“Other Worlds” Exhibition Examines Evolution of Astronomy

Aug. 3, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, will present the exhibition "Other Worlds: Rare Astronomical Works," showcasing items from the center's science collection that survey some of the most important astronomical discoveries of the last 500 years.

Map of the Moon
G. D. Cassini's Carte de la Luna (Map of the Moon), 1679.

Coinciding with the International Year of Astronomy, "Other Worlds" displays how the historical role of astronomy has come to influence the way the modern world is perceived.

The exhibition, running Sept. 8-Jan. 3, 2010, spans history as it examines the evolution of astronomy. Drawing from a variety of sources, the exhibition features books, photographs and original illustrations.

"Harry Ransom, the founder of the Ransom Center, was very interested in collecting the history of science," said Rich Oram, exhibition curator and associate director at the Ransom Center." He left us with a legacy of seminal works that document the history of astronomy from its early modern roots to the first part of the 20th century."

With more than 40 rare editions of works by astronomers such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, "Other Worlds" includes works by the individuals whose ideas revolutionized astronomical thought. From Nicolaus Copernicus's "De Revolutionibus," the first text to promote a heliocentric view of the solar system, to atlases of stars and constellations, the exhibition illustrates how early hypotheses laid the foundation for modern theories of the universe and its origins.

The exhibition also features items from the Ransom Center's papers of the Herschel family, a 19th-century English family of influential astronomers, including William Herschel, discoverer of the planet Uranus, and his sister Caroline Herschel, one of the first female astronomers. Highlights from the Herschel collection include the family's catalog of thousands of stars in the universe, William Herschel's 1836 account of Halley's Comet and a handmade astronomical device for locating heavenly bodies.

"Other Worlds" also examines the range of astronomy's influence on the broader culture, reflected in depictions of the moon and other worlds in literature, photography and popular works. From Jules Verne's novel "From the Earth to the Moon" to the 1923 moon illustration guide "Hutchinson's Splendour of the Heavens," the exhibition spans genres in revealing the breadth of astronomy's impact.

2009 marks the first International Year of Astronomy, a global commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies and Kepler's publication of "Astronomia Nova."

"'Other Worlds' will help visitors to realize the impact of astronomy on their lives through the appreciation of how early discoveries helped pave the way to modern science," said Mary Kay Hemenway, an astronomer at The University of Texas at Austin.

High-resolution press images are available.

"Other Worlds: Rare Astronomical Works" can be seen at the Ransom Center on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours to 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 471 8949;  Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-232-3667.