Archive, including materials on transit of Venus 1882

Archive, including materials on transit of Venus 1882

Publisher Information: 1881-84.

Bassot, J. A. Léon (1841-1917). Archive consisting of 127 letters, telegrams, etc. to his wife and other family members, many in postmarked covers; also 38 photographs including large bound folding photograph of the participants in the “Dixième Conférence Générale de l’Association Géodésique Internationale” (Brussels 1892) and miscellaneous travel documents. 1860s – 1917; the letters cover the period 1881-1884. Some dust-soiling, one of the panels of the 1892 photograph detached, some of the photographs faded but on the whole very good.

Archive of French geodesist and astronomer General J. A. Léon Bassot, who received the Académie des Science’s prestigious Lalande Prize in 1883 for his observations of the transit of Venus that took place on December 6, 1882. Bassot, a geodesist with the French Army, was part of the Académie’s expedition to St. Augustine, Florida, led by François Perrier, for the purpose of observing this important astronomical event. Transits of Venus are rare, taking place twice every 120 years or so; the 1882 transit was the last to occur prior to the transits of 2004 and 2012. Observations of the 1882 event, made by astronomers throughout the world, were used to determine the solar parallax and calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

Included in Bassot’s archive are 27 letters and other pieces of correspondence written during the 1882 expedition, describing in detail the particulars of the journey to St. Augustine (via New York, Niagara Falls and Montreal) and the triumphant conclusion of the expedition’s mission. On December 6, just after the transit occurred, Bassot wrote to his wife that “The transit took place today & we observed it completely. . . Everything has gone wonderfully well and the observations will, I think, be very good. . . the sky was covered just half an hour after the last contact; we saw everything, but we almost missed the last part of the passage . . . Perrier is ecstatic.” In a longer letter dated December 9, Bassot went into further detail about the expedition’s luck in having clear weather during its observations: “3/4 of an hour after the last contact the sun clouded over; the next day and the day after the sky was completely covered and we are seeing the sun for the first time today. We are all the more fortunate in that the North American stations have not all been favored: in Washington, it was partly clear but at Cedar Quay, at the same latitude as St. Augustine on the Gulf of Mexico, American observers missed a contact; the two German missions, which were installed in the north of Florida, saw nothing at all. . .” (translations ours).

The remainder of the correspondence in Bassot’s archive covers his geodesic activities in Paris and Nice in 1881 and 1882, during which he helped recalculate several longitudes, as well as his campaign for regional political office in 1884. The archive also boasts a good-sized collection of photographs, including a cabinet portrait of Perrier dated 1876; several portraits of Bassot and his family; group photographs of several scientific conferences; and some images of the Mounier Observatory, an adjunct to the Nice Observatory, where Bassot served as director from 1904 until his death. Perrier, Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Léon Bassot (1935).

Book Id: 44550

Price: $8,500.00

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