The resignation of E.-M. Antoniadi, 1917: A century-old mystery solved.

In the BAA Journal of 1917 September came the surprise announcement that E.-M. Antoniadi had resigned the Directorship of the Mars Section, having served with distinction for 21 years. Antoniadi was a superb observer and artist and was the subject of an earlier two-part biography by the undersigned. In 1917 there was a tribute at the AGM by his old friend E. W. Maunder and from the Revd T. E. R. Phillips, with news that Harold Thomson would be succeeding him.

The Council Minutes do not offer any explanation, and I always wondered why Antoniadi should have chosen to resign during the First World War, rather than awaiting its end. Conditions for Antoniadi and his fellow Parisians had looked serious at one point, but once the Allies and the Germans had settled into their long campaign of trench warfare, Paris was relatively secure.

In recent years during visits to Paris I was able to consult a Letter Book of Antoniadi’s, which contained carbon copies of his outgoing mail. (When I had done my original research in the early 1990s this document had not yet been catalogued.) The correspondence resolved the mystery, though in a quite unexpected way.

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