Contributed Talk - Splinter Culture

Thursday, 16 September 2021, 17:40   (virtual Cult)

Edward C. Pickering's „A Plan for Securing Observations of the Variable Stars” and its Influence on Astronomy and Culture

Björn Kunzmann
Center for History of Science and Technology, Hamburg Observatory, University of Hamburg

Based on the work of William, Caroline and John Herschel, but especially on Friedrich W. Argelander's „Aufforderung an Freunde der Astronomie …” of 1844 and many other astronomers, Edward C. Pickering published his seminal publication „A Plan for Securing Observations of the Variable Stars” in 1882. This „Plan” forms a milestone for the further development of astronomy and astrophysics and has significant effects on their methodology. As a consequence, the systematic collection of large amounts of data („data-mining”), the building of plate archives and databases was developed. In parallel, international cooperation in astronomy achieves outstanding importance. Cultural consequences of Pickering's work can be seen both in the popularization of astronomy and in the diversity that emerges there as a result of the involvement and often significant participation of women in astronomical research. In addition, this paper exemplifies how the impetus generated by the „Plan” ultimately also promoted significant nationalism and national styles in astronomical research at the beginning of the 20th century and was tangential to national research policy.