[An eclipse map from 1869. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection]
In 1715, Edmond Halley published a map predicting the time and path of a coming solar eclipse.
Today the astronomer is most famous for understanding the behavior of the comet now named for him, but in his lifetime he was a hotshot academic, elected to the Royal Society at age 22 and appointed the second Astronomer Royal in 1720.
“They will see that there is nothing in it more than Natural, and nomore than the necessary result of the Motions of the Sun and Moon.”
He was fascinated with the movements of celestial bodies, and he wanted to show the public that the coming event was not a portent of doom, but a natural wonder.
When the Moon’s shadow passed over England, Halley wrote, if people understood what was happening, “They will see that there is nothing in it more than Natural, and nomore than the necessary result of the Motions of the Sun and Moon.”
The map he created shows England with a broad, gray band across it, with a darker patch within that shows how the moon’s shadow would pass over the land. It was simple and clear—a piece of popular media as much as a scientific document. His work heralded what Geoff Armitage, a curator at the British Map Library, calls “the golden age of the eclipse map…”