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Astronomy: History of Astronomy

From the Linda Hall Library Circulating Collection

"The sky above - eternal and serene, yet intricate and mysterious - has piqued both reverence and human curiosity for a least as long as records survive. Bone and clay, stone, papyrus, and vellum, have all documented the human quest to understand the motions and structures of the heavens. In the past millennium parchment has given way to paper, the scribal hand to printing, the naked eye to glass giants and photography, and now, on the threshold of a new age, our observations reside ever more frequently in strangely intangible electronic data banks..."

- Ronald Brashear and Daniel Lewis, Star Struck: One Thousand Years of the Art and Science of Astronomy

Linda Hall Library Digital Collections

"The four History of Astronomy Collections in LHL Digital cover a wide range of topics on astronomy, including constellations, star maps, theories of the Universe, and scientific instruments. Materials in these collections include early works from the 15th century; works by Johann Bayer, Johann Elert Bode, John Flamsteed, Johannes Hevelius, and others from the "golden age" of star atlases; and the popular atlases and early astronomical photography of the late 19th century."

From the History of Science Collection


"Each culture of the world for thousands of years viewed the same stars and planets we can observe on any clear night. And the power of the night sky, filled with shimmering stars, has left its mark on human civilization. Each culture has built systems to organize the stars into figures, and to tell tales using stars to embody the highest values of civilizations. The power of stars has also moved humans to create giant celestially aligned structures - from the pyramids of Giza, to Stonehenge, to the large ceremonial kiva of the Anasazi..."

- Bryan E. Penprase, The Power of Stars: How Celestial Observations Have Shaped Civilization

Reference Associate

Kimberly Carter's picture
Kimberly Carter

Narratio Prima, Georg Joachim Rheticus

"Copernicus's De revolutionibus, generally accepted as one of the most influential books of all time, might not have been published were it not for the intellectual curiosity and persistence of the young Rheticus. Publication of Narratio Prima in 1540 marks the very first appearance in print of the new idea of a sun-centered universe.

   'The Library's history of astronomy collection is among the very best in the country. The Narratio Prima was the one important missing crown jewel...'"

- William B. Ashworth, Jr.

Rhetius Narratio Prima


"In 2008 the telescope will be 400 years old. In that time telescopes have allowed us to experiene places we will never be able to visit and to see sights we could have scarcely imagined..."

- Geoff Andersen, The Telescope: Its History, Technology, and Future