New Books in Intellectual History - Joshua Nall, "News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910" (U Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re hearing an awful lot about the fraught relationship between science and media. In his book, News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860-1910 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), historian of science Joshua Nall shows us that a blurry boundary between science and journalism was a key feature—not a bug—of the emergence of modern astronomy. Focusing on objects and media, such as newspapers, encyclopedias, cigarette cards, and g

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Hi, this is Mikey McGovern and you're listening to new books and science technology and Society a podcast on the new books Network.

well, I think it's pretty safe to say that in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic science popularization is having a bit of a moment in epidemiology the boundary between newsworthy and verified science is elusive the issue at hand lately being the aerosolization fires as the United States attempts to withdraw from the show who had to do it really even knows whether an international consensus will have a broad influence on containment tactics on the ground when it comes to matters because it's all leather Sensational or Monday the science media Nexus and impossible to ignore

I'm here today to discuss matters Beyond disciplinary sphere namely the planet Mars. How did astronomers in an era of proliferating print media convey the findings that new telescopes revealed in his new book news from Mars mass media and the forging of a new astronomy 1862 1910 historian of Sines Joshua now curator of modern Sciences at cambridge's Whipple Museum of the history of science sets out to answer this question among others. No former BBC New Generation thicker provisor, which account of transatlantic science communication is it framed fascination with telescopic images of Mars?

News from Mars deserves a broad audience particularly among the astronomically inclined aware of how the narratives of Savvy popularizers like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse. Tyson have shaped public understanding of what astronomy is and does.

Joshua Nall is a museum curator and fittingly his first foray into this project and from an object.

Well, it's actually it started with an object. I was working in the Wicca Museum and we were offered a globe of the planet Mars by an antique dealer and the director of the museum asked me if I would write up a proposal to see if we could get the necessary funding to buy this club the garbage being painted in 1913 by Danish artist and astronomy enthusiasts and it was based on the maps of possible level. If you know anything about the history of Mars than lower place just about the most famous name because he's the kind of driving for a ton of the 20th century behind the idea that Mars was a living planet that it had intelligent martians living on a dime that they were constructing an intricate on massive system of canals to irrigate the planet. I'm so this globe is a truly extraordinary object look,

And it's on the front cover of the book fittingly enough and it shows this canal Network and I knew nothing at this story when this offer came out to buy this club. So I went and did a bit of research and that point I was kind of fishing around for the possible research projects and a lot of stuff have been written about Lowell on the canals. One of the obvious kind of lacunas in the story was there wasn't a great deal of literature. Looked at the relationship between Mars and astronomers public sphere ideas with the notable exception of Science Fiction. There's been a lot of what number different colors on Amazon Life on Mars in science fiction, but actually if you start to look more people like Lowell and treat them as astronomers know as

It felt to me like that was a lot more that could be sad and done in that area. So that was kind of the woke up the ball rolling on on the research project.

The glow by joining the cover of the book which neurologist described cuts a striking figure the red planet Laden with massive bodies of water Seas almost dividing the planet the Continental formations with names resembling those on Earth. I asked to give our listeners a sense of how Lowes model departed from existing understandings and visual representations Mars.

Yeah, absolutely. I'm in fact the first image in the book in the introduction is actually about the graph of five different types of Mars made in during the time. That this book covers. So I from the 1860's the 1910s on what's striking looking at all five of these clubs next to each other is that they don't look like each other. So this is a. When really matter at this point to observe through even a really huge telescope. It's a difficult a very difficult subject to the job comes into opposition with that is a question. Approach to kind of look out for a telescope once every two years. I'm really only really good opposition's only happen once every 15 to 16 years. So what happens is that between

He's in the 1910s is a series of read minds off the planet and if anyone wants to know a lot more about this than very fortunately for me at the time that I started. My project a book had recently been published the really wonderful book who geographies of Mars by came already lining and it's an absolute total for since I recommend to anyone listening to this this podcast Channel and so she gives a really amazing and deep history all attempts to map Mars and the cultural relations between Mars and observations and mapping in this. One of the points that she makes is that Mars is very much understood at this point in white reflects larger cultural concerns with the night show not just as well. And so

100 minutes in a way that reflects the sun reflects terrestrial concerns to start out looking kind of like it has big continent some Pixies but then from the late 1870s the question of whether I actually the planet is actually almost completely lacking in water begins to arise and then pretends to be more and more kinetic actually what is present on the planet is very narrow channels of water only end in 1877 by the Italian astronomer Giovanni. Skip Riley.

