History & Philosophy of Science

Clerke, Agnes M. | The Herschels and Modern Astronomy

  • First edition of this biographical work on the astronomers William, Caroline, and John Herschel by one of the “great popularisers of science of the Victorian period” (Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p. 270). Copies of The Herschels and Modern Astronomy are uncommon on the market, particularly in such a nice example of the publisher’s binding.

    Agnes Mary Clerke was taught at home by her scholarly parents, and “by the age of eleven she had mastered Herschel’s Outlines of Astronomy” (Ogilvie, p. 270). Settling in London in 1877, she pursued a career as a writer, producing a remarkable body of work. Clerke “possessed the rare ability to communicate clearly the complexities of scientific theory to a popular audience, while synthesising masses of astronomical information into a coherent whole for professional scientists, who had become so specialised that they could not see the larger connection between their work and other current discoveries in astronomy” (Ogilvie p. 270). Though she never held a position at a university or observatory, Clerke gained “partial admission” to the male-dominated word of astronomy. She had an extensive correspondence with other astronomers, was awarded the Actonian Prize by the Royal Institution, and in 1903 was elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.

  • New York: Macmillan & Co., 1895.

    Octavo. Original green cloth, titles to spine and upper board gilt. Portrait frontispiece and 2 plates. Tiny bump to the edge of the upper board, very lightly rubbed at the tips, and what may be a tiny spot of dampstain affecting the extreme corner of the lower panel, light spotting to the edges of the text blocks and occasionally the contents. Very good condition, the cloth fresh.