Transit of Venus : Home Journal 4

Transit of Venus

<p>The journal presents the details of the work carried out by George Lyon Tupman and his assistants at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, between the years 1877 and 1880 relating to the Transit of Venus expeditions of 1874.</p> <p>The majority of the work highlighted by the entries relates to the reduction of observations and to the examinations of previous reductions in order to prepare the final results for press. While examining these works, Tupman often makes remarks about the quality of the observations carried out by the members of the expeditions. For instance, there is a reference to Charles Neate making systematic errors [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'>164</a>] which led to having to re-examine the longitudes derived from observations made with the altazimuth instrument used on the Rodriguez expedition.</p> <p>Some of the entries record the changes in staff, which are often accompanied by Tupman’s opinion on the matter. When one of the long-term assistants, Pead, was removed, Tupman considered it “a very great misfortune”. This gives us not only an indication of the significant role that the assistants like Pead played, but also demonstrates the amount of work that required the skills of trained assistants in order to reduce the observations and information gathered during the 1874 expeditions [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(10);return false;'>163</a>]. However, Tupman’s opinion on the computers was not always positive. While Mr Bell was hired to continue Pead’s task, we learn from the journal entries that it took him a considerable amount of time to learn the skills necessary in order to carry out real computations. This eventually led Tupman to declare in the journal his opinion that Mr Bell was not suited to being a computer [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(14);return false;'>167</a>].</p> <p>A few of the records shift the attention away from the work and towards the people who visited the observatory. There are visits recorded by Leonard Waldo coming from the Harvard Observatory, and also by David Gill [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(14);return false;'>167</a>]. However, sometimes the visitors can have a negative effect on the work carried out by Tupman, as he often notes how he was troubled by them [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(18);return false;'>171</a>]. Correspondence with astronomers such as Professor Newcomb is also highlighted, which demonstrates the widespread collaboration on the transit of Venus enterprise within the astronomical community of the time.</p> <p>The journal also notes tasks that demonstrate the inter-institutional interest in the expeditions. For example, the entries note Tupman preparing papers for Parliament on the results [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>165</a>]. Similarly, he carried out work for the Royal Astronomical Society, and met with the president of the Royal Society to discuss the expedition and the work related to it in detail [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(32);return false;'>185</a>].</p> <p>Daniel Belteki<br /> University of Kent</p>

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