And these canals become kind of the central focus of debates about life on Mars over the next 30-40 years.

What line shows is the really quite quickly they go from being these kind of diffusion organic looking bodies of water between continents to be a intricate network of geometrically straight lines and they reach that kind of apotheosis in the maps of Percival Lowell. I'm at this point which is what you see on the cover of the net what is is perfectly geometric along the lines me topic nodal points and that will perfectly straight and that's because in Lowe's argument they are constructed by intelligent martians who built this system of canals to irrigate their crops to bring water from the poles, which is where most of the water is a mast and to channel it to other parts of the planet and this people like Robert makhani in pain.

Is is part of a wider sense. Maas becomes a reflection of US future because Mars in this on this telling is very dry Planet. It's a dying Planet. It's an older Planet than the Earth according to the nebular hypothesis before I drive quickly. And so one of the kind of obvious projections that people like Lowell seem to be making if it seems to us now quite obvious when we look at that size cultural historians is he sees these brilliant technological martians basically overcoming an ecological disaster. And so that kind of industrialists who builds this amazing engineering works and that's what you see on on the planet here. I can plug another great book, which is Robert Mueller.

Book dying Planet, which is along with with cameras. Elaine's what the other kind of foundational work for my own study because that really looks at this ecological question.

So in the interest of full disclosure, I work for not one for a summer at Whipple Museum why I helped put together an online exhibition on the collections calculators while there is a truly exceptional one-of-a-kind objects in the Museum's collection. Like say a fragment of Charles Babbage Difference Engine number one of the best artifacts are popular materials and everyday devices designed to be useful or Inspire awe or cigarette cars that were used to weigh in on the Mars controversy, and they do a good job encapsulating books argument that the history of astronomy cannot be explained by isolating expert the base in the public sphere.

Yes, so materials like the cigarette cause we really my stop point because obviously I was very fortunate to be drawing on the collection of the Whitney Museum of the history of science where I was at Caza part of the collection. She died from the 1920s and said the reason that that kind of Illustrated in the conclusion is that they used to demonstrate the kind of long tile to questions and debates about Lacamas is not something that just kind of disappears in a cloud of smoke as soon as astronomers come to their senses. I'm so material light a cigarette cards are unimportant reminder Aziz Aziz the globe painted by angle broom on the cover of the book that public interest on popular engagement with the question of life on Mars is absolutely Central to this entire story. So if I have to encapsulate the kind of fundamental argument of premise of the book it is simply this

That if we want to understand debates about life on Mars, I'm more broadly questions about the why couldnt the new astronomy and what we would now generally cool astrophysics and planetary science. Then we can understand this by thinking about two separate Realms on the one hand the astronomical around that one of these professionals hang around in in obscure observatories in Michael's invitations. And then on the other hand the public round the popular rum where that information somehow just kind of trickles down and diffuses into obviously. This is drawing on the kind of things that you and me, we all teach our students as soon as they come into our departments now, which is the disconnect diffusionist model what science is is just not tenable there is not a very rarely the case that you have knowledge to Simply trickling down from these Ivory Towers and diffusing.

from Metropolitan Center instead what the book tries to argue on the basis for the the whole premise of the book is to try and show through case studies in which would I characterize very generally as mass media implicated within the working practices of astronomy in the. That I started because of separating out these Realms of the profession on the public what's going on here is to understand that they are inextricably bound together and really at the most kind of

General level what that is. It's an argument for thinking about astronomers as as journalists to as as as agents in a popular Marketplace at the same time that they are astronomers and I hope that what I've done is actually proven that to be the case through these kind of quite detailed. Hey studies that I've that I've used in the book The Victorian. Is often understood as a golden age of sky and popularization, but it also bore witness to the development of modern University training and science disciplines the first protagonist in all story Richard Proctor unsettles distinction.

