Medicine by Moonlight

In The Huntington’s collections, there is a late 15th-century manuscript whose title in the Library catalog is “Astrological and Medical Compilation.” Many medieval manuscripts are “compiled” in the sense that they frequently collect heterogeneous materials—from different genres of writing, on different topics, and even in several different languages—within a single volume. … Continue reading

Radiant Beauty

E.L. Trouvelot made one big mistake in his life: releasing, by accident, gypsy moths he was studying into the woods near his home in Medford, Massachusetts in the 1860s. This error, which had dire consequences for North America’s hardwood trees, has obscured Trouvelot’s very real achievements in art and astronomy. … Continue reading

The Auction Catalogs of Martin Folkes

During my time at The Huntington as a short-term fellow, I was researching and writing a biography of Martin Folkes (1690–1754). A protégé of Sir Isaac Newton’s, Folkes was an English antiquary, mathematician, numismatist (coin expert), and astronomer whose unique distinction was his simultaneous presidency of both the Royal Society … Continue reading

Visualizing the Anatomy of the Eye

As a historian of science, I’m fascinated with pictures that help make sense of past scientific ideas and practices. The Huntington’s vast collection of rare 16th-century science books document how intellectuals of the day perceived the eye and the process of sight. Chief among these works is the groundbreaking anatomy … Continue reading

LISTEN>> Caring for a Collection

In a suite of audio posts, visiting journalist Corinne DeWitt heads into our three collecting areas—Library, Art, and Botanical—and meets up with staff to explore facets of the vast collections that are the core of The Huntington. This time around: Library. [espro-slider id=16601]   CORINNE DEWITT: Today we’re leafing through … Continue reading

Women Computing the Stars

A piece of women’s history lies deep in the underground stacks of the Huntington Library, among the papers of American astronomer Frederick Hanley Seares (1873–1964). Seares was the head of the computing division at the Pasadena office of the Mount Wilson Observatory from 1909 to 1940. His correspondence gives us a … Continue reading

Conserving a Classic Book on Sunspots

On my last day as the Dibner Conservator for the History of Science collection at The Huntington, I want to share one of the more interesting and complex conservation treatments I’ve completed here—rebinding George Ellery Hale’s copy of Rosa Ursina sive Sol. Christoph Scheiner, a German Jesuit renowned for his … Continue reading

Sir Isaac Newton, Alchemist?

Is it possible that the English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest theorists in the history of science, practiced alchemy? That a giant of the scientific revolution shared a dream common among charlatans of his age—to turn lead into gold? William R. Newman, professor of history … Continue reading