As we celebrate the successful New Horizons “fly-by” mission, a look back on the work of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who first “discovered” Pluto back in 1930. Like most scientific breakthroughs, Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto was not a eureka moment, but the end product of a long and laborious research process. Using a “blink comparator” to flip between thousands of images taken with his telescope, Tombaugh had to pick out evidence of planetary motion among the masses of stars, asteroids, and space junk littering the photographs. Check out a simulation of Tombaugh’s research process here.
Erich Weidenhammer, curator of the University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection, used a 3D printer to recreate a 19th century psychological instrument designed to test color perception. An interesting reflection on what history can gain from the use of new technologies to study material culture, especially those instruments that do not survive in modern collections.