Astronomy & Cosmology

Maunder, Annie S. D. & E. Walter | The Heavens and Their Story

  • The rare first edition of this popular work by the professional astronomer Annie S. D. Maunder (1868-1947), who began her career as a computer at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The copiously illustrated contents first explore the solar system in depth, and then expand outward to discuss the Milky Way, distant stars, and nebulae.

    At her graduation from Girton College in 1886 Maunder was awarded the highest mathematical honour then available to women, Senior Optime in the Mathematical Tripos. When a position as “lady computer” at the Royal Observatory became vacant she signed on, despite the “discouragingly low” pay, and began her career examining daily sunspots. It was at Greenwich that she met Edward Maunder, head of the solar photography department and founder of the British Astronomical Union. The two married in 1895 and also began a productive scientific partnership, particularly within the BAA, which encouraged the participation of women and amateurs. The Maunders “worked together on the association’s journal; she was its first editor, from 1894 to 1896, and served again as editor from 1917 to 1930” (Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p. 856).

    Maunder herself “made many contributions to astronomy, including a photographic survey of the Milky Way and eclipse observations and photographs, made during BAA eclipse expeditions. Although much of her work was in collaboration with her husband, she worked independently of him as well. The sun was her favourite subject. She theorized that the earth influences the numbers and areas of sunspots and that sunspot frequency decreases from the eastern to the western edge of the sun’s disk as viewed from the earth. She postulated that changes in the sun trigger climactic changes on the earth. Maunder was also interested in the history of astronomy, particularly in early records of the constellations, and published numerous papers” (Ogilvie). This volume includes seven chapters on the sun, including chapters on its surface and sunspots, what the spectroscopic analysis of its light reveals, and its relationship with the Earth and Moon.

  • ...With Eight Coloured Plates and Thirty-Eight Astronomical Photographs and Fifty-One Other Illustrations. London: Robert Culley, [1908].

    Octavo. Original green cloth blocked in gilt, silver and black with the image of the night sky over the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, bevelled edges, floral patterned endpapers, top edge gilt. Colour frontispiece and 7 colour plates with tissue guards, 32 double-sided plates, 8-page publisher’s ads at rear. Streaks, possibly from a grey crayon, affecting plate 64, 65 and 71. Cloth a little rubbed and marked, some greenish damp spots to the upper board, spine rolled, spotting to edges of text block and occasionally to the contents, light offsetting to the title and some leaves adjacent to colour plates. Very good condition.