Yes, Sir, Richard. Bruxism really are a very wonderful example for my grow to argument because

initially in the in the historiography of a Victorian astronomy. He didn't reappear tool then when he initially as what kind of archetypical popularized because the one thing that's very clear. When you start looking at Victorian astronomy is the richest rock to write books about whatever you look at these books you find them everywhere because they were hugely popular spots. Steven dick has done the legwork looks into the kind of beat the quantification in this made the the very plausible Richard Proctor was the most widely read on astronomy in the English-speaking World between the 1860s and the 1890s. So

He's hugely important, but the really important point from my story is that if you actually go and look at the walk that he's doing with presupposing. He's kind of position outside sump reported Professionals in actual fact, he's every bit as much an astronomer as the rest of his peers in the Royal Astronomical Society and he is simply

walking in a style that appears to be a robber on a popular rather Sensational one might even say Tupac. If you go back and look normal anachronistically of the nature of the what he's doing at the time he was I mean when he's done wonderful welcome Richard Proctor has made this point to

2 to the common man or woman in the street Richard Proctor was every bit as significant and important as famous scientist in Great Britain as Faraday or Darwin Maxwell. He was a huge huge deal, but he was also very widely respected as a lot of people believe the preeminent Authority on astronomy in the. I'm the reason of course that he's important to my story off the bat is that he's particularly interested in working in this completely new disciplinary train, we would now cool Astro physics and astrophysics and planetary science, which is the side emerges onto the scene in the 1860s just that the astronomy is an extension of the discipline traditionally most astronomers.

On what we would Pascal positional astronomy Celestial mechanics tracking the motion on the position of of astronomical objects, and then things like I could not care less about astronomy. He spends a great astronomers use of the vacations in exotic trees. He's interested in the Wanda and the majesty and the power of astronomy to explain the universe plus me equals the mental and moral culture of society.

And so he's fascinated by the new tools of astrophysics, which do things light show that the chemical composition of the sun solar planets in the solar system is more nice exactly analogous to the chemical composition of uses. We would kind of not recognize this as a as an opiate on a terrestrial analogy to extrapolate the point. If that's the case if brakes on a 1964 bye-bye 1867 by then one has to question whether planets like moss would not exactly like in more ways than chemistry whether they like them biologically as well. He has his kind of rather provocative phrase.

Why he basically says that until it's been proven that no life exists on an object like Mars. We must assume that life does exist that because the evidence that we got from astrophysics is the mileage is pretty much like

And this is controversial. Of course, there are astronomers are very upset with this kind of speculation. And this picture is Proctor into a great big disciplinary fight. So, what I do in the first chapter of this book is kind of position Proctor as an astronomer in a disciplinary fight between effectively three fractions, which is the mathematical astronomy people like a very strong McGraw Greenwich on the one hand and the second faction these new younger. Scientific naturalist with trying to professionalize the discipline new kind of elitism. Suites why the old kind of gentleman of Science and replaces them with young professionals salaried scientist in Trump's racist ad faction, which are characterized by the kind of umbrella time imaginative astronomy, and that's an argument against both of

As other fractions deeply populist egalitarian. Human is basically out of school an argument that astronomy is worthless is pointless unless it is not really understood by the public but is received and enjoyed my tablet. And so he says that really unless you'll have a thing books that the public read and understand and it and the raises them tomorrow, then you're just wasting your time.

