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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: April 2014

Preface to the first edition, 1986


My main motivation for writing this book was an act of selfindulgence. As a hobby I enjoyed delving into the earlier literature of astronomical spectroscopy. As a practising observational astronomer, I found it especially refreshing to have a feel for the way the topic had developed, and to be able to glimpse at the lives of some of the early pioneers in stellar spectroscopy.

My hobby began in 1974 when I was at the Observatoire de Paris-Meudon on a fellowship. I frequently browsed in the excellent library there, and one day I began reading the collected papers of the eminent English astronomer Sir William Huggins, one of the founders of stellar spectroscopy. Huggins’ lucid and eloquent papers and his many remarkable achievements provided the inspiration from which my interest developed further, to form the basis for this book.

However, I had little time to pursue these interests very intensively until 1981, when an opportunity arose that allowed me to spend a year in Germany with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, while on sabbatical from the University of Canterbury. I went to the Landessternwarte (State Observatory) in Heidelberg and resolved to spend most of my time there researching and writing a book on the development of stellar spectroscopy.

This book is not primarily intended for the science historian, nor is it a popular book for the layman, although I hope that readers in both these categories may find material here which is useful or interesting.