empire.” Like Herschel, whom he judged “astronomer, physicist and poeti­cal cosmologist all at once,” Humboldt reckoned that condensing nebulae were the sources of stars, there was a close analogy between nebular and organic history, so the physiognomy of natural forms could be applied to astronomical objects.5

In the 1830s and 1840s William Herschel’s son John, doyen of British astronomy and protagonist of a range of new ways of making images, helped interpret these pro­grams for early Victorian culture by fitting the natural history of the heavens into Humboldt’s “applied astronomy” and the physiognomy of nature. In the British empire, astronomers such as the military engineer Edward Sabine joined John Her­schel in surveys of magnetic, botanical, and physical variables, and sought to extend their maps to the heavens. In the 1840s Sabine helped translate Humboldt’s Views of Nature and his Cosmos, which Herschel then reviewed. He summarized “the peculiar physiognomy of natural scenes,” and, like his close friend Humboldt, Herschel saw that the evolution of stars from overlapping “strata” of nebular fluid was a view to be “expected from one especially conversant with organic forms.”6 On the basis of the Herschels’ pictures, the Glasgow astronomer John Pringle Nichol invented a “nebular hypothesis” for stellar and planetary origins. A radical economic journalist, Nichol made this hypothesis a keystone of his reformist account of the law of progress at work in nature and society. As Nichol explained, if powerful instruments like the Herschels’ telescopes could not resolve such objects as the Orion nebula into stars, and if its shape kept changing, then there was good evidence of true nebulosity, thus support for his evolutionary story and grounds for an organic physiognomy of the heavens. Nichol asked whether such “void, formless and diffuse” objects were just masses of very distant stars, or instead “monuments of bygone worlds—the fossil relics which mark the early progress of our own planet,” containing “the germs, the producing powers of that LIFE, which in coming ages will bud and blossom, and effloresce, into manifold and growing forms, until it becomes fit harbourage and nourishment to every varying degree of intelligence and every shade of moral sensibility and greatness!”7

Science journalists shifted debates on true nebulosity to the larger public sphere of mass lectures and cheap print where vivid physiognomies were put to many persuasive uses. A social history of such vividness challenges standard models in which scientific accounts are allegedly produced in specialist settings, thence distributed for public consumption^ The distinction between specialists and the public on which this analy­sis relies was made, not taken for granted. Humboldt, for one, made sure that the tech­niques for picturing nature’s face were connected with the right ways of picturing the sciences’ standing. In his review of Humboldt’s work, Herschel explained that “such a view of nature ought to be in the highest possible sense of the word, picturesque, noth­ing standing in relation to itself alone, but all to the general effect.” The scientists’ public must not demand access to detail but must be content with unified and distant pictures. “As in art, intense and elaborated beauty in any particular defeats pic- turesqueness by binding down the thought to a sensible object, annulling association, and saturating the whole being in its single perception.”9 This aesthetics was designed to reinforce the often fragile security of the gentlemen of science and the dependence of their audiences. Early Victorian astronomers’ terrain was a network of heteroge­neous sites each of quite unequal social legitimacy and hosting different forms of labor. The vividness of nebular imagery was made in the spaces around the great telescopes, where observers, draftsmen, engineers, and managers contested the proper ways of making physiognomies of the heavens; imperial zones of political and racial conflict, where liminal knowledges were forged of populations that lay just beyond the borders of metropolitan power; and the world of print culture, where ingenious juxtapositions of image and text were used to forge caricatures and physiognomies of the messages it was claimed the heavens taught.

The next section connects astronomical picturing in colonial South Africa, where John Herschel proved his astronomical worth in the 1830s, with the aesthetic empires of natural history. This discussion is followed by an account of the world of metropoli­tan engravers, whose struggle for status made the authorship of images a vital sociopo­litical problem for early Victorians, astronomical image makers not least. The latter sections of the chapter then shift to the preeminent reflecting telescopes of the period, the giant three-foot and six-foot instruments commissioned by the Earl of Rosse in Ire­land in the 1830s and 1840s. They were used to resolve the Orion nebula, an object not considered to be resolvable by modern astronomers, but which Rosse and his col­leagues did eventually claim had been seen as stars. Resolution was supposed to remove evidence for truly nebular fluid in space. Careful techniques were used to tell whether resolved stars were really visible; whether the nebula’s shape had changed; and, from the 1860s, whether the nebula showed the bright spectral lines of a truly luminous gas. So these different picturing techniques might spell doom for materialist evolutionism, or else provide evidence of its truth. Such evolutionist doctrines counted rather in­tensely in Anglo-Irish relations, another imperially critical setting, and helped define Rosse’s team’s antievolutionist graphics of nebular astronomy. Physiognomic conven­tions were of exceptional importance in debates on evolution, progress, and degenera­tion and form parts of this labor history of picturing. Distinctions between reliable pictures and deceptive artifacts were made in the varying public spheres of Victorian society.


Telescopes and engravings used techniques crafted to make their craftiness vanish. Hence arose a problem of calibration. If there was little prior agreement about whether nebulae were truly stellar, or whether their shapes had changed, then astronomers needed extrinsic judgments of the reliability of reports about their resolu­tion and physiognomy. Astronomical competence could only be checked against the instrument and drawings of a known object, but drawings were used to check whether instruments were reliable and celestial objects had changed.10 So preexisting lists and trained practice directed the experienced gaze to and around carefully selected objects. This is how a Victorian astronomer, surrounded by support staff and equipped with a range of instruments, worked nightly at Rosse’s big reflector:

I shall suppose that we are ready to commence a night’s work. The assis­tants . . . are already at their posts. Up we climb to the lofty gallery, taking with us a chronometer, our observing book, various eye-pieces, and a lamp. The “working list” as it is called, contains a list of all the nebulae we want to observe.

A glance at the book and the chronometer shows which of these is coming into the best position at the time. The necessary instructions are immediately given to the attendants. The observer, standing at the eye-piece, awaits the appointed moment, and the object comes before him. He carefully scrutinises it to see whether the great telescope can reveal anything which was not discovered by instruments of inferior capacity. A hasty sketch is made in order to record the distinctive features as accurately as possible. One beautiful object having been observed, the telescope is moved back to the meridian to be ready for the next vision of delight. ... 1 would point out that the work of observing in the manner above described is extremely trying and fatiguing. It should be remembered, however, that the nights on which the nicer astronomical observations can be made are few and far between.11

More than twenty years of such “nice observations” were in fact needed to produce the single published image of the Orion nebula’s structure made at Rosse’s observatory. The astronomer at the reflector’s eyepiece selected and sketched from a “working list” made by other observers, such as the preeminent stellar astronomer Wilhelm Struve at the Russian imperial observatory at Pulkovo, or by John Herschel. Decisive in making Herschel’s status was his astronomical expedition to the Cape Colony, where from early 1834 he organized the construction of a private observatory for his father’s twenty-foot reflector to survey the southern heavens (Figure 1). He’d made prelimi­nary drawings of the Orion nebula a decade earlier, and from the Cape he saw “the necessity of executing a redelineation of it,” because the nebula rose much higher above the horizon there and he found it hard to tell whether changes in its shape were due to real shifts. He later admitted that the “supposed changes” in Orion “have origi­nated partly from the difficulty of correctly drawing, and, still more, engraving such objects, and partly from a want of sufficient care in the earlier delineators themselves

Figure 1. John Herschel’s twenty-foot telescope set up at Feldhausen in South Africa in 1834 From Herschel, Results of Astronomical Observations at the Cape of Good Hope (1847).

in faithfully copying that which they really did see.” So nebular astronomers needed a reliable physiognomy with which to depict astronomical appearances.12

Herschel was among the backers of a wide range of new techniques of “faithful copying,” photography among them. Nebular objects long remained beyond such automatic processing, principally because of the long exposure times required and the notorious instability of telescope clock drives. With the huge light-grasp of unwieldy reflectors, many celestial objects only remained in sight for very short times indeed.13 In these efforts to produce images of unfamiliar and exotic objects, Herschel was in the position of other naturalists at the colonial periphery who constructed manageable versions of the worlds they encountered using imported methods of ordering to travel colonial landscapes. Racist physiognomy, conventions of imaging faces as signs of moral and natural development, came with them from Britain. Such visions sought, often ineffectively, to command landscapes and populations under the gaze of the moving naturalist’s eye. In February 1834, soon after setting up the family’s telescope, Herschel turned it on the moon: “as it rises it presents a round, dull, blotchy human face, with broad nose sulky mouth and standing perpendicularly has just the effect of some preternatural being-—Demon—or god of some barbarous nation looking down on his African territory & sniffing with sullen pleasure the scent of some bloody rite or looking down on the whole region as a scene of carnage agreeable to his nature & will. The European face is quite lost, by the reversal of its position.” The astronomical point was that in the southern hemisphere the moon was seen inverted. The physiognomic concern instead centered on the encounter with a recalcitrant and exotic world.14

The inspiration for such surveys of “demonic” phenomena was at least partly the pursuit of a Humboldtian “aesthetic empire.” In 1834-36 the British colony dispatched an expedition, for which Herschel acted as scientific advisor, to survey lands and pop­ulations across its eastern border. Among this expedition’s most striking products were the pictures made by its artist, Charles Davidson Bell, a frequent visitor to Herschel’s observatory whose physiognomies of indigenous peoples and terrains were praised enthusiastically by the keen young astronomical assistant at the Cape Town obser­vatory, Charles Piazzi Smyth. “Here was the great interior’s physical geography . . . depicted again and again, either in brilliant colour, or chiaroscuro force of black and white, and almost perfect truth of outline, with the very atmosphere also before one to look into, as it shimmered and boiled in the vividness of solar light.”15 The imagery of imperial power and knowledge of the theretofore “unknown” were combined in new “black and white” images of the torrid southern lands and wondrous skies.

