Letters of Intent received in 2022

LoI 2024-2162
History of Astronomy in South Africa: The Late Modern Period

Date: 12 August 2024 to 13 August 2024
Category: Focus meetings (GA)
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Contact: Christiaan Sterken (csterken@vub.ac.be)
Coordinating division: Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage
Other divisions: Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Chair of SOC: Christiaan Sterken (University of Brussels)
Co-Chairs of LOC: Ian Glass (SAAO)
Auke Slotegraaf (Centre for Astronomical Heritage)
Christiaan Sterken (University of Brussels)



Topics (and link to IAU Commissions and Working Groups)

• Observatories: SAAO, Ratcliffe, Union, Boyden (Harvard), Leiden Southern Station, ... (C3, C4).

• Specific instruments: Franklin Adams cameras, Franklin Adams Sky Survey, Rockefeller telescope, … (C3, C4, B2).

• Archives (SAAO, Union Observatory), and especially logbooks as information carriers for history of astronomy (C3, C4,
B2, B6, B2, Div B WG).

• Astronomical plate collections (SAAO, Union, Harvard, Leiden), and their fate. Recognizing the potential of plate archives
for the sake of citizen science in South Africa (C3, C4, B2, B6, B2, Div B WG).

• Site testing: ESO prospection of South Africa for sites for large optical telescopes (C3, C4).

• People and their impact on South African society: observatory directors, Reverends, … (C1, C3, EC WG).

• Female astronomers: Johanna Walraven and other "invisible women" (C3, EC WG).

• John Herschel and education at the Cape (C1, C3).

• Geodetic Survey of South Africa: Thomas Maclear, surveying education, and interactions with Native Peoples (C1, C3,

• Thomas Henderson and the parallax of alpha Centauri (C3, C4).

• David Thackeray and the need for adjusting the cosmological distance scale (C3, C4).

• Astronomical key events: eruption of eta Carinae, comet Donati, and other salient celestial phenomena (C1, C3, C4,

C1: Astronomy Education and Development
C3: History of Astronomy
C4: World Heritage
B2: WG Preservation and Digitization of Photographic Plates
B6: Astronomical Photometry
EC: WG Women in Astronomy
Div B WG: Time Domain Astronomy



History of Astronomy in South Africa: The Late Modern Period

LoI Focus Meeting IAU XXXIIth GA, Cape Town August 2024

In October 2020 the SAAO celebrated 200 years of existence as an astronomical observatory by organizing a virtual symposium "Beyond 200 Years of Astronomy". The theme of the symposium covered a wide range of topics, among which African ethnoastronomy and indigenous knowledge, history of astronomy in Africa, contributions to global astronomy, developments in African research, astronomy in recent decades, and astronomy and society.

At the occasion of the XXXIIth IAU General Assembly in August 2024 in Cape Town, IAU Commission C3 (History of Astronomy) proposes to organize a two-day Focus Meeting on a range of subjects on the history of astronomy in South Africa that are distinct from the subjects that were treated in 2020. The topics are entirely within the remit of Commission C3, and are also of interest to other IAU Commissions and Working Groups.

The topics will cover
1. history of astronomy for the sake of history ̶ i.e., as studied by historians of science,

2. history of astronomy for the sake of combining historical observational data with modern ground-based and space-based observations, and

3. history of astronomy for the sake of enriching our understanding of the mutual impacts on, and the reciprocal influences between local cultures and the astronomical institutions and their activities.

The meeting will concentrate on people, instruments, and projects during the last two centuries ̶ i.e., the period since the establishment of the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope. Speakers will be asked to embed aspects of education, outreach and cultural diversity in the core science that they present.

Preliminary SOC (partial): two US (Sara Schechner and Virginia Trimble), one EU (Christiaan Sterken) and one South Africa (Ian Glass), with one EU on the reserve list (Piet van der Kruit), thus so far fairly well balanced.

Coordinating Division: C