While the scientific Enterprise was itself influx. There was a major transformation underway in journalism the new journalism, which knob is important for historians of their science to account for

one half of my chapter is really focused on who portrays how he walks what is relationship to other astronomers are then it's about a moment in transatlantic journalism, which gets cold eventually the new journalism and this new journalism is a very well-known historian hegemonism, which is kind of remarkable because the new journalism is politically and socially and truly transformative on both sides of the Atlantic and the basis of the new journalism is a kind of hiding mix of

amazingly successful populism of attempting to produce a journalistic content to take clean newspapers outside books and periodicals cell not in the thousands or the tens of thousands but in the hundreds of thousands and eventually in the minions per day

and on the other hand with is populism is a real a particular form of kind of combative egalitarianism the kind of Godfather of the new journalism on the British side of the Atlantic is a famous editor 9wt stabbed who found the pee come out cuz that and he makes that newspaper incredibly Successful by establishing a series of Mt. Establishment campaigns, incredibly controversial campaigns, the most famous of which is a campaign to expose child prostitution in London is the prevalence of child prostitution in London is the fact that he's off,

Either doing nothing about it or are in fact complicit in it. These are subjects that no newspaper would have ever published and he publishes them what we would kind of considered to be investigative journalism stings. He sends people in and he and processor are huge friends on and sew in a certain sense be the kind of political power and I which proxibid rules on and then feeds into is this new form of kind of populist egalitarian anti-establishment Mt. Elitist campaigning. The state is kind of very well known as the Pioneer. Oh nothing but with signs, he's basically making the claim Justice studies attacking kind of in Bastrop Islands.

The power needs to be devolved to the People by providing them with the information. They need to sign a similar thing with astronomy. He signed it that science has been cloistered. It's being kept from the People by the use of abstruse mathematics and complicated language scientists need to do is that they need to do in front of a month produced a whacking such a way that the people kind of can grasp it and understand it and learn from it. So

That's a long answer to a simple question. But really the political Paradigm that I placed proxy with Within.

News from ours is a transatlantic tail. So I asked know why Proctor move in the United States and what happened when he does.

Yeah, so that's an excellent question and the United States because really the much of what about the new journalism in about this Paradigm of a populist approach to public knowledge on the diffusion of public knowledge these ideas originated in the strongest form in the United States the new journalism as it is heavily indebted to movements that begin in particular in New York in the 1830s and 1840s with what we now call the yellow journalism. And so in the history of Journalism that's very much a recognition of this particular transatlantic know that there is a new cultural interest in

What's the don't just cheap and populist but which are also kind of competitive Lee County elitist and the gala Therrien and how to draw some nights ideas. But he also threw drawing on those ideas kind of comes to love the United States above and beyond Britain and one of the main ways that makes money is he goes on electrical huge electrical hundreds of towns in the United States. He said he's in the English-speaking World. He's he's an International Celebrity. He's I mean, it sounds. But to give you a sense of the kind of car. He's kind of the Carl Sagan on his side if you know anything about astronomy and science then you had a time. So he goes on these toilets why he goes to literally two to two hundred plus towns across the United States and eventually he's doing this so much going back and forth actually gets off the boat.

New York journalist to just because Proctor is arriving there are journalists at the waiting to interview him and he admits that he's actually going to stay America. This is in the early 1890s.

This is very useful for the the broader an argument that I'm trying to construct in the book because the second chapter of the book moose is very much from Great Britain to the United States claim that it important to understanding the nature of astronomical practice in the 1870s and 1880s. One of the obvious reasons that no one has written about imaginative astronomy before me or people is because imaginative astronomy obviously does not survive as a paradigm of astronomical practice.

Astronomer Royal on down in Britain on the same in the states. Everyone will be practicing astronomy the way he practices that doesn't happen. So it's very easy to miss in the historical record. So the second chapter is really an attempt to explain why imagines of astronomy struggles and dies dies unexpectedly and suddenly from yellow fever in 1888 the United States tropical disease. So, you know, that is very unfortunate that the Champs are is actually an attempt to to to make a brooder argument about the trials and tribulations all the imaginative in the face of a new paradigm in astronomy, which is absolutely scented not end in the United States represented in the the western states of the United States.

And so this moves us from Proctor in his kind of Metropolitan set setting when he's jumping between London and New York and the chapter ships us to the American West.

And the rise of Rebecca solnit stop the technological West this is very relevant to my story because one of the things that it stops the rhatigan once he's moved the United States emerging that was completely antithetical to two. Model a paradigm is the Paradigm of the big Observatory the philanthropic Lee funded an established astronomical Observatory. So in the. Starting in the 1880s,

Very very wealthy robber barons stomped to endow incredibly lavish inexpensive astrophysical observatories. So the ones that we may know about me puddle of the Lick Observatory.