Smyth, like Herschel the son of an eminent astronomer, was something of an ama­teur draftsman, and worked with Herschel on geodetic and celestial surveys and on nebular sightings. He produced some fine caricatures of the astronomers at work and instructed his Cape Town friends that “the object of painting as well as of literature is to present something more perfect than that which is commonly seen, to give a local name and habitation to those abstract images of ideal & perfect beauty which though derived from nature herself are never to be seen entire in any one of her forms.”16 This was certainly true of astronomical imaging. In late 1841, before his departure from the Cape for the chief astronomer’s job at Edinburgh, Smyth delivered a paper at the South African Literary and Scientific Institution discussing the technology of astro­nomical drawing. Subsequently published in London by the Royal Astronomical Soci­ety, the talk was prompted by Smyth’s commission to give engravers adequate images of Hailey’s comet as seen by Herschel and his colleagues from the Cape. In South Africa, Smyth engraved copper plates he had brought from England for astronomical and cartographic publication, and apparently worked with mezzotints and aquatints. In what he conceded was a “very hasty production,” Smyth summarized all the problems that faced nebular representation in the 1840s.17 He argued that nebulae posed special representational problems, both cultural and descriptive. They could not be subject to exact measurement; there was as yet no public observatory for extra-meridional astronomy; photography could not be used on these telescopic objects; above all, there was no secure inference to be made about the evolutionary course of nebulae simply because the Herschels were able to arrange nebular species in a series of increasingly resolvable objects.18

So Smyth set out to rule on the aesthetics and technique of nebular pictures, because comparisons between reliably made images would be the only means of get­ting at changes in nebular form. His principal theme was the need for “faithful imita­tion, for want of which none of the so-called high finishing can ever atone, and which can only be accomplished by correctness of eye, facility of hand, and a due apprecia­tion of the subject.” These principles told against most engraving convention, such as engravers’ “misplaced attempt to produce a splendid figure.” Like the publicist Nichol, Smyth commended what he called “positive representations,” in which lights were represented as white. The “negative method,” he judged, in which stars were repre­sented as black marks on a white ground “is extremely likely to puzzle and to create misconception.” Yet William Herschel’s positive images of nebulae printed in 1811, which relied on ruling crossed lines and then a combination of stippling with mezzo­tint (so that the artist worked from a very dark background to highlights) “gives the objects a much better definition than they really possess,” while John Herschel’s cele­brated early aquatints of the Orion nebula, acid etchings where varnished parts would end up white, produced “the disagreeable effect of a net thrown over the whole.”19

These were conventional concerns among colonial artists. In the same year as Smyth’s lecture, the drawing master at the East India Company’s military college issued an authoritative engraving manual in which he, too, discussed the artistic skill required from the mechanisms of engraving: “strokes should never be crossed too much,” and the engraver must “make the strokes wider and fainter in the lights and looser and firmer in the shades.”20 Smyth stressed that astronomers must be their own artists, especially in the colonies (“the more necessary the farther he is removed from Europe”). They must attend closely to aesthetics. Mezzotint was the preferred tech­nique, because it gave a good black ground by roughening a steel plate with a curved rocker, and thus approached such models of skill as Rembrandt, the cynosure of fine chiaroscuro. “Though the study of these masters may not bear very closely on the point, still not a stone should be left unturned when our object is, or ought to be not the mere imitation, but the rivalship of nature.” Trying to make publicly accessible the means for translating “to future ages those signs and appearances in the heavens which admit of no direct application of measure or number,” Smyth was driven to increased mechanization and to ever more explicit aestheticization of representation. “The lay­ing of the ground is the most tedious and troublesome part of the process.” He pro­posed a machine to accelerate and render reliable the preparation of the ground by ruling parallel lines on the plate: “it is needless to enlarge on the rapidity with which astronomical drawings would increase in value.” As astronomers tried making reliable representations of the nebulae and send them from the remotest sites to the imperial capital, they found themselves enmeshed in the world of artists, engravers, and graphic print.21


Savants such as the Cape astronomers and naturalists returned to a turbulent Britain armed with invaluable images of the southern world, faced with the puzzles of render­ing reliable public reproductions of what they’d seen. Not everyone commanded the resources of Herschel, who got ducal subsidy for the publication of his astronomical surveys. Their dilemma was linked with the division of labor inside print culture. Engravers earned most of their living by selling reproductions of paintings, their skill lying in the degree to which these counted as worthy versions of some splendid origi­nal. Herschel and Smyth, for example, were optimistic that their own new work in South Africa on calotypes and other photochemical processes might scotch many dif­ficulties in reproduction. In Ireland, the astronomically ambitious Earl of Rosse also started experiments on daguerrotypes in the 1840s. But nebular images were peculiarly hard to manage this way, thus especially susceptible to the vagaries of engravers’ inter­pretation.22

Astronomers long depended on engravers’ skills to make good scales on the brass fittings of their survey instruments. But engravers’ capacity accurately to render fine landscapes, natural historical specimens, or astronomical drawings relied on changing social status and attributions of skill. In summer 1848, for example, Herschel and Sabine discussed recruiting an artist to work for Rosse on his new nebular surveys in Ireland. Rosse was considering a move to London as president of the Royal Society, but told Sabine that the six-foot telescope “has been inactive whenever it was out of my power to attend to it myself and I have found great difficulty in procuring an assistant who was likely to observe effectively.” Herschel held that “some previous acquaintance with astronomical observations, or at least some degree of habit of see­ing stars and nebulae in other telescopes” would be desirable. Sabine ran a Humboldt- ian survey of Ireland in the 1840s and Rosse looked to Sabine’s staff for a good draftsman. Sabine judged nebular objects, of indeterminate physiognomy and chal­lenging detail, would require “the power of faithful representation—perhaps a suffi­cient instrumental practice might soon be organized.” So as the British Association’s secretary he consulted the gentlemen of science for recommendations among the met­ropolitan engravers. The Dublin geology professor John Phillips, who’d been an aston­ished member of a British Association visit to Rosse’s observatory in 1843, suggested a young microscopist and lithographer, Samuel Leonard, “a person of small means and very moderate expectations,” fit to draw and engrave reliable pictures of natural his­torical and nebular figures. Leonard invented an eyepiece for binocular microscopes and worked for the London physiology professor William Carpenter as part of the Association’s survey of the microscopical structure of shells in 1844. Good artists were rare. In autumn 1846 Charles Darwin, wanting drawings of his Beagle specimens of molluscs and corallines, also asked Carpenter “whether you think your artist [Leonard] would do such things well.” In comparison with the shell drawings “it is a very differ­ent style, hard and precise.”23 The shells, seen through high-powered lenses, did closely resemble the natural history of the nebulae Rosse proposed to picture through his huge telescopes. Leonard’s morals also fitted the bill. “He has a good moral charac­ter and is stated to be full of zeal and desires above all things to be engaged in some work of enduring reputation.” Leonard was not in the end employed by Rosse, but worked for Darwin on drawings of cirripedes. In 1848 Rosse instead hired the mathe­matician George Stoney from Trinity College Dublin, then his brother Bindon Stoney, “a highly educated civil engineer well accustomed to use his pencil,” and later the Dubliner Samuel Hunter, to whose “estimates we may attach much importance, as [he] had the advantage of a considerable amount of training as an artist.” The factors judged crucial by observatory managers well showed how matters of workers’ sub­ordination, morality, and skill counted in the organization of nebular picturing and engraving.24

Throughout the early Victorian period, such workers sought status as creative artists, worthy of recognition by the corporatist Royal Academy and its scientific cog­nates, thus able to command high incomes from dealers and customers. Good pictures were pricey. In the 1840s Leonard earned five shillings per hour for his shell litho­graphs; Rosse later offered to subsidize the cost to the Royal Society of seven guineas for each of the engraver John Basire’s remarkable plates of nebular engravings in his most famous astronomical paper.25 Engravers argued in the late 1830s before Parlia­ment that “no attention or respect is paid to engraving in this country. The public consider engravers only as a set of ingenious mechanics.” For one of their leaders engraving was “more a translation of a picture than a copying.” Even “translation,” however, could not necessarily grant the engravers the status they sought. The Royal Academy riposted bluntly that “Engraving is wholly devoid” of “those intellectual qualities of Invention and Composition, ... its greatest praise consisting in translat­ing with as little loss as possible the beauties of these original Arts of Design.” As an 1844 guide explained to print connoisseurs, “the print is, in truth, not a work of indi­vidual art, but a manufacture.” The activity of copying and the very existence of a truly original image were both puzzles for the nebular astronomers too.26 Replication of reliable images, it seemed, hinged on the mechanization of a workforce traditionally keen on its autonomous rights to “invention and composition.” Mechanization also governed the outputs and the consumers of the engravers’ work. The development of the steam press in 1814 and, from 1827, of stereotyping, which allowed the mass re­production of images and texts by casting off metal impresses of type forms, accelerated accessible graphic work and the concentration of capital in the print trade. Cheap graphics, normally based on wood-engraved blocks that were uniquely capable of being juxtaposed with type, had been the standard resource of the loose alliance of pomogra- phers, radicals, and publicists who dominated Regency London’s Grub Street world, whence flowed hosts of broadsides, caricatures, and cheap shockers.27

During the 1830s the condition of British graphic print was transformed. Sustained by the fixed capital vested in their new machines and increasingly self-confident ide­ologies of moral and intellectual reformism, journals such as the Penny Magazine (1833), Punch (1841), and the Illustrated London News (1842) all in different ways exploited engravings and text to create unprecedentedly large markets for their re­markable images of improving knowledge, moralized physiognomies, or spectacular natural and political events. Charles Knight’s Penny Magazine, with an initial reader­ship estimated at one million and patronized by the genteel Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, soon became a key medium of moral education. Knight wrote that “ready and cheap communication breaks down the obstacles of time and space.”28 Less-cheap lithographs, like those Leonard made of shells, were for the elite. Nichol disliked them: “the worst of lithography,” he told Herschel in 1838, “is that the impressions are most unequal, at least of any lithography I have been able to com­mand.” Conservatives decried the new magazines’ use of cheaper mass-produced en­gravings. The ambitious journalist William Thackeray complained of the subservience of lithography, which he lauded as manual creativity, to the “machinery” of engraving, spawned “by the aid of great original capital and spread of sale.” Willy-nilly, by 1842 Thackeray himself soon joined Punch and the mechanical-graphical world. In 1846 the Tory laureate William Wordsworth even penned a sonnet against the Illustrated London News: “Now prose and verse, sunk into disrepute, / must lacquey a dumb Art that best can suit / The taste of this once-intellectual land.”29

