Annals of Science 71 (1):1-34 (2014)

The discovery of dark lines in the spectrum of the sun as well as in some fixed stars since 1802 by William Hyde Wollaston, Joseph Fraunhofer and Johann Lamont is a relatively isolated phenomenon in the history of astronomy of the first half of the 19th century. Wollaston's representation of the sun's spectrum of 1802 can be seen as a simplification and reduction of the phenomenon by way of a seemingly clear connection with contemporary knowledge. Fraunhofer's famous colour etching of the dark lines, of about 1817, can be regarded as a meticulous and painstaking representation of the known facts, taken to a high aesthetic level.Lamont's spectra of the fixed stars from 1836 are the first sketches of all of these phenomena. He emphasized the ‘oddness’, that is, the chaotic variety of identifiable lines. What was common to all of these representations was the general belief that something new and unimaginable could now be established as a scientific subject. The observations of these lines were coincidental with the thinking in other fields, as for example, in Alexander Humboldt's understanding of nature, in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's theory of light and his interest in pictorial representations of nature, and in the new concept of landscape of the romantic painters
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DOI 10.1080/00033790.2012.739709
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