I just outside San Francisco California The yerkes Observatory Chicago on the Mount Wilson Observatory and importantly for my book the poison station, which is established in on a Mountainside Inn in arequipa in Peru. And this model is Optical to crop top because it's a model but instead of being General on generalist on populist on open is a its course relies on huge amounts of money it pays

A very small number of astronomers to spend that time on hold up in these observatories. I'm so proud to seize. This is us as a real kind of threat. But the reason is happening is because astrophysics to advance a number of American ABS Abbas are monks the first to really push the point that you need much bigger telescopes. Once you stop needing much bigger telescopes you immediately face the problem what astronomers called the problem of seeing which is in this instance. This is the technical term which is at the quality of scene is is how well your telescope he's able to resolve celestial objects. And this is hugely impacted by atmospheric interference has scales with the size of your telescope build a big a telescope. You have a bigger problem looking through a Maki unsteady atmosphere. So the same

Astronomist. Demanding these huge telescopes on planning these huge telescopes. They make the recognition that is long bean realized but not realized. I'm sorry realized in the sense of of a recognized but not be realized which is this music huge telescope. You need to put it on the top of a mountain in in in spin a player off Stabler, which is really the first permanent Mountain Observatory is built on top of the mountain.

So you couldn't really got any less Proctor in this Paradigm because you're completely hiding yourself away from from the public.

The rise of observatories went hand-in-hand with other kind of technological change and I asked Mel to say a bit more about what's happening with the Telegraph and how this changes the public and professional character of astronomy an intended consequence of Mars images and a telegraphic imagination colliding was a cultural fascination with extraterrestrial communication.

Yeah and sonnets conception of the technological West she makes this is in her book rivershadows, which is ostensibly a biography of Edward my bridge the who's famous for his stop motion Photography in actual fact the book covers much more ground than that. It's a wonderfully Rich evocation of the kind of new technological systems that emerge took this Robber Baron philanthropy and the railroads the new massive railroads that they put in these new pickups of a trees and then with some these new forms of telecommunication infrastructure. So one of the kind of tropes that emerges precisely in this. Is this idea of the annihilation of time on spice?

And this is a Trope that starts to pop in.

Accounts of these Enterprises the people aren't my Bridget doing at Stanford University being done with these new big observatories with these big telescopes that can deny light space in the same way that the new railroads can annihilate time. This together is internationally network telegraphy is he's almost at the same moment that submarine cable telegraph's of being put in such that will the first time institutions in California are linked instantaneously institutions inside New York producer in London in Paris.

I'm beyond and so the other kind of key moment the damages which I'm the I'm completely undermines practice much more contemplative philosophical approach process. Approach is synthetic is this moment of the instantaneous news distribution because then once the observatory moved to the top of these mountains you start to have his Paradigm of astronomy, not through kind of synthetic rising in the crock Therrien sense rapidly distributed news of observations, which can of course be distributed even from the top of a mountain.

and so

the chapter ends with an argument that this fundamentally changes the way in which astrophysics planetary science and Mars are conceived. Oh, it's no longer conceived in his parents sense as this kind of planet that can be sterilized is kind of an allergic please similar to but somewhat ambiguous.

200 new paradigms begin to be projected onto Moss which it seems to me very obviously reflect these new technologies.

On the one hand, you have the industrial Network the canals which we've already mentioned you start to see interest in Mars becoming dominated by the question of instantaneous signaling.

Just at the moment that these observatories are beginning to Able Taxi distribute observations of moss as they happen people start to become fascinated with the Prospect and also with potential news all messages being signaled between us and Moss. So there are number of episodes when light flashes are reported from observatories around the world which initially reported simply as we think we've seen a light flash on Mars and this very rapidly get spun into very wide-ranging public debates about whether or not it's possible to communicate with Mars and how one should communicate with Mars on these debates top drawer in

Many of the most eminent astronomers of the era and it's a point. I have to keep coming back to in the book the kind of Labor my point which is that this is not a story about kind of right popularization. This is not many just kind of off the hook journalist running around and playing fast and loose with the facts. One of the first people he writes extensively about how one would communicate with Maz is Francisco. One of the most famous British scientists of the era of Charles Darwin's her cousin the the original of eugenics. I'm hugely influential scientist across the range of disciplines.

