E.M. Antoniadi (1896–1917).

Born in Istanbul, Turkey, to Greek parents, Eugene Michael Antoniadi in his day was a legendary figure amongst the ranks of the classic planetary observers. Living in France from 1893, it was he who later disposed of the illusory network of martian canals through his careful observations with the 83-cm OG of Meudon Observatory in 1909. He was also the first to recognise the greater frequency of ‘yellow’ clouds (dust storms) near perihelion. He directed the Mars Section with distinction, and his classic book The Planet Mars (1930) will always be valuable as an historical document. Antoniadi’s life was fully discussed by Richard McKim in a biographical paper in J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., 103 (4), 164–170 (1993) and 103 (5), 219–227 (1993). Since then I have discovered that Antoniadi was a good chess player, and once won an international tournament in Paris. (The portrait shown here is from the British Chess Magazine in 1911.) A paper about Antoniadi’s chess-playing career will appear in this summer’s (2018) The Antiquarian Astronomer, published by the SHA. (It will also include some details of the martian version of chess – Jetan – devised by Edgar Rice Burroughs for the chess-playing martians of his John Carter novels….)

Here is one of his drawings from 1933 using the Grande Lunette of Meudon. The original in black and white was published with descriptions of the observed colours in the Bulletin of the French Astronomical Society. Later it was beautifully colorized by a Czech artist for a popular book about the planet, published in Prague in the 1950s. This book is hardly known outside the Czech Republic, so I took the chance to use it here as a testament to the great skill of Antoniadi.

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