Commission C3 History of Astronomy


No Commission C3 meetings have been scheduled for the near future. We are developing plans to organize a two-day meeting at the occasion of the XXXIIth IAU General Assembly in August 2024 in Cape Town. The theme will cover a range of subjects on the history of astronomy in South Africa. The topics are entirely within the remit of Commission C3, and are also of interest to other IAU Commissions and Working Groups. 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. 

Topics (and links 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, C4).
  • 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, B2).

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 


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