Historian Dr. Barbara Becker to be featured as Part of Faculty Grant Series


HIGH POINT, N.C., March 13, 2014 – High Point University will feature Dr. Barbara Becker, science historian, with an account of her book, “Unraveling Starlight: Margaret Huggins’ Contributions to the Rise of the New Astronomy.” The event, part of the ongoing Faculty Cultural Enrichment Series and co-sponsored by the Departments of Physics and History, will be held at 7 p.m. on March 18 in the Francis Auditorium of Phillips Hall. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

Becker, who authored the book about the late Margaret Huggins (1848-1915), a pioneer with her husband, William Huggins, will describe in her presentation the contributions the couple made in the development of astronomical spectroscopy. Her book, published in 2011, challenges traditional accounts of the origins of stellar and nebular spectroscopy and re-examines the life and career of the Huggins.

“New information uncovered in observatory notebooks and correspondence by the couple shows that Margaret was more than an able assistant, amanuensis and illustrator,” explains Dr. Aaron Titus, associate professor of physics who is coordinating the event. “Her very presence and expertise helped shape the research agenda of the Tulse Hill Observatory in London.”

Becker previously taught the history of science at the University of California at Irvine before her retirement. She has researched the role the amateur in the development of 19th century professional astronomy, the redefining disciplinary boundaries in the face of new knowledge and new practice, and the role of controversy in shaping the substance and structure of scientific knowledge.

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