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The Shadow of EnlightenmentOptical and Political Transparency in France 1789-1848$
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Theresa Levitt

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199544707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544707.001.0001

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Astronomy: The Light of the Heavens

Astronomy: The Light of the Heavens

(p.71) 3 Astronomy: The Light of the Heavens
The Shadow of Enlightenment

Theresa Levitt

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces Arago and Biot's fundamental differences in transparency vs. opacity through their work in astronomy. When Arago was director of the Paris Observatory he spent a great deal of effort debunking what he called superstitious myths of celestial influence. Using his optical instruments, he studied the radiations of comets, the moon and other heavenly bodies, ultimately claiming they could have no appreciable effect on Earth. Biot, on the other hand, working with Champollion, immersed himself in the study of ancient Chinese and Egyptian astronomy. He was particularly engrossed with the zodiacs of both cultures, which he represented as a moment of profound original knowledge hinting at a relation between heavens and earth.

Keywords:   Paris Observatory, celestial influence, zodiac, Champollion, Egyptian astronomy, Chinese astronomy

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