Wordsworth, like other critics, here assailed caricature and physiognomy in the public press. Physiognomy became part of the Victorian “period eye.” Linked with the devel­opmental hierarchies of race and class, physiognomy provided a kind of medium for images made in colonial observatories, field stations and London printshops. The mass distribution of images of the big reflecting telescopes, and the nebulae, can be com­pared with the equally widespread publication of Punch caricatures, or such notewor­thy hits as William Frith’s “picture of the age,” Derby Day (1858), a vast emblem of mid-Victorian characters that challenged its viewers to resolve each individual into their peculiar moral or social quality. As Mary Cowling has demonstrated in her analy­sis of Frith’s genre pieces, physiognomic codes drawn from late-eighteenth-century manuals such as Lavater and Camper allowed interpretation of character, hierar­chy, and fate. Victorian novels were larded with physiognomic accounts designed to cue their readers to characters’ types.30 Images such as Punch’s cartoons were exactly stereotypes, a term that shifted in the mid-nineteenth century from its earlier sense as a means for accelerating the reproduction of print and graphics to its current sense of banalized caricature. The Punch journalist Albert Smith’s The Natural History of Stuck- up People (1847) was a witty example of the genre. Newspaper articles on the “moral physiognomy” of the “wandering tribes” of London first published in 1849-50 by another Punch journalist, the social explorer Henry Mayhew, also used evolutionist accounts of physiognomic development. Mayhew began his survey of metropolitan vagrants with physiognomic evidence from the 1830s surveys of South Africa: “in each of the classes above mentioned, there is a greater development of the animal than of the intellectual or moral nature of man, and they are all more or less distin­guished for the high cheek-bones and protruding jaws—for their lax ideas of property.” Physiognomy helped place ambiguous classes in the right series of natural types.31 As Gillian Beer has suggested, stereotypes helped Victorian audiences make sense of the evolutionarily crucial “missing link,” a means through which continuities between higher and lower orders could be asserted or denied. Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), an anonymous work on the nebular hypothesis and evolutionism by the Edinburgh publisher Robert Chambers, was only the most notorious text that hitched physiognomy to evolutionist strategy.’32

Moral development, physiognomy, and evolutionism were stereotypically linked, especially in the representation of Irish affairs. From the early 1840s journals such as Punch simianized the physiognomy of the indigenous Irish (Figure 2). At periods of cat­astrophic famine and widespread insurrection in Ireland, British ethnographers under­wrote physiognomic judgments that placed the Celts at an inferior, degenerate level in social development. In his remarks on the relation between “Paddy and Mr Punch” in the 1840s and 1850s, Roy Foster shows how physiognomic caricature of the Irish stayed in place: “one cannot get away from the intellectual and scientific (or pseudo-scientific) context of such stereotypes.”33 Using Pieter Camper’s doctrine of the role of facial angle in discriminations between animals and humans, mid-Victorian caricaturists portrayed insurrectionary Celts as apelike and prognathous. Contemporary controver­sies about the link between human origins and the higher primates fueled appetite for these images. As Adrian Desmond puts it, “the concept of the facial angle was easily moulded into ideological shape.”34 From the 1850s, when concern with nebular reso­lution was also intense, public shows of apes, especially gorillas, and the publishing offensives of modish evolutionism, helped the Irish connection work. In 1861, Punch published a cartoon of “Mr G O’Rilla” and his extinction. The same month, its rival magazine Fun juxtaposed an image of an apelike Irish MP with a drawing of the noto­rious evolutionist Thomas Henry Huxley walking arm in arm with a gorilla. A more ferocious account followed a year later, when Punch carried a story on “The Missing Link” descibing the habits of the “Irish Yahoo,” “a creature manifestly between the Gorilla and the Negro.”35 The simian link was also apparent to Charles Kingsley,

Figure 2. “The Fenian Guy Fawkes,” John Tenniel’s cartoon of a simianized Irishman, Punch, December 28, 1867.

expert on physiognomy’s use in science and fiction. Kingsley prepared for his inaugura­tion as Cambridge history professor by visiting a private astronomical observatory at Markree in Ireland, then reported as “the most richly furnished private observatory known.” After hunting stars and salmon, the English physiognomist turned his gaze on the Irish peasantry: “I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw along that hun­dred miles of horrible country. ... To see white chimpanzees is dreadful. ... It is a land of ruins and the dead.”36 Such ways of seeing Ireland were common, and helped map the status of its astronomy too. In 1846-47, at the height of the Great Famine in Ire­land, Thackeray contributed to Punch a long series of satirical physiognomies deco­rated with his own drawings. A few weeks after telling his London readers that “the shams of Ireland are more outrageous than those of any country,” a land “where no- one believes anybody,” he explicitly envisaged a physiognomic rival of “Lord Rosse’s telescope,” which “enables you to see a few houndred [sic] thousand of miles farther.” What was truly required (from the British Association, he guessed) was “some tele­scopic philosopher to find the laws of the great science” of physiognomic caricature.3'

Astronomical images were certainly current in the “dumb” visual culture Words­worth bemoaned and Thackeray satirized. They had long been the stock of public lec­tures. Smog-bound Londoners could glimpse the Flerschels’ discoveries at London opera houses. In Easter 1839 one lecturer there showed “the Moon as viewed through Herschell’s telescope” and huge machines of heavenly motions. In 1846 Humboldt himself proposed erecting “large panoramic buildings . . . thrown freely open to the people” to show “the physiognomy of nature.”38 Graphic print exploited these phys­iognomies. While Herschel was in South Africa, newspapers skittishly reported that through his reflector he had seen, amid suitably Humboldtian moonscapes, the phys­iognomies of lunar inhabitants. Lithographs showed the lunarians’ “face . . . was a slight improvement upon that of the large orang-outang, being more open and intelli­gent in its expression and having a much greater expansion of forehead.”39 Like the Royal Academicians on whom they modeled their own organizations, the astronomers tried to secure public status by a judicious balance of distinction and management in the world of print and showmanship. The issue was by no means one of making a sim­ple contrast between coolly secluded astronomical vision and the vulgar physiog­nomies fit for public consumption. It was rather regrettable, according to Herschel’s letters from South Africa, that the widespread stories of his sights of “landscapes of every colouring, extraordinary scenes of lunar vegetation and groups of the reasonable inhabitants of the Moon” were “not true.” Notes in Herschel’s private observing note­book described the moon as an “African savage.” In public, in his very successful astronomy textbook, Herschel produced a stunning physiognomy of the Orion nebula (Figure 3) designed to capture public interest: “in form, the brightest portion offers a resemblance to the head and yawning jaws of some monstrous animal, with a sort of proboscis running out from the snout.”40

Figure 3. John Herschel’s picture of the Orion nebula as reproduced in John Pringle Nichol’s System of the World (1846).

The monstrous nebula, like other bizarre natural specimens, became public cur­rency. In the 1840s Nichol hosted the scarred veteran of metropolitan print culture, Thomas de Quincey, at his new Glasgow observatory. One result of de Quincey’s stay was a remarkable contribution to the journal for which Nichol acted as scientific con­sultant, Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine. De Quincey told the magazine’s readers to open Nichol’s book, his System of the World (1846), where Herschel’s picture of Orion was reproduced, then to turn the book upside down, as though reading the nebula were a Lavaterian exercise in resolving the morality of a hideous face.

The following is the dreadful creature that will then reveal itself. . . . You see a head thrown back, and raising its face (or eyes if eyes it had) in the very anguish of hatred, to some unknown heavens. . . . The mouth, in that stage of the apoca­lypse which Sir John Herschel was able to arrest in his eighteen-inch mirror, is amply developed. Brutalities unspeakable sit upon the upper lip, which is conflu­ent with a snout; for separate nostrils there are none.41

De Quincey linked the monstrous physiognomy of the nebula to that of the sublime head of Memnon brought from Egypt to the British Museum in 1818, and thence to reflections on the primal scene, on the Miltonic Fall, and on the politics of oriental­ism.42 “Now when further examinations by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope have filled up the scattered outline with a rich umbraceous growth, one is inclined to regard them as the plumes of a sultan.” Nichol, stout materialist, was rather worried by de Quincey’s “resolution of the Nebula into something different from Matter . . . notwithstanding its singular and undeniable power.” De Quincey claimed that “as one belonging to the laity, and not to the clerus in the science of astronomy, I could scarcely have presumed to report minutely, or to sit in the character of dissector upon the separate details of Dr Nichol’s works. . . had there not been room left dispos­able for such a task.”43 This question of room for diagnostic dissection and physiog­nomic play was crucial. The spaces of early Victorian print culture dominated the ways of nebular vision.


Like so many of Victorian Britain’s predicaments, the problem of the nebulae’s mean­ing was at least temporarily focused on Ireland. There from the 1830s, on his Parsons- town estate, the wealthy Protestant nobleman William Parsons, Earl of Rosse, commissioned two unprecedentedly vast reflecting telescopes. His aim was to match and surpass the Herschels’ achievements both in telescope building and in nebular res­olution. Work performed at his observatory, especially attempts to resolve the Orion nebula into stars, explain away its shape changes, and thus undermine the nebular hypothesis, prompted the effusions of Nichol, Thackeray, and de Quincey, attracting audiences throughout the United Kingdom and beyond. Rosse got the same treatment as Herschel. In 1844 a London paper juxtaposed cheap woodcuts of ghost stories and engineering schemes with gossip that the earl’s great reflector revealed “the skeleton of a gigantic animal” lying in a lunar crater. The lifelessness of the moon, the magazine ironized, was due to the fact that “the Monster, after ravaging all around, had at last perished by famine,” an apt theme in 1840s Ireland, home of famine and Rosse’s mon­ster telescopes. “There are mysterious whisperings of some supposed ethereal or angelic beings discovered,” according to the enthusiastic reporter, “nothing but the dread of attracting a concourse of peasantry prevented our joining in a general shout.”44

The larger six-foot mirror installed by Rosse in 1842 in what was soon called the Leviathan of Parsonstown became a topic of journalism because of its technological virtuosity and its political significance (see Figure 4). Built at the astronomical cost of £12,000, immured between massive gothic walls that constricted the tube securely in the meridian and made it look like a medieval castle, the Leviathan and its owner were made into an emblem of benevolent rule in famine-struck Ireland. Parsonstown

Figure 4. The "Leviathan of Parsonstown” in 1844 (the six-foot mirror installed by William Parsons, Earl of Rosse, at his estate in Ireland in 1842). From Illustrated London News 6 (1845): 253.

