Astronomy on the Frontier

  • Article (blog post)
  • 1200 words
  • Level: all audiences

Christopher Graney writes on The Catholic Astronomer blog about the first bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, Simon Guillaume Gabriel Bruté de Rémur (1779-1839), and his library. The library contained a significant collection of works on science, which Bishop Bruté hauled all the way to the American frontier from France.  Graney writes:

It turns out Bruté had been a top-notch student of science—one of the best students in his class at the medical school in Paris. So of course his library would include quite a bit of material on a variety of sciences, including astronomy. Still, Indiana was being settled at the time, and was pretty rough country: the land of Abraham Lincoln’s youth…; a land that had only become a state twenty years earlier; a land from which the Potowatami Indians were being forcibly evicted while Bruté was bishop, passing only a hundred miles to the north on a “Trail of Death.” Was it really worth the trouble and cost to haul crates of science books to this country, all for a church library? especially for a guy who apparently owned so little other stuff of worth that a decent set of clothes had to be borrowed for his burial! Obviously, in the opinion of the first bishop of Vincennes, it was indeed worth it (and worth it to have some up-to-date astronomy books, too)…. It is worth knowing that Bishop Simon Guillaume Gabriel Bruté de Rémur cared about having science books, including astronomy books, in the rough-and-tumble country of 1830’s Indiana.  In the U.S.A., at least, we tend to value a little more those things our forebears valued.

Click here to read the full article on The Catholic Astronomer – the blog of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.