Transit of Venus : Home Journal 1

Transit of Venus

<p>This is the first of the series of Transit of Venus journals kept by George Lyon Tupman. It provides a glimpse into tasks carried out from 1872 in preparation for the Transit of Venus expedition in 1874. It highlights the behind-the-scenes activities of both the astronomers and the assistants, many of whom were seconded from the Royal Navy, taking part in the preparations.</p> <p>The journal entries focus heavily on the tasks carried out by individuals through which the journal reveals the connections of the project to a network of several different institutions. There are mentions of visits to the Admiralty by Tupman in order to discuss issues relating to increase in both staff and instruments [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(15);return false;'>11r</a>]. Several of the entries note visits by professors of astronomy and staff members from other observatories [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(53);return false;'>45</a>]. Similarly, the journal also notes the maintenance and repair work carried out by workmen sent by instrument makers (e.g. Dallmeyer, Simms) that demonstrate the close connection of the expedition and the staff members to the instrument makers, and how they were considered almost part of the expedition team [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(63);return false;'>34a</a>]. The comments made by Tupman also show the careful selection of the people to roles of assistants and observers [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(46);return false;'>38r</a>].</p> <p>There is heavy focus on the description of the state of the instruments. When minor adjustments are made to any of the instruments, it is recorded with the corresponding person who carried them out [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>8</a>]. Similarly, the journal records the people learning about the internal mechanics of the instruments by disassembling them.</p> <p>The journal also highlights how the division of labour during the preparation was organised by Tupman himself. Various entries record the changes in the distribution of tasks, assigning them to observers who are more skilled, and the removal of staff members either due to their lack of skills or due to not being needed anymore [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(45);return false;'>37</a>]. While some of the tasks were carried out by both the observers and their assistants, the entries in the journal focus more on the activities of observers. These observers needed to be skilled in all of the tasks that their role might involve. As a result, many of the entries note the main observers preparing for the expedition by practicing observations, reducing their own and other people’s observations, and taking the instruments apart. However, in many cases, the assistants helped with the computing and reducing of observations, thus not leaving the observers to tackle these issues on their own [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(38);return false;'>30</a>].</p> <p>Another value of the journal lies in the fact that it records not only the successes of the expedition members, but also the mistakes which they made. Thus, the reader of the journal gets a glimpse of the time and work needed to master the skills needed for the transit of Venus expeditions, and that the organisation of the labour required by the project was not a straightforward matter. </p> <p>Daniel Belteki<br /> University of Kent</p>

 


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