itself suffered at least 30 percent mortality rates in its fever sheds in the wake of the potato famine of the mid'1840s. The Countess of Rosse, a wealthy Yorkshire heiress, paid both for the telescope project and for tenants to build forts and earthworks on the estate as a job-creation scheme during the Great Hunger. The Edinburgh natural philosopher David Brewster, an active Protestant journalist in spreading the news of Rosse’s work, wrote in 1844 that “it is a matter of no ordinary satisfaction that the intellectual energy of Ireland is concentrated in men of like faith with ourselves.”45 The new Earl of Rosse—he inherited the title in 1841 from his father, a distinguished critic of the Union—and his aide, the aggressive Ulster episcopalian Thomas Romney Robinson, son of a distinguished portrait painter and now director of the Armagh Observatory, were pillars of the Church of Ireland and the Ascendancy. Robinson’s campaigns involved making the Irish telescopes better than their predecessors—he even suggested sending “a Reflector on Irish principles” to the Cape to “put an extin­guisher on Herschel’s labors.” He also preached against the threats of evolution and materialism. Nichol’s version of the nebular hypothesis was but one example of a gen­eral tide of unbelief, notoriously embodied in Vestiges and endorsed by the philosophic radical John Stuart Mill in his System of Logic (1843). Nichol and Mill also penned many journal articles on the evils of the Irish church and land establishment. The rad­ical materialist tide was to be countered with the divine lessons of the Leviathan.46

The Leviathan’s master made no secret of his views on the solution to the immedi­ate Irish emergency of famine and potential revolt. In 1847 Rosse sent a series of let­ters to the Times “as an Irish landed proprietor” recommending “emigration, and on a great scale, and there must be very stringent regulations to prevent the subdivision of land.” A committed Whig and Malthusian, Rosse held that the irrational Irish habit of parceling tenancies into ever smaller holdings simply encouraged excessive popula­tion growth. Rosse’s family friend, the political economist and government advisor Nassau Senior, was reported as fearing the Irish Famine of 1848 “would not kill more than a million people, and that would be scarcely enough to do much good.” Political economic principles, Rosse insisted, were as sure as those of physics. “Nothing is more difficult than to change the habits of a people—the only chance of effecting a change quickly would be by example,” so plantation by “a few English or Scotch farmers” would help an otherwise essentially disastrous predicament. His collaborator Robin­son was no less fierce in defence of the Protestant establishment, no less sceptical of English incomprehension of the Irish landlords’ troubles and equally sure of their racial origin. Robinson shared the view that the original population of the island had degenerated from a high southern European stock into their current peasant occu­pants. Only Protestant Ulstermen, he reckoned, escaped “the mean vices which lower a large proportion of the people of this and the sister island.”47

These views at Parsonstown during the tense 1840s help illuminate the reports of what they saw there, especially their ability to see in the nebulae a telling lesson against the law of natural and social progress. One foreign journalist judged it “remark' able that it is an Irish earl, placed at the centre of an island where, unfortunately, still reign so much poverty and ignorance, who has made so much progress in this difficult and important part of optics.” The Tory Charles Piazzi Smyth, who in 1852 had visited Parsonstown with enthusiasm, wrote from Edinburgh to express his view that Rosse’s achievements should become “a species of textbook.”48 Rosse’s virtues, and the means he used to recruit local peasants to his workshops, underscored the political message of the Parsonstown mission and its telescope, immured as it was in a suitably Norman keep. “All these gigantic constructions . . . have been executed in Lord Rosse’s work- shops,” Robinson commented, “by persons taken from the surrounding peasantry, who, under his teaching and training, have become accomplished workmen, combin­ing with high skill and intelligence the yet more important requisites of steady habits and good conduct.” As Rosse himself explained from the president’s chair to the Brit­ish Association in 1843, “the children of the fields” always displayed “a more deter­mined tendency to religion and piety than amongst the dwellers in towns and cities.” His estate was a haven of tranquil labor and divine science in a sea of economic, polit­ical, and racial catastrophe.49

This image was affirmed in one of the most striking travel reports about Par­sonstown, produced in Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal in late 1846. As Jim Secord has pointed out, the Journal was “the most public forum in early Victorian Britain.” It was broadly secular, reformist, and meliorist in tone, and attracted fierce clerical hostility and envious glances from its competitors. Robert Chambers had been converted to nebular astronomy by his close ally Nichol and had visited Ireland with him in 1837. In some versions of his Vestiges and its sequel Explanations, especially in the first half of 1846, Chambers did his best to accommodate the attack on true nebulosity propagated from Parsonstown.50 This gave his Journal’s report on Parsonstown in late 1846 consid­erable point. The article’s look conveyed the moral of a contrast between stereotypical Irish peasant idiocy and British noble success. The first half of the story summarized a hackneyed series of “Irish” jokes: the craziness of coach timetables, the poverty of the houses and the towns, the absurd pretension of Catholic peasants, the ridiculous exe­cution of justice: “the whole affair more resembled a scene in Tom and Jerry [a popular English comic strip of the period] than the proceedings of a well-appointed tribunal.” Above all, the Journal made the Irish the exemplary time-wasters. Punctuality, it seemed, was the prerogative of sound British science. Parsonstown was “almost as neat and brisk a town as could be seen in England,” entirely because of Rosse’s “liberality.” There was an important connection between the Irish “aptitude for instruction” and Rosse’s “accomplishments in practical science.” The power of the telescopes as repre­sentatives lay in their cultural setting, in the contrast between this order and success and the disasters, however humorous, of the Irish.51

In his final commentaries on Irish politics and economics Rosse reemphasised both the idyll of the well-managed estate and the threat posed by Irish peasant mores and English incomprehension. “The landlord,” he explained, “is the centre of a little com­munity who have all that is necessary for their decent maintenance and . . . there are self-righting principles which prevent things from going very wrong, which restrain the perturbations within certain fixed limits, and restore things again to a normal state.” This was both a polemic against indefinite evolutionary change and over­wrought plebeian fertility. The “tyranny of unbridled democracy,” he argued, was the principal perturbation to class harmony. “Forced emigration” and land consolidation remained the cure for Ireland’s ills. As one of his fiercest critics, the Home Ruler Isaac Butt, put it, Rosse betrayed his class’ “fear of the presence of human beings,” and was “rapidly completing the extermination of the Old Celtic Race.” Rosse singled out another opponent, John Stuart Mill, not only because of his economic assaults on the landlords but because he had released a “people’s edition,” mass-marketing his radical subversive principles and deriving the law of social progress from the Nebular Hypoth­esis. False populism, the highbrow astronomer Lord Rosse held, was as bad in econ­omics as in physics: “It is very much as if a treatise on applied mechanics were to introduce ... an essay on the overthrow of the Newtonian philosophy.” The public seemed unaccountably intrigued by the pseudoscientific images of social progress and reform. The Nebular Hypothesis of Mill, Nichol, and the Vestiges was a step to destruc­tion. So too was their model of land, property, and the social order. It was important to produce a different picture of the face of the heavens and of humanity.52

This picture was profoundly divine. A note of 1852 in the Parsonstown astronomi­cal diary recorded that “no-one who has had the privilege of viewing the . . . nebulous systems under these mighty aids to vision can well fail in realizing under deeply impressive convictions the force of the Sacred Aphorism, ‘The Heavens declare the glory of God!’ ” Robinson was also much concerned with the industrial sublime, writ­ing in the 1840s of his admiration for “Milton’s splendid description of the infernal palace” as an image of contemporary metallurgical foundries. He was familiar with the stunning apocalyptic of the biblical illustrator John Martin and his fellow artists of the divine industrial vision. Several journalists compared the telescope with “that artillery described by Milton as pointed by the rebellious angels against the host of Heaven” and praised its “quiet victory over space.” Between 1840 and the spring of 1842 Rosse commissioned a huge foundry with three furnaces and, after five separate trials, cast a perfect six-foot mirror for the new reflector. The drama of this moment was an occa­sion for Robinson’s oratory.53 Speaking at the Royal Irish Academy two weeks after the casting of the Leviathan’s mirror, Robinson emphasized that in this Irish Pandemo­nium, noble mastery was confidently visible:

On this occasion, besides the engrossing importance of the operation, its singular and sublime beauty can never be forgotten by those who were so fortunate as to be present. Above, the sky, crowded with stars and illuminated by a most bril­liant moon, seemed to look down auspiciously on their work. Below, the furnaces poured out huge columns of nearly monochromatic yellow flame, and the ignited crucibles, during their passage through the air were fountains of red light, pro­ducing on the towers of the castle and the foliage of the trees, such accidents of colour and shade as might almost transport fancy to the planets of a con­trasted double star. Nor was the perfect order and arrangement of every thing less striking: each possible contingency had been foreseen, each detail carefully rehearsed; and the workmen executed their orders with a silent and unerring obedience worthy of the calm and provident self-possession in which they were 54 given.

Charles Weld, the Royal Society’s secretary, plagiarized just this passage in his travel­ogue Vacations in Ireland, a work dedicated to Rosse with an engraving of the Levia­than in pride of place. The Leviathan attracted pilgrims. The local physician, Thomas Woods, published a guidebook, The Monster Telescopes erected by the Earl of Rosse (1844). The Illustrated London News dutifully carried a full-page spread of views of Parsonstown and its workshops: “a visit to the noble lord’s demesne will amply repay any trouble attendant on it.” John Timbs, subeditor at the News, also included the Leviathan as the very frontispiece of his best-selling Curiosities of Science. The preemi­nent publicist of Christian astronomy, Thomas Dick, used these reports for a special appendix on the Leviathan in his 1845 guide for amateur astronomers. Mary Somer­ville, eminent science writer, told the earl that “my only knowledge of this extraordi­nary instrument is from public report which so much exceeds all that any one has dared to hope for.”55

The monster telescope and the vast nebulae belong to the history of the sublime and the gigantic in Victorian science, arts, and society. John Herschel was well aware that the astronomers’ claims to see stars and nebulae “may be thought to savour of the gigantesque.” At Parsonstown in 1843, according to the president of the British Association, “whatever met the eye was on a gigantic scale . . . structures of solid masonry . . . more lofty and massive than those of a Norman keep.” During the nineteenth century the gigantesque shifted its application from the vast formations of nature to include the display of material production within the society of the spectacle. The work performed to resolve distant nebulae with great reflectors, then show these portraits to the public, followed such a path between natural history, machinery, and spectacular display.56 The sublimity of the Leviathan of Parsonstown, and the power of its observations, can thus be situated within the public sphere of Victorian print and picturing. The physiognomy of the nebulae slowly produced from the Irish telescope was supposed to falsify a progressive science of change and evolution.


