IAU Commission 41 : Newsletters




1997-2000 Triennium -- June 2000 -- Issue # 6

Agendas Set for Commission 41 Activities in Manchester

Steven J. Dick, President, Commission 41

Commission 41 members attending the XXIVth General Assembly of the IAU will want to keep the following dates in mind:

August 11, 0900-1730   Joint Discussion 6 Applied Historical Astronomy
August 15, 1100-1230   Commission 41 Business Meeting
August 16, 0900-1230   Inventory and Preservation of Astronomical Archives, Records and Artifacts

The programs are now finalized for the August 11 and August 16 sessions; the detailed agendas are given below, and abstracts will be posted at the C 41 web site as received. The August 16 session on archives is part of an initiative of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science, and also a follow up to a resolution at the last General Assembly stating that "the IAU supports the recovery, inventory and preservation of astronomical archives of national and international institutions, including observatories, societies and other institutions."

A preliminary agenda is also given for the Business meeting on August 15. If you have any items for this agenda, please let me know by July 15. It is too late for proposing resolutions that would go forward to the General Assembly, but Commission 41 resolutions can still be proposed. At the moment, the only Commission resolution we have is as follows:

Recognizing the historical importance of the 19th century transits of Venus and the numerous transit of Venus expeditions mounted by many countries, and

Noting the rarity of the upcoming transits of 2004 and 2012

Commission 41 Recommends that the sites of the 19th century transit of Venus expeditions be inventoried, marked and preserved, as well as instrumentation associated with these expeditions.

I note also that we need to continue moving forward on our past ambitious resolutions, as listed in recent Newsletters.

Another very important event is the Commission election of officers and Organizing Committee. This will take place at the Business meeting in Manchester, but Commission 41 members unable to attend may also vote absentee, with all votes to reach me by August 1. Consultants are not eligible to vote. Absentee ballots (found at the end of this Newsletter) must be sent via postal mail only (not e-mail) to Steven J. Dick, U. S. Naval Observatory, 3450 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C, 20392-5420. Although voting is confidential, please sign your absentee ballot so I can confirm you are a member. I have asked the two candidates for Vice President to give a brief summary of their work, which you will find at the end of this Newsletter. As you can see, 15 candidates have been nominated for only 7 positions on the Organizing Committee. I think this competition is a sign of a healthy Commission; the present Organizing Committee has decided that a vote is the most democratic way to determine the new Committee. Please keep in mind we need to have a geographically well-distributed Organizing Committee representing many parts of the world.

Finally, with regard to the Business meeting we need to look forward to the next three years, and already to the next General Assembly in Sydney for possible Joint Discussion topics. The IAU Colloquium on polar motion held in Italy last September was first proposed at the last General Assembly in Kyoto. You may relay any ideas to me for discussion in Manchester.

Elsewhere in this Newsletter I have asked Liu Ciyuan, President of the Commission of History of Astronomy of the Chinese Astronomical Society to write about the activities of his Commission. The Chinese, and Oriental countries in general, are anxious for worldwide contact on our subject, and Commission 41 should do all it can to support such contact.

This will be my last Newsletter as Commission President before Richard Stephenson takes over. I believe we have made considerable progress in our goals during the last three years, and that communication has increased through the Commission List of Members and through the web site. I wish to thank the Commission 41 officers, Organizing Committee, and members for their help during this time. It has been my pleasure to serve as Commission 41 President, to become more acquainted with your work, and especially to meet many of you personally.

