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for astronomy with the unaided-eye

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  1. Search the OU Library online catalog, http://libraries.ou.edu/.
    • Do you know what you want?
      • If you know the author's last name and a title word for the item you are looking for, click the "Power Search" tab (upper right of the search screen).
    • Not sure what you're looking for?
      • To browse the library shelves, use the "Call No. Browse" tab (upper right of the search screen):
        • Set the library to Bizzell Library (not the Architecture Library, which sometimes shows up as the default). Then browse forward and backward from QB 64 (for general observational astronomy), or from any other call number location mentioned in these pages.
        • Repeat the same, with the library set to Physics-Astronomy instead of Bizzell.
        • Note: Even though "Location" is set to "Any" by default, many books in the History of Science Collections that are not shelved by call number will not be displayed in Call Number Browsing no matter what the settings.
      • Search by Library of Congress Subject headings. There is no single subject heading that corresponds precisely with "astronomy for the unaided eye," but try these for starters:
        • Astronomy--Observers' manuals
        • Astronomy--History
        • Astronomy, Ancient
      • Search by key words. "Astronomy" is far too broad, and returns too many possibilities. To qualify it by adding "naked-eye" does not help, either! The following key words seem to work fairly well: "skywatch," "observational astronomy," "early astronomy."
  2. Biographical encyclopedias
    • Charles Coulston Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York: Scribner, 1981), 18 vols.
      • Location: Bizzell Library reference collection (first floor, noncirculating), Q 141 .D5; and History of Science Collections (noncirculating). Note: It is more convenient to photocopy articles from the Library's reference collection than from the History of Science Collections.
      • The DSB is the biographical reference of first resort for the history of science. Articles are signed and, for the most part, expertly written. In addition to biographical information, each entry includes a brief list of primary sources and critical editions or translations, where available, as well as a brief bibliography of secondary studies. Use this encyclopedia as a starting point, for example, to learn about the lives and works of Eudoxus, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Al-Bitruji, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, or Kepler. Note: The last supplemental volume contains valuable essays on the development of astronomy in ancient and nonwestern cultures for which few individual names are known.
    • Marilyn B. Ogilvie, Joy Harvey, eds., Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science (New York: Routledge, 2000), 2 vols.
      • Location: Bizzell Library reference collection (first floor, noncirculating), Q 141 .B5285; and History of Science Collections (noncirculating). Note: It is more convenient to photocopy articles from the reference collection.
      • Ogilvie and Harvey fill many significant gaps in the coverage of the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, which neglected many women important for the development of ancient and observational astronomy from Hypatia of Alexandria to Caroline Herschel.
  3. Topical encyclopedias
    • Astronomy, general
      • Paul Murdin, Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics (Bristol, Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishers, 2001), 4 vols.
        • Location: OU Physics Library reference collection, QB 14 .E534.
      • Sybil P. Parker and Jay M. Pasachoff, eds., McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Astronomy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993), 1 vol.
        • Location: OU Physics Library reference collection, QB 14 .M3725.
        • This volume contains articles related to astronomy collected from the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 20 vols., which is now available in a more recent, 1997 edition: Bizzell Library reference collection (noncirculating), Q 121 .M3.
    • Astronomy, history of
      • Norriss S. Hetherington, Encyclopedia of Cosmology (New York: Garland, 1993).
        • Location: History of Science Collections reference collection (noncirculating), QB980.5 .E53.
          • Accessible, non-mathematical essays introducing astronomical phenomena and the early cosmologies which explained them. Look up entries by culture (e.g., Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Medieval) or by person (Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, et al.)
      • James Evans, The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy (Oxford University Press, 1998).
        • OU Physics Library, QB 16 .E93 (circulating); and History of Science Collections (noncirculating).
