HISTSCI 123CS Starstruck! The History, Culture, and Politics of American Astronomy





Sara Schechner
Tuesdays, 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM ET

This hands-on course will introduce key episodes and issues in the history of American astronomy by close looking at rare early scientific instruments and tangible objects in Harvard collections.  Starting with the story of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and a sundial, the course will move from colonial relations with Native Americans to the controversial placement of observatories on sacred mountaintops today.  In between, we will discuss the roles of religion, politics, science, and culture in the promotion of astronomy in American society.  Topics will include comets and extraterrestrials, observatories, westward expansion, time selling, and the role of women.  Each unit will begin with anchoring objects, and students will work behind the scenes in the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.  There will also be opportunities to make and use your own instruments to engage with early methods of production and observation.