JD6 Applied Historical Astronomy

Proposing Commission: C 41 (History of Astronomy)
Participating Commissions: 4 (Ephemerides), 19 (Rotation of the Earth), 20 (Positions and Motions of Minor Planets, Comets and Satellites)
Supporting Divisions: Division I (Fundamental Astronomy), Division II (The Sun and Heliosphere), Division III (Planetary System Sciences)
Scientific Organizing Committee: Richard Stephenson (UK, Chair), S. Ansari (India), S. Dick (USA), O. Gingerich (USA), Nha Il-Seong (South Korea), W. Orchiston (New Zealand), M. Standish (USA), W. T. Sullivan III (USA), D. Yeomans (USA)


Friday, August 11, morning     Chair: S. J. Dick (USA)

9:00 Overview: F. R. Stephenson (UK)
9:20 Babylonian observations: D. Brown (UK)
9:40 East Asian observations: F. R. Stephenson (UK)
10:00 Arab observations: L. J. Fatoohi (UK)
10:20 Discussion
11:00 Southern Hemisphere observations: W. Orchiston (NZ)
11:20 Practical astronomy in Indo-Persian sources: S. M. R. Ansari (India)
11:40 Early observations and modern ephemerides: E. M. Standish (USA)
12:00 Secular variation of planetary orbital elements: Y. B. Kolensik (Russia)
12:20 Discussion

Friday, August 11, afternoon     Chair: F. R. Stephenson (UK)

14:00 Ancient eclipses and the Earth's rotation: L. V. Morrison (UK)
14:20 Earth orientation since AD 1600: D. D. McCarthy (USA)
14:40 Creating modern cometary models using ancient Chinese data: D. K. Yeomans (USA)
15:00 Historical variability of the interplanetary complex: M. E. Bailey (UK)
15:20 Early Telescopic Sunspot Records: D. V. Hoyt (USA)
15:40 Discussion
16:00 Recorded long-period comet fluxes as an indicator of historic astronomical activity: D. W. Hughes (UK)
16:20 Scientific interpretation of historical auroral records: D. M. Willis (UK)
16.40 Remnants of historical supernovae: D. A. Green (UK)
17.00 Discussion
17.15 Overview: W. T. Sullivan (USA)


Exiguus: The Father of the Christian Era: M. Stavinschi (Romania)
History of cometary exploration at Kyiv University: K. I. Churyumov (Ukraine)
Akademische Sternkarten, Berlin 1830-59: D. Jones (UK)
History of Astronomy in Ukraine: A. Korsun (Ukraine)
Sunspot records: 1853 - 1996: J. M. Brooke et al. (UK)

Inventory and Preservation of Astronomical Archives, Records and Artifacts

Wednesday, August 16

Chair: Steven Dick

0900   Adriaan Blaauw (Netherlands): The Inventory of IAU Archives, and the ESO Archives

0915   Peter Hingley (UK): Royal Astronomical Society Library and Archives

0930   George Wilkins (UK): Norman Lockyer Observatory Archives

0945   Suzanne Débarbat (France), Jean-Pierre Cressent (France): "Alidade" and the iconographic base for the astronomical archives preserved in France

1000   Wolfgang Dick (Germany): German Archives

1015   Giorgia Foderà (Italy): Specola 2000: A Programme for the Preservation and Inventory of the Archives of the Italian Astronomical Observatories

1030   Andreas Verdun (Switzerland): Status of the Euler Edition and Archives

1045   Alexander Gurshtein (Russia): Russian Archives


1100   Brenda Corbin (USA), Donna Coletti (USA): Preservation and Digitization of Observatory Publications

1115   David DeVorkin (USA): Preserving the Material Heritage of Astronomy - The International Catalog of Sources of the American Institute of Physics

1135   W. Orchiston (New Zealand): Inventory and Preservation of Archives in Australia and New Zealand

1150   Il-Seong Nha (Korea): The Nha Il-Seong Museum of Astronomy

1205   S. M. R. Ansari (India): Archives in India

1220   Li CiYuan (China): Astronomical Records from China

1235   T. Nakamura (Japan): Astronomical Archives in Japan

Commission 41 Business Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, August 15, 1100-1230

1. President's Report
2. Election of Officers/New Members/Consultants
3. New Resolutions: Preservation of Transit of Venus sites
4. Proposals for next IAU General Assembly ­ Possible JDs
5. Relation of IAU C 41 to IUHPS
6. Other business: future meetings; archaic constellation status, etc.

New Members Proposed for C 41 Membership

The following will be voted on for membership at the August 15 C 41 Business Meeting. If there are other nominations, please inform the C 41 President.