And you have people like Jane Norman lockyer the founder of nature. I'm entering The Fray on the other side and saying that reports of communicating with mozz. I've gone too far under people need to calm down. I need to come see extended argument and debate and I'm really this is kind of this is all setting the groundwork for my third chapter because my third chapter is is a kind of micros study of one such episode in and so is that Contraption is establishing the ground rules and making this case that astronomers active in a general Point. That's the nature of new technologies petechiae Communications technology static-p journalistic Technologies completely an awfully entangled with how astronomers working at this point. They are at their

Northside of trees to to Telegraph networks to that also implicating themselves in NY debates about the nature of long-distance communication and signaling as it relates to Mars, but also as it relates to how one distributes information about astronomy because a lot of the debates in arguments at this point, is this underlying question of what are the appropriate ways for astronomers to disseminate new information new claims new observations pictures, of course astronomy astronomy conservative kind of way that people like kind of bowls

claims that were more or less conjectural and once you get into this Paradigm of Newsmax media news distribution and Telegraph news distribution the night Sharon the potential for those kind of conjectural claims to to spread on its to come to dominate The Narrative becomes a key problematic instead if a chapter book,

The Advent of print media terms event astronomy distinct in a public-facing character in connection to the news cycle. I asked for our listeners. What is at stake in the rise of event astronomy and how it fits into the archives book?

ESO event astronomy is really just the way of capturing the idea.

Sutton Sutton episodes with an astronomy stopped to feed into a culture of news that when most familiar with this Pine in relation to exploration, which is this idea that is well covered in the history of expiration that the newspapers start to know to become a scientific exploration Expeditions Meisner to me to the polar regions, but they have to be support them many of the expeditions to the polar regions, but take me to bring the United States rights be funded by newspapers so that they can then get exclusive coverage and astronomy is to make the point that this becomes the case with astronomy to so I opened a 3-2 in Northern California and news.

One of the great new journalistic papers of the era that the New York Herald send will they actually don't send the report with William Pickering from Harvard Observatory to make me of the patient's Pickering lease it instead what they do is they arranged or at the Rex Telegraph signal from William Pickens observing sites in California to the New York Herald office so that he can report from the eclipse in real time as it's happening. And then the New York Herald print these up as holographic transcripts with timestamps.

And of course the herald is publishing several times a day. So natural fact, they're able to get their first reports out almost as soon as the eclipse happens.

This becomes very important to the mouse story because William Pickering then the next job will in Pickerington off to his brother has his brother is director of a tree the next job Edward signs to William is he sends him down to arequipa in Peru to establish its new Mountain Top, which is funded by the philanthropist. URI. Borden will stipulates that he's left. I think it's some astronomical something like $300,000 to Iraq Sun Observatory on the top of a mountain so that it is in an ideal position for driving and they Scout locations over the place and it's a Tree Inn in arequipa in Peru. I'll not only be on the top of the mountain and beautiful clean a but they'll also be able to look at

The southern Skies the seven nights guys on observe regions that place is like the lick.

So the New York Herald immediately start reporting on this Expedition as well because the herald of already established this relationship between him and he's on first name terms. We know from the archives you look at The Archives are these wonderful last is between him and they rights as friends there on posting times. And so when will you pick me to arequipa The Herald covers based on reports reports the journey and the expedition

And this is obviously we should back up here in and make the point that this is all happening because the public want to read about what I dropped her event astronomy. They are interested in New goings-on in astronomy and the new reports coming out of astronomical asleep.

