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    Re: Cotter - copy located
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2004 Sep 11, 23:30 +0100

    Courtney Thomas  wrote-
    >I've recently been given "Spherical and Practical Astronomy" by
    >Chauvenet [2 vols], which I've not yet read in.
    >What are your thoughts on it ?
    Courtney is a fortunate fellow to have a friend perceptive enough to make
    such a gift.
    For those unfamiliar with his work, William Chauvenet though having a
    French surname, was an American astronomer, writing in English. He was
    professor of mathematics and astronomy at Washington University, Saint
    Louis. His great work, in 2 vols, was dated 1863; I have the 5th edition.
    Each volume has 600-odd pages, with many engraved illustrations.
    It's not for those who are squeamish abouth maths, however. Everything is
    rigorous, and taken to a level of accuracy that's superfluous for
    navigators, because Chauvenet is considering instruments and measurements
    for astronomical and surveying, as well as navigational purposes. And
    astronomy was the most precise of the sciences; still is.
    He offers twenty-odd pages about sextants, which cover sources of possible
    error I hadn't even conceived of, and an account of "circle" instruments,
    in detail that I haven't seen elswhere. There are many pages about working
    lunars; early use of the electric telegraph; everything you could ask for,
    indeed. Much of volume 2 is concerned with astronomical instruments which
    may only be of passing interest to navigators. He uses a simple way of
    handling negative numbers using logs, that I haven't seen elsewhere. I
    haven't detected any errors in the text (which does not imply there aren't
    Chauvenet's work was, I suggest, the first major step along the path which
    early on brought the US to pre-eminence in the science of astronomy.
    But Chauvenet is definitely not the sort of work you would wish to curl up
    with beside the fire for an evening's read. It's there to consult, to dip
    into when you have a topic to understand. You will find that it's clearly
    written and unambiguous, but not easy going. If you find a copy you can
    afford, buy it.
    I think it has been republished by Dover, but don't have any details.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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