In the ordinary meeting of the RAS between 16:00 & 17:00 on 13 November 2020 there will be the ‘Diary Talk’. This talk expands on an anniversary listed in the RAS diary for the year.
Calculation and Conflict: Anniversary Reflections on the Early History of the RAS
Josh Nall (Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Cambridge University)
2020 marks the 200th anniversary of the RAS. This talk will look back to the early years of the Society and interrogate the motivations behind its foundation. It will argue that a core group of business-minded astronomers established ‘the Astronomical Society of London’ in order to regulate and delimit the discipline at a time of growing diversification and popular speculation. With a variety of “astronomies” in play in Regency London, the founders of the RAS pointedly broke away from the venerated Royal Society in order to impose a particular technocratic model for their discipline centred on efficient gathering and analysis of data. Conflict soon followed. The talk will pick through the bones of a few such conflicts and will reflect on their impact on the progress of astronomy during the 19th century.