Observing by Hand

Aerial photo of four pairs of hands using different handheld smart devices

Part of Book at Lunchtime, a fortnightly series of bite size book discussions, with commentators from a range of disciplines. Free, all welcome - no booking required (seats allocated on a first come, first served basis).

Join us for a sandwich lunch from 12:45, with discussion from 13:00 to 13:45.

Dr Omar Nasim (lecturer in history at the University of Kent) will discuss his book Observing by Hand with:

Dr Stephen Johnston (Assistant Keeper, Museum of the History of Science)
Professor Martin Kemp (History of Art, University of Oxford)
Professor Chris Lintott (Astrophysics, University of Oxford)

About the book

Today we are all familiar with the iconic pictures of the nebulae produced by the Hubble Space Telescope’s digital cameras. But there was a time, before the successful application of photography to the heavens, in which scientists had to rely on handmade drawings of these mysterious phenomena.           

Observing by Hand sheds entirely new light on the ways in which the production and reception of handdrawn images of the nebulae in the nineteenth century contributed to astronomical observation. Omar W. Nasim investigates hundreds of unpublished observing books and paper records from six nineteenth-century observers of the nebulae: Sir John Herschel; William Parsons, the third Earl of Rosse; William Lassell; Ebenezer Porter Mason; Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel; and George Phillips Bond. Nasim focuses on the ways in which these observers created and employed their drawings in data-driven procedures, from their choices of artistic materials and techniques to their practices and scientific observation. He examines the ways in which the act of drawing complemented the acts of seeing and knowing, as well as the ways that making pictures was connected to the production of scientific knowledge.


Humanities & Science

Contact name: Hannah Penny

Contact email: hannah.penny@humanities.ox.ac.uk

Audience: Open to all