Monthly Archives: September 2023

American Eclipse by David Baron

While this book came out 6 years ago back in 2017, it is still a good fascinating read as we prepare for the 2023 annular eclipse in October and for the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. It looks like a new edition or version will come out February of 2024.

Much of the book is focused on the July 29, 1878 eclipse eclipse as it happened through Wyoming and Colorado. It was interested to read about how Maria Mitchell and her group observed the eclipse at a residence (Dr. Avery) at 20th St. and Champa. There is a nice drawing of the house on page 131. I drove by the location the other day, and it appears as if the house is no longer there. I spied two office buildings and two parking lots.

It was also interesting to see how involved Thomas Edison was in the event. He was trying to see if his “tasimeter” could be used to measure the heat of the Sun. It never really worked as expected. I also learned that Edison started the journal, Science.

The proposed planet Vulcan was supposedly observed during the eclipse, but it must have been some less bright field stars in the constellation of Cancer. The astronomer, James Craig Watson, from the U of Michigan was sure he spotted the planet, but after claiming his observation, he held on for some time before admitting that he did not see a new planet. Even though he was discredited, there is a medal awarded by the NAS as the James Craig Watson Medal, so his name lives on.

Overall, it was a nice read. It showed how far the US has come in scientific research in the last 155 years, and how the US scientific community was held in low regard by the European establishment at the time. But, the eclipse showed the world that scientists in the United States were getting better and better.