        • This introduction to astronomy and to the history of ancient astronomy is more comprehensive, detailed, and mathematically rich than the survey by Thurston listed with the Starting points. Historical and cultural background is provided, but the emphasis is on leading the reader to understand how ancient astronomy was practiced. Includes excerpts from primary sources, and instructions for making an astrolabe.
  4. Popular astronomy magazines (see Starting points)
  5. Professional journals relevant for the history of astronomy (all available in the History of Science Collections, noncirculating)
    • Archive for the History of the Exact Sciences
    • British Journal for the History of Science
    • Chinese Science
    • History of Science
    • Isis
    • Journal for the History of Arabic Science
    • Journal for the History of Astronomy
    • Studia Copernicana
  6. How do I search books and professional journals for materials relevant to my interests in the history of astronomy?
    • Use the History of Science, Technology and Medicine database, an international reference tool published by the History of Science Society and three other professional societies. Printed volumes of the History of Science Society's bibliography are available in the History of Science Collections going back to 1965, but the online version is more up-to-date and easier to use. The online version covers items published after 1975. Follow these steps:
      1. From the OU Libraries web page, click "LORA" (Library Online Resource Access).
      2. From the LORA web page, click "Browse by Alphabetical Listing: Databases."
      3. Click "H."
      4. Scroll down to "History of Science, Technology, and Medicine." You will be taken to the RLG's Eureka database.
      5. Select the type of search you wish to perform.
        • Simple search: by Keyword, Author, Journal title, or other option as shown in the examples at the top of the screen.
          • Search by keyword to obtain the broadest search, which covers authors, titles, and subjects or abstracts. Limit your search by adding multiple words, which must all be found (that is, an “and” is implied). For example, "Mesopotamian astronomy" would not find "Mesopotamian pottery," but it does find David Pingree, From Astral Omens to Astrology: From Babylon to Bikaner (Rome: Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente, 1977).
            • Note: At this time, subject word searches are highly inconsistent and not as useful as keyword searches, because the four contributing societies use a variety of single hierarchical compound terms; multiple hierarchical compound terms; or multiple non-hierarchical subject terms; none of these terms are standardized.
          • To search by author, enter a person's last name first. For example, enter "Neugebauer, O" to find items such as Otto Neugebauer, "The History of Wretched Subjects," in Culture and Cosmos: A Journal of the History of Astrology and Cultural Astronomy, 1997 (2): 3-4.
          • The Journal basic search deserves a moment’s mention. It locates all records from a particular journal, which may be useful if you’re trying to find an article that is known to be from, say, the Journal for the History of Astronomy, but you have no idea of the year. Enter the exact journal name, such as “Journal for the History of Astronomy”. Tip: to limit the range of years returned, use the "Advanced search" option.
        • Advanced searches are supported using combinations of terms, limiting factors (such as dates), or Boolean logic. For advanced searches and other features of the database, click the “Help” button for extensive online documentation and detailed examples!
      6. Enter search text.
        • It is helpful to truncate a search term: “?” substitutes for additional characters following search text.
        • Case is ignored.
        • Example: “astro?” would find: astronomy, Astronomy, astronomical, astrology, astrophysics, etc.
      7. Click the “Search” button.
      8. When you find items of interest, you can choose to print the citations or have them emailed to you. (Full text retrieval is not yet provided through this database.)
      9. Once you know the citation for the item you want, search the OU Library's online catalog to see if it is there. A few thousand works in the History of Science Collections are not yet included in the online catalog, so come upstairs to the fifth floor of Bizzell Library and inquire at the front desk to see if the item you need is there. If not, you can request a copy through inter-library loan.
  7. Ask for personal reference help from the attendants at the Bizzell Library reference desk, and at the front desk in the History of Science Collections!
  8. To search the Internet using Google or some other search engine, use the same key word suggestions given above for the online catalog (e.g., astronomy, skywatch, observational) in various combinations ("skywatch" works fairly well). Many sites will be returned, both the gems and the completely worthless. See the Starting points and Sources pages for some recommended Internet resources.

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Kerry Magruder

Created 16 July 2003; revised 21 July 2003