Learn’d Astronomers?

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I was reading a paper the other day on public perception of astronomers and it led me to this poem:

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and
measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

I’ve been in lots of talks like this and I’m sure if you asked any professional astronomer they’d say the same! I’m hoping that this blog will be the opposite and will manage to explain current, exciting, astronomy research in a non-boring way. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

By the way, the paper I mentioned above is an interesting read – it groups public perception into three groups, the revered, reviled and ridiculed astronomer, and proceeds to give examples of each. It concludes that the last view is the most common (especially on TV), but that all three have been present to varying degrees throughout history. I’m not sure I’ve ever been reviled, but then I don’t think I’ve ever been revered either. Which just leaves one option…


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