Reaching for the Stars: Studies in the History of Swedish Stellar and Nebular Astronomy, 1860–1940

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This study considers astrophysics, stellar and nebular astronomy in Sweden. Emphasis is on the role of scientific technologies and practice, and the emergence of a modern observational astronomy, supplanting classical astronomy as the most vital field of Swedish astronomy.

The introduction of photography and spectroscopy is discussed, mainly focused on Nils Dunér. The mechanical nature of the photographic observations was seen as something that entailed objectivity. Photography changed the way astronomers worked; the observations were industrialised. The stellar statistics of C.V.L. Charlier led to models of the distribution of stars in space; Charlier’s statistical astronomy was also connected with an increased interest for statistical methods in other parts of early twentieth-century Swedish culture. Knut Lundmark’s work was mainly on the distances to nebulæ. Lundmark also tried to catalogue the increased numbers of nebulæ observed in a general catalogue. A group centred on Bertil Lindblad worked on developing spectroscopical criteria for determining stellar distances. Lindblad and his group constructed a new observatory at Saltsjöbaden that was geared towards their research interests. Four professorial appointments are studied, where arguments about the relative merits of the fields of astronomy surfaced. The changing patterns of international contacts are also discussed, as are a number of astronomy-related scientists in other fields, publications on the history of astronomy and popular science.


  • Gustav Holmberg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • History of Ideas


  • stellar astronomy, history of astronomy, astrophysics, history of modern Swedish science, scientific practice, Astronomy, Astronomi
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Gunnar Broberg, Supervisor
  • Widmalm, Sven, Assistant supervisor, External person
Award date1999 Dec 17
Place of PublicationLund
  • History of Science and Ideas
Print ISBNs91-628-3837-7
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1999-12-17 Time: 10:15 Place: Room 201, department of Cultural Sciences, Biskopsgatan 7, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Hufbauer, Karl Title: Prof. Affiliation: Seattle ---

Total downloads

No data available