Essays on Science and SocietyPERCEPTIONS OF SCIENCE

Celestial Spectroscopy: Making Reality Fit the Myth

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Science  05 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5638, pp. 1332-1333
DOI: 10.1126/science.1085135

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In the second half of the 19th century, the introduction of spectroscopy, which provided information on the composition of stars, revolutionized the way in which astronomical observations were performed. In her essay, Becker draws attention to William Huggins, an amateur astronomer who was one of stellar spectroscopy's principal founders. Huggins first began to use spectroscopy in his astronomical studies around 1862 and soon achieved a position of prestige and authority among fellow astronomers. But in his own account of these early spectroscopic studies, Huggins presented a highly selective version of events that belie his own eclectic research style.