“You Take Our Stars”: Harvard Astronomers in Peru, 1889-1900

Files

McGrathYouTakeOurStars_Final.pdf

Citation

alexmcg1626, ““You Take Our Stars”: Harvard Astronomers in Peru, 1889-1900,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed November 14, 2019, https://beatleyweb.simmons.edu/scholar/items/show/354.

Title

“You Take Our Stars”: Harvard Astronomers in Peru, 1889-1900

Creator

McGrath, Alex

Date

2019

Description

The Arequipa Observatory (1891-1927), established by the Harvard College Observatory to photograph the southern sky, brought North Atlantic scientific ideals into contact with Peruvian worldviews of modernity. From the journals, correspondence, publications, and photographs of the Observatory’s first decade in operation, I argue that Harvard astronomers viewed the Andean world and skies through scientific and imperial epistemologies grounded in efficient production and useful product. Labor relations in remote astronomical work created a production hierarchy built along national, racial, and gendered lines, reinforcing the imbalance of power between educated northern men, women, Peruvians, and Andean Indians. This imbalance also appears in the knowledge production of the expedition, with the scientists bringing the Andean world into the archives of North American universities, consolidating information in a process of informal empire that would serve later imperial endeavors. Departing from histories of discovery and accomplishment, this study opens the astronomical work to social dimensions of labor, empire, and political economy that explore how worldly knowledge is produced and contested. Ultimately, I question Peru’s diminished position in discussions of astronomy and the global development of scientific modernity, demonstrating the processes of extraction that made its skies, and people, a resource for Northern scientific progress.

Subject

Harvard College Observatory
Science in Peru
Science and modernity
History of astronomy

Publisher

Simmons University (Boston, Mass.)

Format

1 PDF (96 Pages)

Language

English

Type

Masters Theses

Potential Collection

Dual History and Archives Management