Initially Rosse’s team sought to win over their public with little more than a quick glance at their stories of resolution. In 1845, when the Leviathan was ready, Robinson almost at once recorded in the observing book, and told the public, that “no REAL nebula seemed to exist among so many of these objects chosen without bias: all appeared to be clusters of stars.”57 Herschel was unprepared to make the inference that this destroyed the nebular hypothesis. In some cases he could not make sense of the drawings Rosse’s team produced: “is this really the appearance in the telescope, or has the artist intended to express his conception of its solid form by this shading?” Herschel sent Rosse his own drawings of Orion, pointed out how dreadful was the Irish sky, and told the British Association that it was “a general law” that resolvability was limited to spherical nebulae. Rosse turned up at the Association’s meeting in Cambridge in 1845, where Herschel verbally crucified John Stuart Mill’s speculative versions of the Nebular Hypothesis but maintained that a nebular origin for stars remained plausible. The Irish earl handed round his startling drawing of a spiral nebula (M51), and his team’s amaz­ing pictures of such spirals became a prized result of his great telescopes: “he did not think the drawing would be found to need much future correction.” Later, Rosse sent a “notebook of drawings of nebulae” to the London elite, to Michael Faraday, Sabine, and to Herschel himself.58 A climax of the early campaign against true nebulosity was reached after Christmas 1845, when Orion itself was at last clearly observable from Par­sonstown. Some foreign science journals prematurely reported that Rosse’s team had successfully resolved the key object.59 On March 19, 1846, Rosse told Nichol and oth­ers that “there can be little, if any, doubt as to the resolvability of the nebula.”60

However, in 1846 there was simply no publicly available picture of the Orion neb­ula in its resolved state. It took two decades to make one for public release. To remove doubt of resolution it was important painstakingly to make a physiognomy of the Orion nebula. First, to place well-positioned stars on their maps, the Parsonstown team needed a reliable working list. They used the authoritative catalogues made by Wilhelm Struve and his son Otto at Pulkovo, the world center of stellar astronomy. Otto Struve came to Parsonstown in 1850, then proposed coordinating star surveys with the Irish observers. Like the contemporary campaigns to measure the personal equations of separate astronomical observers, this would need “direct experiments” to make sure Russians and Irish observers were comparable: “the relative sharpness of the eyes of both observers must be taken into account and this can only be deduced from direct comparisons made on the heavens by the same instrument.” So, as Otto Struve explained, “a personal interview with your Lordship and your assistant and experi­ments made directly on the heavens in your company and with your instrument appears to be the only way to secure a perfect success of our combined labors.”61 This scheme for combined star gauges at Pulkovo and Parsonstown never happened. Instead, Rosse’s group used Russian charts of Orion, but some seemed to show that “visible changes in the nebular parts have very probably happened.” Such changes would imply that there was indeed true nebulosity in Orion, a conclusion of which the Irish group remained rather sceptical: “these are probably to be attributed in a great measure to the difference of power in the instruments used and the amount of labor expended on the drawings.”62

Much was therefore made of the sheer amount of labor involved in producing the physiognomy of Orion. The Night Book kept by George Stoney in 1848-49 recorded sights of Orion “far beyond my greatest expectation.” Such enthusiastic glances were not enough for the time-consuming work of resolution. On February 17, 1849, Stoney saw a “multitude of stars ... but when they came to be drawn only got in 9 certain and 5 uncer­tain, the state of the air having become worse.” Such comments were carefully selected for eventual publication. According to the published version, Bindon Stoney’s drawing in 1851-52 of the Huygenian region of the nebula, the zone the Parsonstown team judged most likely to be resolved, “was made with great care, and he was engaged upon it the whole season.” Several other observers were called in to check what Bindon Stoney had done. His draft showed “strong indications of change” when compared with the later drawing made by Samuel Hunter between February 1860 and 1864.63 (See Figure 5.)

Changes in stellar positions and traces of milkiness would persistently affect observers’ judgment that they were seeing stars instead of nebulous fluid. Rosse told Herschel in early 1849 that “in Orion we have nowhere seen a resolution into stars without intervening nebulosity, and in many parts the indications of resolvability are almost wholly wanting, still I think upon the evidence we are fully justified in con­cluding that it is a resolvable nebula.” Bindon Stoney reminded his former boss why observers might wrongly fail to record successful resolutions. “Faint nebulosity might sometimes be erroneously inferred to exist” either “in the close neighbourhood of bright stars associated with nebulous matter” or “in an interval surrounded by bright nebulosity.” So then “an observer might suppose milkiness to exist on unfavourable nights for definition or with an imperfect speculum, where in fact no nebulosity would appear with a freshly polished speculum free from all tarnish and on a first class night.” Hunter recorded the hard work involved in making any judgment of “resolution.” Thus on February 22, 1862, using the less-powerful three-foot reflector (“faint details cannot be made out with it”), Hunter recorded that the Huygenian region “looks just like fine flour scattered over a grey surface so that I have no hesitation in saying it is composed of stars, many small ones seen in it.” Hunter also tellingly noted the rarity of “fine nights.” “It may seem strange that it required so long a time” to make such pic­tures of the Orion nebula. But because of the high walls holding the Leviathan steady and limiting its field, observation could only last fifty minutes per night. In four years there were only five “really good” nights and twelve “fair nights” to gaze at Orion.

Figure 5. Samuel Hunter’s picture of the Orion nebula made between I860 and 1864 at Parsonstown. From Lord Oxmantown, “Account of the Observations on the Great Nebula in Orion,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1868).

“Any details of which we were not confident were returned to night after night, until satisfied we had got the true form.”64

The completed steel engravings, published by the Royal Society in 1868, which purported to show the “true form” of many resolved areas of the Orion nebula, were very widely distributed and debated. Some astronomers complained that Rosse’s cata­logues of his nebular surveys showed most of the images as negatives, with stars as black on white. The earl’s son, Lord Oxmantown, now in charge of the Leviathan, reported that “the engraving is on the whole very accurate; a little more softening off in the faint outlying parts would have been desirable, but Mr. Basire [the engraver] did not think that it would be practicable consistent [sic] with the reasonable durability of the plate.” It proved hard to keep all the draftsmen in line. When Oxmantown noted that he was “unable to find” some stars in Hunter’s drawings of Orion, Hunter himself wrote from Dublin to complain that they would indeed be found “either in the Night Books or in the original drawing. I think they are in both of these. . . . Your lordship doubtless is aware that I frequently examined the object in its various positions in order to familiarize myself with its details and note its general character.” The astrono- mer Robert Ball, who worked at Parsonstown in 1866-67, right at the end of the Orion campaign, confirmed that the published image of the nebula was “an exquisite piece of work . . . corrected or altered until accuracy was attained. Never before was so much pains bestowed on the drawing of a celestial object, and never again,” in the new era of astrophotography, “will equal pains be devoted to the same purpose.”65

The authority of the new picture of Orion relied on the Parsonstown astronomers’ pains. Yet these labors could also call such images into doubt. Every time the Leviathan’s mirror was repolished, its form changed and then tarnished in bad weather. “It would have been a hopeless task,” the earl reported to the Royal Society, “to attempt to keep it in a state fit for the resolution of nebulae and the attempt was not made.” His son eventually acknowledged that “the reflector of this year may be as to defining power practically a totally different instrument from what it may be in the next.” Stoney privately agreed that even when “the speculum was quite fresh from the polisher” the “effect was lost in a very short time.”66 And then the sketching took place under “very feeble lamp-light.” Hunter privately noted that after laying down Struve’s grid of stars on his charts, Orion’s nebulosity was “inserted with reference to the stars at the telescope by the light of a lamp, so held that the direct rays from it should not enter the eye, but even with this precaution the sensitiveness of the eye was impaired, so that for a minute or so faint details could not be seen.” So, according to Rosse, “to see the sketch as we proceed, it is often necessary to mark it too strongly.” Contrasts betwen faint and bright portions in the steel engraving could not be trusted, and “the well-marked confines of the nebula on paper” did not “really represent the boundaries of the object in space in all cases.”67 Variations in ink quality, the difficulty of introducing micrometric measures of star position, and the time needed for the eye to recover all vitiated the long-drawn-out task. Lord Oxmantown conceded in his analysis of Orion in 1867 that in the key Huygenian zone of the nebula, where resolu­tion was most apparent, “it was found almost impossible to reproduce this difference of appearance in the engraving, since the whole of the surface consists of minute black dots.” All the problems common to the engravers’ shops in London and discussed at the start of the 1840s by Smyth and his colleagues were here canvassed in the learned journals of the astronomical elite.68

The collective labors of the Parsonstown astronomers looked rather fragile. To defend the Irish pictures against their critics, Robinson characteristically turned the argument about the artifactual quality of nebular drawings against rival telescopes. When he learned that the American astronomer William Bond had apparently already resolved the Orion nebula with his new (and expensive) German refractor at Harvard, a triumph scarcely achieved at Parsonstown, Robinson claimed “that this success must be in great measure due to that precise knowledge of the phenomenon and of the points where it might be looked for, which is afforded by Dr Nichol’s work,” thus damning his American colleague with the sins of Robinson’s personal bête-noir.69 But this appeal to the role that incautious expectation might play in claims to resolu­tion was a double-edged weapon. The earl himself was quite frank: “the eye may in some degree be influenced by the mind,” he conceded in 1850. On several occasions it was acknowledged that “sketches originally made in the gallery of the telescope” would “represent the objects placed as they appeared, not as they actually exist in space” and, as Rosse put it in 1861, “these descriptions, however accurately conveying the impressions made upon the eye at the time, cannot be taken as in all cases repre­senting real facts.”70

