AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

As International as They Would Let Us Be

Volume 43 number 2 (2015)

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Virginia Trimble
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-4575; vtrimble@uci.edu


Astronomy has always crossed borders, continents, and oceans. AAVSO itself has roughly half its membership residing outside the USA. In this excessively long paper, I look briefly at ancient and medieval beginnings and more extensively at the 18th and 19th centuries, plunge into the tragedies associated with World War I, and then try to say something relatively cheerful about subsequent events. Most of the people mentioned here you will have heard of before (Eratosthenes, Copernicus, Kepler, Olbers, Lockyer, Eddington…), others, just as important, perhaps not (von Zach, Gould, Argelander, Freundlich…). Division into heroes and villains is neither necessary nor possible, though some of the stories are tragic. In the end, all one can really say about astronomers’ efforts to keep open channels of communication that others wanted to choke off is, “the best we can do is the best we can do.”