Eclecticism, Opportunism, and the Evolution
of a New Research Agenda:

William and Margaret Huggins and the
Origins of Astrophysics


Barbara J. Becker

A Dissertation submitted to The Johns Hopkins University
in conformity with the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Baltimore, Maryland

Copyright ©1993 by Barbara J. Becker
All rights reserved



Barbara Becker was born in Norfolk, Virginia on 3 October 1946.  She completed her undergraduate studies in physics at Goucher College in 1968, and was awarded a Master of Liberal Arts degree from The Johns Hopkins University in 1971.  In the nearly quarter-century since concluding her undergraduate work, Becker has taught physics, astronomy, and general science at all levels from preschool to college.

Becker began her graduate studies in Hopkins' History of Science Department in the fall of 1986.  She is currently a senior research associate at Southwest Regional Laboratory, in Los Alamitos, California, an institution which facilitates and studies the implementation of new instructional strategies based on current educational research with the aim of improving the educational opportunities of disadvantaged and language minority students in the southwestern United States.

Becker's publications include "Incorporating Primary Source Material in Secondary and College Science Curricula," Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science and Science Teaching, Volume I, Skip Hills, ed., (The Mathematics, Science, Technology and Teacher Education Group:  Kingston, Ontario, 1992):  69-76; and "Dispelling the Myth of the Able Assistant:  Margaret Huggins and the Work of the Tulse Hill Observatory," in Creative Couples in Science:  Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives, Pnina Abir-Am, Helena Pycior and Nancy Slack, eds., which will soon be published by Rutgers University Press.


William Huggins' Early Astronomical Career

  • Chapter 2—

Unlocking the "Unknown Mystery of the True Nature of the Heavenly Bodies"

The Astronomical Agenda:  1830-1870

"A sudden impulse..."

Reception of Spectrum Analysis Applied to the Stars

  • Chapter 3—

Moving in the Inner Circle

Cultivating Advantageous Alliances; Opportunism and Eclecticism

Opportunism and Eclecticism (continued)

Achieving "A mark of approval and confidence"

  • Chapter 4—

Margaret Huggins: The myth of the "Able Assistant"

The Solitary Observer

Celestial Photography

Diversity and Controversy: Defining the Boundaries of Acceptable Research

  • Chapter 6—

Solar Observations at Tulse Hill

The Red Flames

The Eclipse Expedition to Oran

Photographing the Corona Without an Eclipse

The Bakerian Lecture

  • Vita