The “real facts” produced at Parsonstown about the Orion nebula were scarcely ever stable within the astronomical community. It is not now believed that this nebula is stellar. Its resolution by Rosse’s team may have been due to the interposition of many small telescopic stars.71 Where it served local interests, drawings of Orion as stel­lar were acceptable as a means of calibrating other instruments. In the 1840s, Bond used the capacity of his expensive new German refractor to resolve Orion as a means of telling Bostonians that the telescope was worth its high price. Inside his Harvard observatory, however, the “winning” of the nebula was never very clear. After fifteen years a “steel engraving of the Nebula of Orion” made at Harvard was eventually delivered to Parsonstown to help Rosse’s team “should it not come to hand too late.”72 The grandeur of the Leviathan of Parsonstown was a negotiable asset. According to Humboldt in 1849, “even stronger telescopes, after having resolved what remains to us at present of nebulosity, will create nebulosity anew because they will penetrate further stellar layers which hitherto have escaped the observer.”73 Government astronomers such as the Astronomer Royal George Airy simply denied the inference that all nebulae could be resolved into stars, while at Pulkovo Otto Struve publicly stated that “the alleged miracles of resolution are nothing but illusions.”74 In the 1850s, evolutionist journalists on the Westminster Review challenged Rosse’s results, and in 1864-65 the London amateur William Huggins, apparently moved by their sto­ries, announced that astrospectroscopy showed that objects like Orion were really gaseous, with bright line emission spectra, and not stellar at all. Huggins reported that thanks to his new spectroscopes “the detection in a nebula of minute closely associ­ated points of light which has hitherto been considered as a certain indication of a stellar constitution can no longer be accepted as a trustworthy proof that the object consists of true stars.” Sabine, then the Royal Society’s president, and others in the London elite, welcomed this new way of seeing true nebulosity.75

Rosse and his new assistant Robert Ball went to visit Huggins in London and see his remarkable spectroscopes. In early 1865 Humphry Lloyd, expert optical theorist at Trinity College Dublin, counseled the Parsonstown group about the difference between nebular emission lines and stellar absorption lines, and that they would have to change their apparatus with accurate cross-wires “to make it available for rapid esti­mations , ” a new style of seeing, reliant on accurate if speedy glances rather than a lengthy though careful gaze. Ball and Oxmantown privately noted during 1866 the troubles they had with this novel pattern of work. They “could not quite manage to illuminate the field to see the wires without rendering the spectral lines too faint.” The Leviathan lacked a clock drive to make stable spectral measures. The battery used to generate comparison spectra kept freezing and was stored in a tin of hot water. But in public they were almost certain that there was in addition to three bright lines (the telltale mark of a truly gaseous object) “a faint, continuous spectrum” (so the object might really be stellar). They reckoned that stellar, continuous spectra with dark absorption lines were necessarily fainter, thus harder to see. On January 30, 1866 they privately “suspected ... a much fainter bright band gradually fading away ... perhaps this was a continuous spectrum from the nebula or from the diffused light of stars in neighbourhood—probably the former.” In any case, Oxmantown announced in the Philosophical Transactions in 1868 that Hunter had, after all, really seen the main region of the nebula “clearly resolved.” With the right equipment, personnel, and technique, the laborious “facts” of resolution might be compelling. Yet these very resources were rather too obviously local to command wide assent.76

It was becoming ever harder to keep the Leviathan’s status secure. In the summer of 1869, Struve wrote privately to Oxmantown, now the new Earl of Rosse, admitting “how much more bright all features must appear in your instrument” compared with his own refractor, but then defining carefully what “resolution” should truly mean: “if a nebula is resolvable it will offer the same appearance on any occasion when the images are sufficiently favourable.” So because of the many changes in their accounts of the nebula, the Parsonstown team had no right to claim that its pictures showed Orion resolved. Later that year the astronomical journalist Richard Proctor publicly alleged that the Leviathan was incapable of distinct imaging. Robinson promptly ransacked his old observing notes for records of its successes. Back in February 1845 he had recorded the “fact” that “the resolution of the flocky part of Orion’s nebula cannot escape any eye.” But Johnstone Stoney agreed that only about one-third of all mirrors had worked well and that it “is to be regretted that we seldom looked at the class of objects that are known as test objects,” Struve’s star lists used to calibrate telescope performance. A few years later it was even reported in the Times that Struve had fiercely denied the Leviathan’s superiority. The Russian was forced to send Rosse a terse denial (“I am sorry my name is abused in such a manner by people who probably have a design of their own in depreciating the performance of the instrument.”)77 The period when the Orion nebula was judged to have been resolved was over. Its images gained what authority they possessed from the public culture in which they were dis­tributed and used. De Quincey had already summed up the point. When a hostile critic in the Westminster Review told him that Parsonstown pictures of the Orion neb­ula were utterly different from the monstrous physiognomy he had seen in Herschel’s drawing, de Quincey answered that “the reviewer says that this appearance had been dispersed by Lord Rosse’s telescope. True, or at least so I hear. But for all this, it was originally created by that telescope.” Though it was in fact John Herschel, not Lord Rosse, who was responsible for the fearsome physiognomy de Quincey had first inter­preted, this was nevertheless a palpable hit. The power of the Leviathan to produce images could not guarantee its power to reproduce those pictures’ interpretations.78

“Who is there who has not heard of Lord Rosse’s telescope?” asked the Dublin nat­ural philosophy professor, John Jellett, eulogizing Rosse at his funeral in 1867. This was the right question. Reputation mattered in nebular astronomy. The astronomers might be hostile to “people’s editions” and graphic caricature. As de Quincey ex­claimed, “how serene, how quiet, how lifted up above the confusion, and the roar and the strifes of earth, is the solemn observatory.” Smyth’s call for astronomical autonomy in making images was, in some sense, realized by the century’s end. Drafts­men and engravers recruited from the public press had become rather dispensable. To “rival nature,” in Smyth’s evocative phrase, astronomers replaced artisans with photo­mechanical apparatuses and trained assistants who could presumably do better than “mere imitation” in image making. But in another sense the porosity of political, arti­sanal, and iconographic boundaries around celestial picturing never quite allowed astronomers’ secure withdrawal. Vivid nebular pictures were made in Britain, South Africa, and Ireland with an unwieldy combination of widely distributed public resources and ways of seeing. Jellett argued that “none dare mock at Astronomy. And then, by an easy transition, we come to attribute to the workman something of the grandeur of the sphere in which he toils.” Attribution of grandeur helps explain the authoritative, if temporary, credibility of astronomical images at which many publics glanced. Yet seeing all too clearly how grandeur was achieved could sometimes make the toil of picturing look like crafty ingenuity. Then gigantic visions could dissolve into showy caricatures.79


1. I am grateful for permission to quote from the Rosse papers (Birr), Herschel papers (Royal Society, London), and Whewell papers (Trinity College, Cambridge). Thanks for their generous help to Will Ashworth, Jim Bennett, Mike Dettelbach, Adrian Lane, Elizabeth Green Musselman, Ann Secord, and Jim Secord. Richard Gregory, The Intelligent Eye (Weidenfeld and Nicolson: London, 1970), pp. 119-23. For picturing judgments in astronomy see Michael Lynch and Samuel Edgerton, “Aesthetics and Digital Image Processing,” in Picturing Power, ed. Gordon Fyfe and John Law (Routledge: Lon­don, 1988), pp. 184-220; Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, “Victorian Observing Practices, Printing Tech­nology and Representations of the Solar Corona,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 25 (1994): 249-74 and 26 (1995): 63-75.

2. J. L. E. Dreyer, ed., Collected Scientific Papers of William Herschel, 2 vols. (Royal Society: London, 1912), vol. 2, pp. 654-56; M. A. Hoskin, William Herschel and the Construction of the Heavens (Old- boume: London, 1963), p. 115. See J. H. Brooke, “Natural Theology and the Plurality of Worlds,” Annals of Science 34 (1977): 221-86, 268-73; Stephen G. Brush, Nebulous Earth (Cambridge: Cam­bridge University Press, 1996), pp. 29—42, 67-72.

3. Herschel to Watson, 1782, inC. Lubbock, The Herschel Chronicle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933), pp. 99-101; Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale, 1985), pp. 203-12; Simon Schaffer, afterword in Visions of Empire, ed. David Philip Miller and Peter Hanns Reill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 335-52, 340-42.

4. Alexander von Humboldt, “Ideas for a Physiognomy of Plants,” in Views of Nature (1808) (London: Bohn, 1850), pp. 210-352, 220-21 and Essai sur la Géographie des Plantes (1807) (Paris: Levrault, 1805), pp. 31-33.

5. Michael Dettelbach, “Global Physics and Aesthetic Empire: Humboldt’s Physical Portrait of the Tropics,” in Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany and Representations of Nature, ed. David Philip Miller and Peter Hans Reill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 258-92, p. 271; Malcom Nicolson, “Alexander von Humboldt, Humboldtian Science and the Origins of the Study of Vegeta­tion,” History of Science 25 (1987): 167-94, pp. 181-82. Humboldt praises Herschel to Arago, Febru­ary 19, 1840, in Correspondance d’Alexandre de Humboldt avec François Arago, ed. E. T. Hamy (Paris: Guilmoto, 1909) and is criticized for his commitment to the Nebular Hypothesis in [J. Forbes], “Humboldt’s Cosmos,” Quarterly Review 77 (1845): 154-91, p. 166. For Humboldt’s cosmology see Jacques Merleau-Ponty, La Science de ¡’Univers à I’Age du Positivisme (Paris: Vrin, 1983), pp. 200-03.

6. John Herschel, Essays from the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews (London: Longman, 1857), pp. 268, 288; S. F. Cannon, Science in Culture: The Early Victorian Period (New York: Dawson, 1978), pp. 76-82.

7. John Pringle Nichol, Architecture of the Heavens (Tait: Edinburgh, 1837), p. 127; Simon Schaffer, “The Nebular Hypothesis and the Science of Progress,” in History, Humanity and Evolution, ed. J. R. Moore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 131-64.

8. Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 115-17. For vividness see Carlo Ginzburg, “Montrer et citer,” Le Débat 56 (1989): 43-54 and Michael Wintroub, “The Looking Glass of Facts,” forthcoming.