** Pending IAU membership

P. Brosche (Germany), H. Duerbeck (Germany), **Won-Yong Han (Korea), B. Hidayat (Indonesia), Masanori Hirai (Japan), Siek Hyung (Korea), B. Corbin (USA), J. Hearnshaw (New Zealand), A. Heck (France), Nguyen Dinh Huan (Viet Nam), F. Launay (France), Eun-Hee Lee (Korea), K. Locher (Switzerland), T. Nakamura (Japan), B. Pettersen (Norway), L. Schmadel (Germany), B. Soonthornthum (Thailand), H. Steinle (Germany), A. Sterken (Belgium), **Xiaochun Sun (China), W. Tobin (New Zealand), **S. V. Tolbin (Russia), **Nguyen Mau Tung (Viet Nam), G. Wilkins (UK), E. Zsoldos (Hungary)

Proposed Consultants

Mary Bruck (UK), Peter Hingley (UK), William Sheehan (USA)

Origins and Activities of the Commission on History of Astronomy of the Chinese Astronomical Society

Liu Ciyuan, Shaanxi Observatory, China PR
President, Commission of History of Astronomy, Chinese Astronomical Society

The Chinese Astronomical Society (CAS) was founded in 1922, when the western, modern sciences began to replace the traditional Chinese idea. The pioneers immediately realized the importance of investigating traditional astronomy with the concept of the modern sciences. Since that time, the investigation of traditional Chinese astronomy has kept its prosperity, and remains the main trend in the study of history of astronomy in China.

After the well-known disaster, the Chinese Astronomical Society resumed its activities in 1978. It has set up 13 commissions and a Commission on History of Astronomy (Com.HA) is one of them. Com.HA of CAS now has 81 members, although most of them only have part time to study history of astronomy. The Commission usually holds a conference every two years to exchange research work and discuss the Commission's affairs. The conferences are open to everyone interested in our topic, because the members of Com.HA are only a small part of those interested in traditional Chinese astronomy.

A twin brother of Com.HA of CAS is the Com.HA of "Chinese Society for History of Science and Technology". Many people are members of the both commissions. Conferences are usually held jointly by the both commissions. Research papers are published in very widespread journals and magazines. Perhaps the most important one is "Studies in the History of Natural Sciences"(Beijing). Sometimes "Acta Astonomica Sinica"(Nanjing) also publish papers on historic topics if they are related to modern astronomy. Usually those papers are in Chinese with English abstracts. Unfortunately only a small part of them are listed in the Abstracts of A&A of Heidelberg (the "white covers").

Astronomy had a very important position in ancient China because the emperors believed the stars indicated the country's fate. The "mandate of heaven" concept penetrated every corner of ancient Chinese society. Astronomical information is scattered in nearly all early literature, and astronomy has special chapters in nearly every dynasty's official Histories. People who want to study Chinese history have to know something about astronomy. Therefore many Chinese historians and archeologists are very much concerned with traditional astronomy.

Ancient literature leaves us a huge number of astronomical records, which record every sort of astronomical phenomena we see with naked eye today. Many such records are an irreplaceable resource for modern astronomical research. For example, the ancient nova-supernova list is a well-known work. The secular variation of the earth's rotation is another fascinating topic, for which Chinese solar eclipses and lunar occultations were employed in recent years. Records of solar spots, comets, and meteor shower were researched for their regulation of activities and orbits.

By comparing old with modern computations, old records were also used for history of astronomy purposes, such as determining the accuracy of measurements and the meaning of some special astronomical terms. Comparing the old star catalogs and star maps with modern ones, the ancient star names were identified; the observation epoch and the measurement precision were analyzed. Those works lead to an "ancient sky" reconstructed.

A recent highlight is astronomical chronology. The "Xia-Shang-Zhou Chronology Project", supported powerfully by the government, has gathered 170 experts from various subjects to make a push at early Chinese chronology. Ten astronomers (all members of Com. HA of CAS) have joined this Project. On the basis of new achievements in archaeology, paleography, philology and the measurement of carbon 14, astronomy has given several very important points of year. This progress came from theoretical analysis, imitative observations, ephemeris computation and a new understanding of the ambiguous ancient records.

