Culture and Cosmos is a peer-reviewed academic journal in the history of astrology and cultural astronomy published in association with the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Vol 18 no 2 (Autumn/Winter 2014 will be published in July/August 2016. Vol. 19 (2015) will be a double issue featuring the proceedings of the 2013 Sophia Centre conference on Celestial Magic and is scheduled for publication in September/October 2016. Vol. 20 (2016) will be a double issue featuring the proceedings of the 2014 Sophia Centre conference on the Marriage of Heaven and Earth.

Volume 16

From Artilleryman to Head of State: How Astronomy Inspired François Arago

Paul Murdin


Francois Arago studied maths at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris in order to be an artillery officer. His adventurous experiences with astronomy during what we would call a gap year in 1806-08 during the Napoleonic Wars inspired him into a scientific career in which he became the scientific director of the Paris Observatory and the Secretary of the Academie des Sciences. He introduced Foucault’s pendulum, leading to crowds of Parisians gawping at the rotation of the Earth and arranged for the French nation to buy Daguerre’s invention. He was briefly Head of State in 1848, a level attained by few other astronomers. I will outline his adventures and career as an exemplar of the inspiration of astronomy.

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