9. John Herschel, Essays, pp. 260-61.

10. H. M. Collins, Changing Order (Berkeley: Sage, 1985), pp. 100-01.

11. W. Valentine Ball, ed., Reminiscences and Letters of Sir Robert Ball (London: Cassell, 1915), pp. 67-69.

12. John Herschel, Results of the Astronomical Observations made at the Cape of Good Hope (London: Smith, Elder, 1847), p. 25; David S. Evans et al., eds., Herschel at the Cape (Austin: University of Texas, 1969), p. 50; John Herschel, Outlines of Astronomy, 4th ed. (London: Longman, 1851 ), p. 609. For the politics of Herschel’s Cape astronomy see Elizabeth Green Musselman, “Swords into Plough­shares: John Herschel’s Progressive View of Astronomical and Imperial Governance,” British Journal for the History of Science, 31 (1998), forthcoming.

13. Pang, “Victorian Observing Practices”; Holly Rothermel, “Images of the Sun: Warren de la Rue, George Biddell Airy and Celestial Photography,” British Journal for the History of Science 26 (1993): 137-69.

14. Evans, Herschel at the Cape, p. 49. For these kinds of vision in South Africa in the 1830s, see Mary Louise Pratt, “Scratches on the Face of the Country,” in Race, Writing and Difference, ed. Henry Louis Gates (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 138-62, pp. 141-43 and David Bunn, “Our Wattled Cot: Mercantile and Domestic Space in Thomas Pringle’s African Landcapes,” in Landscape and Power, ed. W. J. T. Mithell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 127-73, p. 142.

15. Evans, Herschel at the Cape, pp. 41, 58, and 248; Brian Warner, Charles Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer- Artist: His Cape Years 1835-1845 (Cape Town: Balkema, 1983), pp. 109-10.

16. Warner, Smyth, p. 111.

17. Warner, Smyth, pp. 112-20 ; H. A. Brück and M. T. Brück, The Peripatetic Astronomer: The Life of Charles Piazzi Smyth (Bristol: Adam Hilger, 1988), pp. 5-6.

18. Charles Piazzi Smyth, “On Astronomical Drawing,” Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society 15 (1846): 71-82, pp. 71-73.

19. Ibid., pp. 73-76. See Paul Goldman, Looking at Prints (London: British Museum, 1981), pp. 1, 9.

20. Theodore Fielding, The Art of Engraving (London, 1841), pp. 34-37.

21. Smyth, “On Astronomical Drawing,” pp. 79, 71; Fielding, Art of Engraving, pp. 32-33.

22. Pang, “Victorian Observing Practices,” pp. 251, 255, and 258. For the Duke of Northumberland’s subsidy of Herschel see Günther Buttmann, The Shadow of the Telescope: A Biography of Sir John Her- schel (Guildford: Lutterworth, 1974), p. 157. For Rosse and photography see David H. Davidson, Impressions of an Irish Countess (Birr: Birr Scientific Heritage Foundation, 1989), p. 3.

23. Rosse to Sabine, March 23, 1848, Royal Society papers 259.1112. Sabine to Rosse, July 8, 1848, Birr papers, K6.1; Phillips to Whewell, Trinity College, Cambridge, Whewell papers, Add a.210/148. For Leonard’s work see William Carpenter, “On the Microscopic Structure of Shells,” British Association Reports (1844): 1-24 and (1847): 93-34, especially plate 1, fig. 1, and Gerard Turner, The Great Age of the Microscope (Bristol: Hilger, 1989), p. 170. For Leonard and Darwin see Darwin to Carpenter, 1846 and Darwin to Hooker, February 8, 1847, in Correspondence of Charles Darwin, 9 vols., ed. S. Smith and F. Burckhardt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985-), vol. 3, p. 344 and vol. 4, p. 10.

24. Sabine to Rosse, July 8, 1848, Birr papers, K6.1. For Stoney and Hunter see Charles Parsons, ed., Sci­entific Papers of William Parsons, Third Earl of Rosse (London: Lund, Humphries, 1926), pp. 190-91, p. 199 (“Account of the Observations on the Great Nebula in Orion,” 1868).

25. Leonard’s wages are mentioned in Darwin to Carpenter 1846, Correspondence of Darwin, vol. 3, p. 344; the Royal Society costs are set out in Stokes to Rosse, June 25, 1862, Birr papers K13.10 and Royal Society Manuscripts MC.6.243 (August 1, 1862).

26. Charles Partington, The Engravers’ Complete Guide (London, 1825), p. 124; Anthony Dyson, Pictures to Print: The Nineteenth Century Engraving Trade (London: Farrand, 1984), p. 57; Celina Fox, “The Engravers’ Battle for Professional Recognition in Early Nineteenth Century London,” London Jour­nal 2 (1976): 3-31, p. 11; Gordon J. Fyfe, “Art and Reproduction: Some Aspects of the Relations between Painters and Engravers in London 1760-1850,” Media, Culture and Society 7 (1985): 399-425, pp. 414-15.

27. Celina Fox, Graphic Journalism in England during the 1830s and 1840s (New York: Garland, 1988), pp. 29-33; Patricia Anderson, The Printed Image and the Transformation of Popular Culture 1790-1860 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), pp. 2-3, 43-49; Iain McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolu­tionaries and Pomographers in London 1790-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 205-31.

28. [Charles Knight], “Preface,” Penny Magazine 1 (1832): iii-iv. See Anderson, Printed Image, pp. 52-83; Fox, Graphic Journalism, pp. 50-55, 215—48, 267-80. For Knight and the SDUK see Steven Shapin and Barry Barnes, “Science, Nature and Control,” Social Studies of Science 7 (1977): 31-74.

29. Nichol to Herschel, November 4,1838, Royal Society, Herschel papers, 13.131; Fox, Graphic Journal­ism, pp. 16, 57.

30. Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 40; Mary Cowling, The Artist as Anthropologist: The Representation of Type and Charac- ter in Victorian Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 157, 191, and 61-63.

31. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 2 vols. (London: Griffin, Bohn, 1861), vol. 1, pp. 1-3.

32. Gillian Beer, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 131-33; [Robert Chambers], Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (London: John Churchill, 1844), pp. 306-10.

33. L. Perry Curtis, Apes and Angeis: the Irishman in Victorian Caricature (Newton Abbott: David and Charles, 1971), pp. 11,19-20; James Urry, “Englishmen, Celts and Iberians,” in Functionalism His tori- cized, ed. George W. Stocking (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), pp. 83-105, pp. 85-86; R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), p. 192.

34. Curtis, Apes and Angels, pp. 23-57; Adrian Desmond, The Politics of Evolution (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1989), pp. 288-291.

35. Curtis, Apes and Angeis, pp. 32 and 100; Alvar Ellegard, Darwin and the General Reader (Goteborg: Elander, 1958), p. 295; Adrian Desmond, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 (London: Blond and Briggs, 1982), pp. 74-81.

36. Charles Kingsley, Letters and Memories of his Life, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1891), vol. 2, pp. 111-12; Susan McKenna-Lawlor and Michael Hoskin, “Correspondence of Markree Observatory,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 15 (1984): 64-68, pp. 64-66. For Kingsley and physiognomy, see Cowling, Artist as Anthropologist, pp. 75, 277-79.

37. William Thackeray, The Book of Snobs (1848) (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1989), pp. 78-79, 104-05. For Thackeray and Irish satire see Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, pp. 172-73.

38. Henry C. King and John Millbum, Geared to the Stars (Bristol: Hilger, 1978), pp. 317-18; Alexander von Humboldt, Incitements to the Study of Nature, ed. Edward Sabine (1846) (London: Bell and Daldy, 1866), pp. 91,100.

39. Michael Crowe, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1986) , pp. 210-15.

40. Herschel, Outlines of Astronomy, p. 609; Evans, Herschel at the Cape, p. 237.

41. Alexander Japp, Thomas de Quincey: His Life and Writings (new edition, London: John Hogg, 1890), pp. 236-37; Thomas de Quincey, “System of the heavens as Revealed by Lord Rosse’s Telescopes,” Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine 8 (1846): 566-79, p. 571; Jonathan Smith, “De Quincey’s Revisions to ‘The System of the Heavens,’” Victorian Periodicals Review 26 (1993): 203-12.

42. John Barrell, The Infection of Thomas de Quincey (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 105-25 and Grevel Lindop, “English Reviewers and Scotch Professors: de Quincey’s debts to Edin­burgh Life and Letters,” Times Literary Supplement 4839 (December 29,1995): 9-10.

43. de Quincey, “Lord Rosse’s telescopes,” p. 575; Nichol to de Quincey, April 16, 1854, in De Quincey Memorials, ed. Alexander Japp, 2 vols. (London, 1891), vol. 1, pp. 276-77, recalls his remarks in 1846. See Smith, “De Quincey’s Revisions,” p. 207.

44. Charles Kilgour, “Discoveries in the Moon by Aid of the Monster Telescope Lately Erected by the Earl of Rosse,” Guide to Life 17 (May 11, 1844): 129-31 (in Rosse papers, K5.79).

45. [David Brewster], “The Earl of Rosse’s Reflecting Telescopes,” North British Review 2 (November 1844): 175-212, p. 199; Brewster to Rosse, July 2, 1850, Rosse papers, K17.5. For deaths in Parsons- town see John O’Rourke, The Great Irish Famine (1874) (Dublin: Veritas, 1989), p. 245. For the Countess’s funding, see Davison, Impressions, p. 2.

46. On Robinson see J. A. Bennett, Church, State and Astronomy in Ireland (Belfast: Armagh Observatory, 1990), pp. 59-138. Robinson directly attacks Nichol in Robinson to Rosse, April 7, 1841, Rosse papers, K5.4. For Nichol on Ireland, see his anonymous “Ireland in the Nineteenth and Scotland in the Sixteenth Century,” Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine 2 (1832): 84-92 and “Parliamentary Report on the State of Ireland,” Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine 3 (1833): 1-22. For Robinson’s campaign against Her- schel see Forbes to Whewell, December 12, 1849, Trinity College, Cambridge, Whewell papers, Add.a.204/90.

47. Rosse, Letters on the State of Ireland, 2nd ed. (London: Hatchard, 1847), pp. 5, 24, and 27; Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 42 (Robinson, “Contents of an Ancient Bronze Vessel,” 1848); Bennett, Church, State and Astronomy, pp. 142—45. For Senior’s opinion see Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger (New York: Signet, 1964), p. 373.

48. Alfred Gautier, “Notice sur les Grands Téléscopes de Lord Rosse,” Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève 57 (1845): 342-57, pp. 342-43; Smyth to Rosse, June 18, 1862, Rosse papers, K13.8.

49. Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 48 (“Presidential Address,” 1843); Thomas Romney Robinson, “On Lord Rosse’s Telescopes,” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 3 (1845-7): 114-33 (read April 25, 1842, and April 14, 1845), p. 119. Compare Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, p. 216: “From the inside of the demesne wall, a sense of threat was inevitable. As the nineteenth century wore on, Ascendancy marginalisation was reflected in their relation to architecture as well as to landowning.”

50. J. A. Secord, “Behind the Veil: Robert Chambers and Vestiges," in Moore, History, Humanity and Evolution, pp. 165-94, pp. 168 and 175; Marilyn Ogilvie, “Robert Chambers and the Nebular Hypothesis,” British Journal for the History of Science 8 (1975): 214-32. A detailed list of changes with respect to the Parsonstown news is in Robert Chambers, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation and other Evolutionary Writings, ed. James Secord (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 218-19.

51. “Travels in search of Lord Rosse’s telescopes,” Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal 154 and 156 (December 1846): 369-71,401-04.

52. Rosse, A Few Words on the Relation of Landlord and Tenant in Ireland (London: John Murray, 1867), pp. 36-38, 50, and 31; Isaac Butt, The Irish People and the Irish Land (Dublin: Falconer, 1867), pp. 165,172.

53. Astronomical Diary, September 28, 1852, Birr papers, L2.1; Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 42 (Robinson, “Contents of an Ancient Bronze Vessel in the Collection of the Earl of Rosse,” 1848); Kilgour, “Dis­coveries in the Moon,” p. 129. See Francis Klingender, Art and the Industrial Revolution (Paladin: Frogmore, 1972), pp. 106-09.

54. Robinson, “On Lord Rosse’s Telescopes,” pp. 116-17.

55. Charles Weld, Vacations in Ireland (London: Longmans, 1857), 263-64; Thomas Dick, The Practical Astronomer (London: Seeley, 1845), pp. 548-62; Thomas Woods, The Monster Telescopes Erected by the Earl of Rosse (Parsonstown: Sheilds, 1844); John Timbs, Curiosities of Science, Past and Present (London: Kent, 1859), pp. 1, 96-99; “The Earl of Rosse’s Great Telescope at Parsonstown,” Illustrated London News (September 9, 1843): 165; Somerville to Rosse, November 11, 1843, Rosse papers, K17.16.

56. Herschel, Outlines of Astronomy, p. 593; George Peacock, “Address,” British Association Reports (1844), pp. xxxi-xlvi, p. xxxi. For the gigantic in natural history and commodity production see Susan Stewart, On Longing (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), pp. 70-76.

57. Robinson, “On Lord Rosse’s telescopes,” p. 130; Michael Hoskin, “Rosse, Robinson and the Resolu­tion of the Nebulae,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 21 (1990): 331-44, p. 339.

58. Hoskin, “Rosse, Robinson,” p. 340; Herschel to Rosse, March 9, 1845, Rosse papers, K2.2; John Her- schel, “Address,” British Association Report (1845), pp. xxvii-xliv, p. xxxvii. For Rosse’s drawing in Cambridge see M. A. Hoskin, “The First Drawing of a Spiral Nebula,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 13 (1982). For Herschel versus Mill at Cambridge, see Silvan S. Schweber, “Auguste Comte and the Nebular Hypothesis,” in In the Presence of the Past: Essays in Honour of Frank Manuel, ed. R. T. Bienvenu and M. Feingold (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990), pp. 131-91, pp. 164-65. For the dis­patch of Rosse’s notebook to London, see Sabine to Rosse, July 8, 1848, Rosse papers, K6.1.

59. John Pringle Nichol, Thoughts on Some Important Points Relating to the System of the World, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Johnstone, 1848), p. 109. For premature reports of resolution, see Gautier, “Notice sur les Grands Téléscopes de Lord Rosse,” p. 354n.

60. Nichol, Thoughts, pp. 110-13.

61. Struve to Rosse, February 4, 1852, and September 20, 1853, Rosse papers, K36A.S3 and S7. For Pulkovo’s status see Mari Williams, “Astronomical Observatories as Practical Space: the case of Pulkowa,” in The Development of the Laboratory, ed. Frank James (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 118-36. The Parsonstown team also used Herschel’s Cape observations to make their grids: see Rosse to Herschel, January 29, 1849, Royal Society papers HS.13. 228.

62. Struve to Rosse, September 20, 1853, and July 13, 1880, Rosse papers K36A.S7 and K36.2; Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 199 (“Observations on the Great Nebula of Orion,” 1868).

63. Parsons, Rosse Papers, pp. 190-91 (“Observations on the Great Nebula of Orion,” 1868). George Stoney’s observations of 1849 are in Rosse papers, L2.2 and selectively published in Rosse Papers, p. 202.

64. Rosse to Herschel, January 29, 1849, Royal Society papers HS.13. 228. Stoney to Rosse, July 27, 1867, Birr papers L6.1; Hunter’s notes on Orion nebula 1860-64, Birr papers L2.2.

65. T. W. B., “Lord Rosse on the Nebulae,” Astronomical Register 1 (1863): 33-35, 49-51, p. 51; Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 206 (“Observations on the Great Nebula of Orion,” 1868); Hunter to Rosse, July 27, 1868, Birr papers, L6.1; Ball, Reminiscences and Letters, p. 69.

66. Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 147 (“On the Construction of Specula of 6-feet Aperture,” 1861); Fourth Earl of Rosse, “Observations of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars made with the Six-foot and Three-foot Reflectors,” Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society 2 (1881): 1-178, p. 4; Stoney to Rosse, July 27,1868, Birr papers, L6.1. See J. A. Bennett, “A Viol of Water or a Wedge of Glass,” in The Uses of Experiment, ed. David Gooding, et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 105-14, pp. 111-13.

67. Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 119 (“Observations on the Nebulae,” 1850); Hunter’s notes, Birr papers, L2.2. 68. Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 189 (“On the Construction of Specula of 6-feet Aperture,” 1861); p. 203 (“Observations on the Great Nebula of Orion,” 1868).

69. Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 35n. (Robinson, “On Lord Rosse’s Telescope,” 1848); Robinson was responding to William Bond, “Description of the Nebula about the Star 0 Orionis,” Memoirs of the American Academy of Sciences 3 (1848): 87-96.

70. Parsons, Rosse Papers, p. 114 (“Observations on the Nebulae,” 1850); p. 147 (“On the Construction of Specula of 6-feet Aperture,” 1861).

71. Hoskin, “Rosse, Robinson,” p. 342.

72. The Harvard resolution is accepted in Herschel, Outlines, p. 609 and denied in Agnes Clerke, A Pop­ular History of Astronomy in the Nineteenth Century (London: Black, 1908), p. 119; G. P. Bond’s gift of the engraving to Rosse, May 14, 1863, Rosse papers, L6.1. For the Harvard telescope, see Adrian Lane, “Resolving to Show One’s Worth: The Harvard College Observatory and its Audience 1840-1850,” (M. Phil, essay, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, 1995).

73. Humboldt to Arago, November 9, 1849, in Hamy, Correspondance d’Alexandre de Humboldt avec Arago, pp. 304-05.

74. George Airy, “Address,” British Association Report (1851): xxxix-liii, p. xli;; Struve (1853), in M. A. Hoskin, Stellar Astronomy: Historical Studies (Chalfont St. Giles: Science History, 1982), p. 150.

75. Herbert Spencer, Essays Scientific, Political and Speculative, 3 vols. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1891), vol. l,pp. Ill and 114 (“The Nebular Hypothesis,” 1858); William Huggins, Scientific Papers (London: Wesley, 1909), p. 118 (“On the Spectrum of the Great Nebula in the Sword Handle of Orion,” 1865); Edward Sabine, ‘President’s Address,” Proceedings of the Royal Society 13 (1864): 499-502, p. 502. See Barbara Becker, Eclecticism, Opportunism and the Evolution of a New Research Agenda: William and Margaret Huggins and the Origins of Astrophysics (Ph.D. thesis, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), pp. 126-39.

76. Ball, Reminiscences and Letters, pp. 73-74; Lloyd to Oxmantown, March 6, 1865, Rosse papers, K8.1 (1); Orion notebook (1866) Rosse papers, L2.9; Parsons, Rosse Papers, pp. 203-06 (“Account of the Observations on the Great nebula in Orion,” 1868).

77. Struve to Rosse, July 28, 1869, Rosse papers, L6.1; Richard Proctor, “The Rosse Telescope set to New Work,” Fraser’s Magazine 80 (1869): 754-60; Rosse, “Observations of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars made with the Six-foot and Three-foot Reflectors” (1881), appendix; Struve to Rosse, April 14, and April 18,1880, Rosse papers, K36.1 and K36A.S1.

78. Thomas de Quincey, Posthumous Works, ed. Alexander Japp, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1891), vol. 1, pp. 276-77 and Smith, “De Quincey’s Revisions,” p. 207.

79. John Jellett, The Immortality of the Intellect (Dublin: Hodges, Smith, 1867), pp. 14-15; de Quincey, “System of the Heavens,” p. 575. For mechanized picturing see Rothermel, “Images of the Sun,” pp. 157-58; Pang, “Victorian Observing Practices,” pp. 63-72.

In: Picturing Science Producing Art. Edited by Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison. London, 1998, pp. 441-474.

8 comentários:

  1. The pyramid at Elliniko, Argolis, Greece (about 2500 B.C.? ) is an ancestor of the modern astronomical observatories (even in the text it's not clear...):

    I think that the same pyramid is depicted in a ceramic bowl discovered in an important greek prehistoric cave, the Franchthi Cave, also in Argolis area, some kilometers near Elliniko:

    (you see the bowl in the photo with the title:
    Franchthi cave: Urfirnis ware - the best of the best of NL ceramics - it is the first bowl - on the foreground).

    I don't know surely if the design on this bowl is a pyramid, but I think so, because the artist tried to render the third dimension of a pyramidal building.
    It is also amazing that the "strange triangle" is depicted with an angle to the base of 60 degrees, the same in the pyramid of Elliniko (I had counted it on the plan of the publication)!
    Look also the construction at the top, maybe they are instruments of observation!
    Thank you, Jose, for your interesting posts and for the opportunity you give for writing my inquiet thoughts!

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