Making calendars was the emblem of imperial power in old China. Chinese calendars were actually encyclopedias of astronomy full of odd terms, complicated algorithms and mysticism. Analyzing and explaining the ancient calendars are also fascinating and active work in China.

China is a multi-nation country. Some minority nationalities have their own astronomy. They are linked to various fields of the nation's culture and they also give us a mirror to peep at the ancient times. International exchange in the history of astronomy is another hot topic. Although Chinese astronomy has its independent development for very long time, foreign influence could be seen everywhere even in early time.

Traditional Chinese astronomy leaves us an abundant heritage for study of history, culture, history of science and even modern astronomy. Chinese astronomers and historians would like to share the enjoyment with colleagues all over the world.

XXIst International Congress of History of Science

The International Union of History and Philosophy of Science/Division of History of Science will meet in Mexico City, July 8-14, 2001 as part of the XXIst International Congress of History of Science. The Chairman of the Organizing Committee is Professor Juan José Saldaña. For more information see http://www.smhct.org/

International Program Committee: Prof. Jed Z. Buchwald/President (USA); Prof. Roshdi Rashed/Vice-President (France-Egypt); Prof. Kirsti Andersen (Denmark); Prof. Luis Carlos Arboleda (Colombia); Prof. Mohammad Bagheri (Iran); Prof. Michel Blay (France); Prof. Xiang Chen (USA-China); Prof. Marcos Cueto (Peru); Prof. Serguei Demidov (Russia); Prof. Ahmed Djebbar (France-Algeria); Prof. Liu Dun (China); Prof. Gad Freudenthal (France); Prof. Carlos Delfino Galles (Argentina); Prof. Dr. Paulus Gerdes (Mozambique); Prof. Roderick W. Home (Australia); Prof Yung Sik Kim (South Korea); Prof. Andreas Kleinert (Germany); Prof. Deepak Kumar (India); Prof. Antonio Lafuente (Spain); Prof. Roy MacLeod (Australia); Prof. Efthymios Nicolaidis (Greece); Prof. Teresa Rojas Rabiela (Mexico); Prof. Fumihiko Satofuka (Japan); Prof. William Shea (France); Prof. Wesley M. Stevens (Canada).

The following IUHPS session will be of particular interest to IAU members. Those interested in participating should contact S. M. R. Ansari at the contact information given below.

"Astronomical Heritage of non-European Cultural Areas."

Organizers: Prof. S.M.R. Ansari (Aligarh Muslim University, India), Prof. Il-Seong Nha (Member IAU, formerly at Yonsei Observatory, Seoul, South Korea) and Prof. Marco A. Moreno Corral (Observatorio Astronómico Nacional, Mexico).

Information: raza.ansari@gmx.net, Fax: 91-571-400466


To highlight & emphasize the Astronomical Heritage in its most general sense and wider application to non-European societies at large, especially during ancient & medieval periods; the role of astronomy, including astrology in the overall cultural milieu of non-European Countries.


1. Archeo-astronomy
2. Folk astronomy, particularly of Latin American countries
3. Astronomy & history
4. Observational astronomy & its importance in various world civilizations
5. Mathematical astronomy, its growth & significant developments-review of the researches of the 20th century
6. Prospects for the future

Related Information

Invited talks by experts from each cultural area, emphasizing role of astronomy in overall social-cultural milieu; short research papers by young historians of astronomy; Poster Sessions depending on response, symposium of at least 2 days of 4 sessions.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Note that Commission 41 is a Joint Commission of the IAU/IUHPS. In view of the fact that many historians of science are not eligible for membership in the IAU, the IUHPS has proposed to form its own Joint Commission. The relationship between the IAU and the IUHPS will be on the agenda at the C 41 Business meeting August 15 in Manchester. Anyone with information on the interaction between C 41 and the IUHPS in the past is asked to kindly forward it to the C 41 President as input for the discussion in Manchester.

