James Hall Nasmyth (1808-1890), a Scottish inventor and engineer, is best known for his development of the steam hammer. After his success in engineering and industry, Nasmyth retired and spent his later life pursuing the hobby of amateur astronomy. He moved to Kent and built a 20 inch reflecting telescope, made detailed observations of the Moon, and eventually in 1874, he published a book titled The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite. This wonderful volume is illustrated with photographs (woodburytypes) and a copy is housed in the rare book collection in The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House. The book was published to demonstrate the origin of certain mountain ranges on the Moon through erosion and age. Nasmyth and co-author James Carpenter believed that Lunar mountains were the result of volcanic activity, a theory that was later disproved.
In 1885 it was not possible to make detailed photographs of the Moon so the fabulous illustrations in this book are actually plaster models that Nasmyth and Carpenter fabricated based on their observations of the satellite. For a few more Eastman House photographs of the Moon visit our online collections.
Jessica Johnston is an Assistant Curator in the Department of Photographs at George Eastman House. She manages numerous exhibitions and projects at the museum including our recent participation on the Flickr Commons.
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