Inter-Union Commission of History of Astronomy / Grants for Early Career Scholars / Meeting at Prague Congress 2021

Inter-Union Commission of History of Astronomy


The Inter-Union Commission of History of Astronomy (ICHA) is a joint commission of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IUHPST)/ Division of History of Science and Technology and the International Astronomical Union (IAU).  ICHA receives financial support from the IUHPST and makes its home base in that Union.  Its connection to the IAU is through Commission C3 (History of Astronomy).


ICHA will meet during the upcoming 26th International Congress of History of Science and Technology (26th ICHST), which will be held 25-31 July 2021 (now virtually) in Prague, Czech Republic.  Those interested in the history of astronomy and astrophysics are encouraged to check out the sessions organized by ICHA and the other Commissions.  (Some details are below.)   The Congress program and registration instructions will be found at  No formal membership is required to attend the Prague Congress or most of the subsidiary meetings, but registration is required.


Grants for Early Career Scholars


The ICHA is pleased to announce that it has secured modest funds to help defray meeting costs for early career scholars wishing to attend the Prague Congress or other meetings relevant to the history of astronomy.  Preference will be given to those presenting a paper or poster at the meeting.  If you wish to apply for a grant, please send an application email to Sara Schechner, Secretary of ICHA ( describing the meeting you wish to attend and your role in it.  The application process will be managed by the Organizing Committee of IAU Commission C3.  We will begin to review applications for 2021 on April 20 in order to enable applicants to take advantage of the early registration discount for the Prague Congress.


Symposium on “Art, Image, and Astronomical Knowledge”


ICHA and the Commission on the History of Ancient and Medieval Astronomy (CHAMA) are jointly sponsoring a symposium at the Prague Congress on the theme of “Art, Image, and Astronomical Knowledge.”  It will address the question whether stand-alone images found in art (paintings, drawings, woodcuts, etchings, rock art, etc.) can serve as reliable and quantifiable evidence for explicating past observations of natural phenomena such as sunspots, solar eclipses, aurorae, comets, constellations, and crucial aspects of the Earth’s past climate.  Speakers will compare knowledge acquired by images (paintings, rock art) with knowledge acquired by words (descriptions, reports), by empirical methods (experiment, measurement, observation) and by formulas (theory, computer models).  Examples will range from the ancient and medieval world up to modern times and represent many cultures and geographic places.  A preliminary list of papers follows.


ORGANIZERS—Sara J. Schechner (Harvard University) and Shi Yunli (University of Science and Technology of China)




I. Transients and Comets


* Richard G. Strom (ASTRON & University of Amsterdam), “What can Neolithic imagery convey about bright stellar transients?”

* Anna Jerratsch (Max Planck Institute for History of Science), “The Many Face(t)s of Comets in Early Modernity.”

* John Drummond and Wayne Orchiston (University of Southern Queensland), “Mount Taranaki, the Great Comet of 1882, and the Genesis of Cometary Photography in New Zealand.”


II. Constellations


* Katie Boyce-Jacino (Arizona State University), “Star Atlas: Ancient Astronomy in the Planetarium.”

* Christiaan Sterken (University of Brussels), “Some Thoughts on Stellar Constellations in Rock Art.”

* Susanne M. Hoffman (Independent scholar), “Reconstruction of Historical Constellations.”

* Stamatina Mastorakou (University of Zurich), “The Hellenistic constellations through Words and Images.”


III. Art in General


* David DeVorkin (Smithsonian Institution), “Well then, who dug ‘them’ canals on Mars?”

* Huichih Chuang (Jiangsu Normal University), “Re-discussion about the Two Celestial Images Unearthed in Nara, Japan.”

* Rosalind Park (Independent scholar), “Art and Astronomical Knowledge at Dendera in the 1st Century BCE.”


IV. Related to Horoscopes or Astrology


* Michelle McCoy (University of Pittsburgh), “Planetary Position, Pictorial Composition: Visual Knowledge and the Eastern Eurasian Horoscope.”

* Elizabeth Minor and Robert Minor (Wellesley College / UC Berkeley), “An Early Representation of a Star Pattern on an Ancient Egyptian Coffin of the First Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BCE).”

* Mathieu Ossendrijver (Free University of Berlin), “Iconography and the Cross-Cultural Transformation of Zodiacal Astral Science in Antiquity.”

* John Steele (Brown University), “Images in Babylonian Astronomical and Astrological Texts.”


V. Culture at Large


* Sonje Brentjes (Max Planck Institute for History of Science), “Knowledge, Art and Politics in Copies of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi’s Book of the Star Constellations.”

* Yunli Shi (University of Science and Technology of China), “Charting the Chinese Sky with Western Observations: The Star Maps Made by Jesuit Astronomers in the Late Ming Dynasty Revisited.”

* B. S. Shylaja (Jawaharlal Nehru Planetraium, Bengaluru, India), “Search for Astronomical Records in Unconventional Sources.”

* Irina Vavilova (Main Astronomical Observatory of the NAS of Ukraine), “Archaeoastronomical Culture of the Ancestors Dated to the Paleolithic Times at the Territory of Modern Ukraine.”