Friends of the RAS (only) lecture - Astronomy in an Age of Revolutions: The Foundation and Founders of the Royal Astronomical Society

Various editions (hardback, with gilt inlaid type, and paperback) of the History of the Royal Astronomical Society arranged vertically on a shelf.
Various editions of the History of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Royal Astronomical Society
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***This lecture will take place online, Friends of the RAS will be sent a link to register via Eventbrite***

Two hundred and one years ago on a cold winter’s night in January, fourteen men sat down to dinner at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London. They agreed to form the Astronomical Society of London – which would become the Royal Astronomical Society in 1831.  What sort of men were they? What were they hoping to achieve?  This almost-bicentennial talk will look at these colourful characters – some famous, some less well known, with a brief look at who subsequently became the first two-hundred members. We will look at the historical context, in particular what was known about the Universe at that time and how those views would change…

Mike Edmunds studied Natural Sciences (Physics) at Oxford then took his PhD at the Institute of Astronomy in stellar spectroscopy, investigating the chemical compositions of stars. On moving to Cardiff University, he extended this research to the investigation of the chemical composition of galaxies by the analysis of the spectra of nebulae. Much of this work was done in collaboration, and also involved the theoretical modelling of the chemical evolution of galaxies and the Universe. Other research interests included the formation of interstellar dust, particularly in early galaxies, and also some aspects of statistical astronomy. From 1999 he was the academic lead on a programme of research developed on the Antikythera Mechanism, a geared astronomical calculator dating from the first or second century B.C. Mike gave a talk to the Friends about this in October 2018. Mike stayed at Cardiff University throughout his career, serving a term as Head of Department, and is now Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics. Mike also worked for two of the UK’s Research Councils, serving on many committees and advisory panels. He has used large telescopes in Australia, the Canary Islands and Chile. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, and will become President of the Royal Astronomical Society for two years from 2022. He may occasionally be seen performing his one-man play “Sir Isaac Remembers…” about Isaac Newton.  


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