Just about be ultimate definitive most important most popularly kind of interesting event that happens in astronomy all the periodic approaches of moss. As I mentioned. I'm kind of playing into this idea of event astronomy is one of my small fits into the new cycle very well because Mom spends most of its time way too far away from us to be observable. First. Step is a verbal. I mean you can you can still see it but you can look through a telescope in any meaningful sense, but once every couple of years it swings into what school opposition

Why the Sun the Earth and Mars line up and that will Mars is is closer closer than it normally is and so every couple of years. There is an event event is Will new observations be made on Mars on over slavery question here is this issue has been resolved, Can we figure out our intelligent creatures on Mars? Is it a living planet? If it is a living planet? What kind of vegetation is it? Just as some people claiming that intelligent being beings more intelligent than anything on Earth. Is that kind of wanted the foundational ideas of a possible living Moss?

The darwinian Paradigm would suggest that with more time life will have evolved to a highest form than than humans on Earth.

The the closest approach stats chapter 3 focus is on is it happens in 1992 in this is important because it's the best viewing conditions for Mars since 1877, which is Wednesday, April 1st observes that the canal.

As far as the Press is concerned 1892 is the moment so which we should get as we need about moss in about life on Mars since 1877 these new big of savage beasts of being built and in particular William Pickering has gone out to this branch of a tree in in arequipa in Peru. He's on the top of a mountain and he's going to report what he sees on Mars. The reason this is such a wonderful archival story for me is that we have a record out of a blow-by-blow account of the Sensation that emerges from this because Edward Pickering has sent his brother out to mostly tight Spectra dice tray spectroscopic photographs to take the plates back to Harvard way.

the analyzed Bike by teams of computers

William Pickering instead X out and he's like, no, actually I'm just going to look at Moss cuz miles is way more interesting but crucially

Just before he turns up the New York Herald have established exclusive rights for the distribution of news from South America Drew James Crimson. I'm Telegraph company, which has the one cable that stretches from from Texas down to the north of the South American continent and then threw down the South American continent including through Lima and so William Pickering is able to Telegraph

Direct me to the New York Herald from arequipa.

I'm So at the same moment that his brother is sending him letters by mail to take about two months together Pickering is able to send his observations of moss straight to New York Herald and it causes a complete sensation. He reports sweeping range of new observations of moss. He says he sees all of these extraordinary changes. He says he sees huge sea swimming in Lakes moving describes an incredibly Dynamic an impact. I'm in the middle of the controversy sends his brother Alexa recording him saying that you are effectively sac.

But of course doesn't arrive to several months by which point Pickering has been sending repeated telegraph's to to the herald what's patique least ranking about this episode and it doesn't just freaking of the implication of these New Media Technologies in practice, but they took the core the argument for chapter 3 is that I really think that is this particular form of telegraphic exchange by the Press begin to focus completely an awfully on this question of canals.


one obvious consequence of this form of event astronomy is it suddenly astronomy is happening at a speed and through a technology that completely eliminates the possibility of using with Distributing images because Pickering has to send in messages about a hundred 150 yd to the New York Herald what he's saying, I'm in the herald write them up in this case publish them verbatim. They brought these. Going to click the vernacular turn it into these exciting pounds.

Images the Press immediately latch on and focus on this issue of whether or not canals are seen and impart. This becomes a rivalry between the Lick Observatory where the director Edward Holden has previously been very critical of the idea of canals, but once William Pickering reports canals from arequipa, very quickly and send a telegraph to the Herald's great rival the Associated Press.

Says I will sing when I was at the lake as well and it gets the ball rolling on a whole Somersworth across the summer summer in the northern hemisphere August September in in 1892 off just this explosion of news coverage about canals on Mars. I mean if you if you if you do the lazy thing we historians now do what you sit down in the Congress on one of these newspaper databases and you put in Ma's + canals 1892. You just got more hits than you know how to deal with and so

in a way that

it's probably more nuanced in the chapter in the Bible that it is hard to characterize here. I basically make the case that this particular kind of news distribution shapes the way in which mall is talked about in that for a fact that Mars is known in the. Because you can only talk about sketches of Mars. I think about 6 months off to the opposition and always hit that point. The horse is completely bald head. And the irony here is that we didn't think that they were actually rainy clouds on Mars and he said he was very skeptical of that nature has as as bodies of water, but the narrative hit already Beyond him the final chapter of the book explores and Encyclopedia Britannica entry rather than Percival Lowell the figure if you fuels fascination,

the idea of canals on Mars well covered in the historical record instead of focusing more attention on this character now shows how an encyclopedia could serve as a way to control the narrative about astronomy by following the editorial story of Simon Newcomb the encyclopedia to was a mass genre, but one of the pressure class of the need to drive public Fascination up-to-the-minute reporting