Slate of Candidates for Commission 41 Officers and OC

Official Absentee Ballot

[Sign and send to Dr. Steven J. Dick, President, Commission 41, U. S. Naval Observatory, 3450 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20392-5420. All ballots must reach me by August 1. You must be a C 41 full member to vote. If you will be at the Business Meeting August 15, you may vote there, but you cannot vote twice!]

President (Vote for 1)

F. Richard Stephenson

Vice President (Vote for 1 - See biographies next page)

Alexander Gurshtein (Russia)

Il-Seong Nha (Korea)

Organizing Committee (Vote for 7)

Victor Abalakin (Russia)

Peter Brosche (Germany)

Kwan-Yu Chen (U Florida)

Wolfgang Dick (Germany)

Shurat Eghamberdiev (Uzbekistan)

Alex Gurshtein (Russia)

Rajesh Kochhar (India)

Ci-Yuan Liu (China)

Tsuko Nakamura (Japan)

Il-Seong Nha (Korea)

Wayne Orchiston (New Zealand)

Edoardo Proverbio (Italy)

Yousef Sobouti (Iran)

Woodruff T. Sullivan III (USA)

Brian Warner (S. Africa)

Alexander A. Gurshtein (b. 1937), Russian astronomer and historian of science. Member of IAU (1973). Member of Organizing Committee of IAU Commission 41 (1994-present). Author of books and hundreds of various publications, holder of five patents, and contributor to many international forums. Candidate of Science: Sternberg State Astronomical Institute, Moscow (1966). Dr. of Science (Physics & Mathematics): Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, St.-Petersburg (1980).

While in Russia, active as an astronomer in the space program. As a historian of science, the author of publications on planetology. Researches in social issues of science. Editor-in-Chief of the Annual on History of Astronomy (Academy of Sciences); Head of Council for Astronomical Education (Ministry of Education); Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the academic monthly, Nature; Vice Director, Institute for History of Science & Technology (Academy of Sciences); Chairperson of the Astronomical Section of National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science. Some of the duties are performed up to now.

From 1995 teaches in the U.S.A as Professor of Astronomy & History of Science; member of American Astronomical Society. In recent years developed a concept of history of constellations and the Zodiac (presentations in English in Vistas in Astronomy, American Scientist, Sky & Telescope, etc.). Vice President of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture (1993-1999).

If elected, priorities would be: maintaining history of astronomy as a sovereign interdisciplinary component of IAU activity; bridging the difference between scientists and historians of science; increasing the number of qualified international publications in the field.

Il-Seong Nha

1. Founded Yonsei University Observatory in 1980 and became the first director for 8 years.
2. President of the Korean Astronomical Society (1975-77), President of the Korean Society of Astronomy and Space Science (1988-90), and Vice-president of the Korean History of Science Society (1983-85).
3. OC member of IAU Commission 41 for History of Astronomy (1997-2000)
4. Co-chairman of the 2nd Pacific Rim International Colloquium on Binary Star Research, Seoul (1990) and the co-editor of the proceedings "New Frontiers in Binary Star Research", ASP Conf. Series 38 (1993)
5. Found the International Conf. on History of Oriental Astronomy(ICOA), Seoul, Korea(1993) and the co-editor of the proceedings "Oriental Astronomy from Guo Shoujing to King Sejong", Yonsei University Press (1997)
6. Co-chair of the 2nd ICOA meeting, Yingtan, China (1995)
7. SOC member of the 3rd ICOA meeting, Fukuoka, Japan (1998)
8. Professor Emeritus, Yonsei University (1998)
9. Found 'Nha Il-Seong Museum of Astronomy' in Yechon, Korea (1999). The museum has collections of over 170 old star maps and about 70 sundials.
10. A book "History of Astronomy in Korea (in Korean)" in press.
11. A book "Star Maps made in Korea (in Korean)" in preparation.

HTML version: Wolfgang R. Dick, 6 June 2000. Corrected: 15 June 2000