Passage de Vénus, Mission de Santa Cruz (Patagonie), Photograph Album

Mss.B.F63

Date: 1882 | Size: 0.25 Linear feet

Abstract

The French Académie des Sciences organized a total of ten expeditions to observe the transit of Venus in 1882, including parties that set up in Haiti, Martinique, Mexico, Florida, Chile, and Cape Horn. The expedition to Santa Cruz on the Patagonian (Argentine) coast was led by the naval officer Georges-Ernest Fleuriais (1840-1895), director of the Cartography Department of the French Navy. Aboard the ship Volage, Fleuriais sailed to Argentina and made observations of the transit just before Venus passed its ascending node on December 6, 1882.

The 31 albumen photographs bound into the album titled "Passage de Venus 1882 -- Mission de Santa Cruz (Patagonie)" document a French astronomical expedition of that year to the Argentine coast. Rather than photographs of the transit itself, the album contains images of the members of the expedition, the crew of the Volage, and the base camp. Only a few images contain captions (written in pencil on the mount).

Background note

Transits of Venus are uncommon events, occurring only four times every 243 years, however in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these rare events were of considerable practical importance to astronomers. Precise measurements of the timing and position of the planet as it passed across the disk of the sun offered the best means available to resolve one of the classic problems in observational astronomy: the determination of the distance from the earth to the sun,

The transit in 1769 was a formative event in the history of the American Philosophical Society, which helped to organize observations in North America and to coordinate the analysis and distribution of the data. Securing funding for equipment from the provincial government on the pretext that their observations would aid in improving navigation, the APS sponsored groups of observers at Cape Henlopen, N.J., the State House Yard in Philadelphia, and most famously at David Rittenhouse's estate in Norriton, Pa., making the Transit of 1769 one of the first examples of a truly cooperative, American scientific enterprise. The precision of the measurements made by these teams turned out in the long run to have been less important than the vehicle for disseminating them. Meeting a long-cherished goal of Benjamin Franklin, the Society published the results of the Transit observations in the first volume of its Transactions in 1771, making it the first scientific journal published in North America and the surest sign to Europeans of institutional maturity in the colonies.

The next Transits of Venus, in 1874 and 1882, became the focus of a truly international effort to observe the transit from dozens of points in order to reduce observational error. The French Académie des Sciences organized a total of ten expeditions, including parties that set up in Haiti, Martinique, Mexico, Florida, Chile, and Cape Horn. The expedition to Santa Cruz on the Patagonian (Argentine) coast was led by the naval officer Georges-Ernest Fleuriais (1840-1895), director of the Cartography Department of the French Navy. Aboard the ship Volage, Fleuriais sailed to Argentina and made observations of the transit just before Venus passed its ascending node on December 6, 1882.

Although several sites were hampered by poor weather conditions, these expeditions generated valuable data that confirmed and refined the data gathered by the better known expeditions of 1874. In both years, photography was used as a key instrument for recording and measuring the transit, with the end result that the solar parallax was estimated at 8.847" plus or minus 0.012", corresponding to a distance of the Sun of 92,385,000 miles.

Scope and content

The 31 albumen photographs bound into the album titled "Passage de Venus 1882 -- Mission de Santa Cruz (Patagonie)" document a French astronomical expedition of that year to the Argentine coast. Rather than photographs of the transit itself, the album contains images of the members of the expedition, the crew of the Volage, and the base camp. Only a few images contain captions (written in pencil on the mount).

Collection Information

Physical description

31 photographs; 0.25 linear feet

31 photographs; 0.25 linear feet

Provenance

Acquired from William Reese, 2000 (accn. no. 2000-886ms).

Preferred citation

Cite as: Georges-Ernest Fleuriais, Passage de Vénus, Mission de Santa Cruz (Patagonie), Photograph Album, 1882, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Catalogued by rsc, 2004.

Bibliography

Woolf, Henry, The Transits of Venus: A Study of Eighteenth Century Science (Princeton, 1959).

Mouchez, E. "Observation du Passage de Vénus dans la République Argentine" Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des Sciences 95 (1882): 1182-1184.

Indexing Terms


Corporate Name(s)

  • Académie des Sciences (France)

Genre(s)

  • Photographs

Subject(s)

  • Astronomy -- France
  • Scientific expeditions -- France
  • Venus (Planet) -- Transit


Detailed Inventory

Contents
  
Panorama of the coastline
1882 December 
View of observation buildings at Santa Cruz(?) from above
1882 December 
View of observation buildings at Santa Cruz
1882 December 
"M. Le Pond"
1882 December 
Unidentified expedition member, seated
1882 December 
"M. Le Brun, naturaliste"
1882 December 
Le Pond, Le Brun, "Moise," and unidentified
1882 December 
Unidentified expedition member looking through transit, two other members seated
1882 December 
Unidentified expedition member looking through transit, two other members seated
1882 December 
Le Brun (?) seated at desk, specimen on wall behind
1882 December 
"Hust, 2e mtr. de limonerie(?)"
1882 December 
"Conan, q.m. armurier"
1882 December 
"Le Guilcher, q.m. charpentier"
1882 December 
Unidentified expedition member, seated, drumming
1882 December 
Expedition members drinking wine
1882 December 
Expedition members climbing ladder
1882 December 
Observation buildings
1882 December 
"Ct. Blanco, Capt. Mojano" and three other expedition members
1882 December 
"Sor. Williams"
1882 December 
Man on horseback, dog
1882 December 
View of ship
1882 December 
"Mr. Inhouff, Ct. de Volage, de Lartigue, Couteaud, Gradin, Bracou" (ship's crew)
1882 December 
Unidentified ship's officer
1882 December 
Unidentified member of crew
1882 December 
Unidentified expedition member, with rifle
1882 December 
Unidentified expedition member
1882 December 
"Etat major et equipage du Volage"
1882 December 
Geological strata
1882 December 
Rock outcropping
1882 December