JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
F.G. Hesse captured this dramatic image of total eclipse at Olmos Peru for Lt. J.M. Gillis' report of the event for the Smithsonian in 1858. Gilliss (1811-few months too short of the end of the Civil War in 1865) was a Georgetown boy who is buried in the beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery, and best known probably for being in charge of the Naval Observatory (previously the "National Observatory"). He took over that position from Matthew Fontaine Maury1 (as in "Maury Day" celebrations in Virginia and being the father of American Oceanography) a position he held until his death. The report in which the eclipse image appears is An Account of the Eclipse of the Sun, published in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge series in 1859.
- This report if available for purchase from the blog's bookstore, here.
1. Maury left the Observatory to become a high-ranking official and overseas representative with the Confederacy at the outbreak of the war. The writeup for Gilliss in Wikipedia includes the coy and Victorian statement about Maury joining the Confederacy to fight for separation from the United States, with Gilliss promoted to the Maury position "when Maury responded to serve his state, kin and friends..." with no mention of the Civil War. No dramatization there in Wikiland.