Yes, so the Encyclopedia Britannica story was something I kind of stumbled upon just because I noticed that the 11th Edition have an optical on Mars that was published. It was written by Simon Newcomb. Who if you look hot when you come you discover. One of the many things you can date was he was a very strong critic of the canals. He was very empty speculation. He was a very Fierce critic of crop top and then he was a very face predict possible low.

When it came to coming to the carnival the end of my story which is the low Alara which is normally the focus of 1894. So we're we're we're well into the debates at this point. The 1892 episode is already happened.

I didn't want to write another thing about lol. There's a lot out there about low and he's being very well top of this very good biography of him by Strauss.

And so actually what I thought would be more interesting would be to look at the opponents of Law. And how did people how did astronomers new venues different genres of mass media to oppose level and what I discovered that one of the the key ways they did this was was through encyclopedias as many of your listeners Encyclopedia. Britannica was kind of the definitive reference work of this era the 9th Edition on which has been compiled in the 1870s and 1880s. It mean quote the scholars Edition and it has been composed by in the science articles of being composed by many of the ear is kind of authorities in their subjects and said the next Edition XI the 10th edition was really just the reissue and an updated ratio of the 9th to the 11th.

time in Newcomb kind of Tanks hold of all of this from a content and this is classic Newcomb because if you look at his archive, this is Boston and in the library Congress, and it's very indicative of a

Politically engaged and publicly engaged intellectual of his era. He spends a lot of time writing pieces writing classes writing reviews as a way of kind of attacking and criticizing what he sees as the kind of populist and less credible sets of the science of the scientific kind of weld at that moment and some getting hold of all this from me content and being the address of astronomy content for the Encyclopedia. Britannica is a really important Newcomb to gain disciplinary control over this hugely important reference what it is that he's going to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. And so

Fortunately for me in newcomb's archived at the Library of Congress. There is the complete editorial correspondence of Newcomb this whole Enterprise and so the chapter is really a blow-by-blow account of how he broke. The article as it as it came to appear in the Encyclopedia Britannica and so on a general level the argument is simply that

One way of responding to the immediacy and the huge populism of newspapers of all platforms. Like new Herald was to use mass media that was just as successful and popular but was not as a media but instead was more authoritative and as possible low describes it in an angry letter to Newcomb. I'm he says as the Britannica will be made to Lost. Do you know I think that you should at least count My Views about the canals and this is at a point when you can push a draw with low which basically just goes away and criticizes Lowell and his theories in the now so

General argument and then as a kind of micros Oracle account. It's really an argument for how that attempt kind of. If you look at the final piece of weird piece because it isn't just up an account of Mars that is critical of the clouds. For example, it includes two illustrations that come from the Lowell Observatory and show the clouds to maps of Mazda absolutely show the canals and so

There's also a kind of richer account in the chapter of how you can project is mantels and unravels around him in part because I was Authority stop said they had it isn't that I'm not willing to countenance completely dismissing low.

I asked know what is working on now.

Well, I mean, I'm I'm kind of sad that the main thing I'm at the moment is is changing tack somewhat but it is very germane to my day job security in a museum along with a colleague here in the department of history of philosophy of science in Cambridge bars chocolate bars, and I we are co-editing a a primary source volume on material culture of science medicine in in the Victorian weld, so it's it's a volume where was selecting texts that kind of speak to many facets of material culture of instruments of models of tools used in science and medicine in in the 19th century. I'm so that's kind of taking up most of my time at the Moon.

Thanks so much for listening. This has been another episode of new books and science technology and Society a podcast on the new books Network.
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