The Role of Eclipses and European Observers in the Development of ‘Modern Astronomy’ in Thailand

Orchiston, Wayne and Orchiston, Darunee Lingling and George, Martin and Soonthornthum, Boonrucksar and Gislen, Lars and Debarbat, Suzanne and Husson, Matthieu (2019) The Role of Eclipses and European Observers in the Development of ‘Modern Astronomy’ in Thailand. In: 9th International Conference on Oriental Astronomy (ICOA-9 2016), 15 Nov - 18 Nov 2016, Pune, India.


Abstract

‘Modern astronomy’ was introduced to Siam (present-day Thailand) (Siam officially changed its name to Thailand in 1939) when the Belgian Jesuit missionary-astronomer Father Antoine Thomas carried out stellar and lunar eclipse observations during 1681 and 1682 in order to determine the latitude and longitude of Ayutthaya. Three years later a contingent of French Jesuit missionary astronomers observed a total lunar eclipse from Lop Buri, which marked the start of an intensive two-and-a-half year period of observational activity at Lop Buri under the sponsorship of King Narai. During this interval, a partial solar eclipse and two further lunar eclipses were observed from a number of different observing sites. Although a substantial astronomical observatory was constructed in Lop Buri and this was used by French Jesuit missionary-astronomers, ‘modern astronomy’ ended suddenly in 1688 when King Narai died and most Western missionary-astronomers were expelled from Siam. ‘Modern astronomy’ only re-emerged in Siam after a hiatus of almost 200 years when another royal supporter of astronomy, King Rama IV, invited French astronomers to observe the total solar eclipse of 18 August 1868 from Siam, and his son, King Rama V, hosted British astronomers during the 6 April 1875 total solar eclipse. Thailand’s romance with total solar eclipses continued during the 9 May 1929 solar eclipse when King Rama VII visited British and German astronomers based near Siam’s southern border, and this was the catalyst required for the birth of home-grown ‘modern astronomy’. Soon after, Siam’s first astronomy classes began at Chulalongkorn University, and in 1944 this university hosted Siam’s first professional astronomer when Rawee Bhavilai, a solar specialist, joined the Physics Department. The latest phase in the professionalisation of astronomy occurred in 2009 when the Government approval the formation of the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT). In this paper we trace the critical roles that solar and lunar eclipses played in the emergence and final adoption of ‘modern astronomy’ in Thailand from 1682 through to the present day.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences - Centre for Astrophysics (1 Aug 2018 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences - Centre for Astrophysics (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 00:11
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2022 02:43
Uncontrolled Keywords: Siam, Thailand, Europe, Astronomy, Modern Astronomy, Solar Eclipses, Lunar Eclipses
Fields of Research (2008): 02 Physical Sciences > 0201 Astronomical and Space Sciences > 020199 Astronomical and Space Sciences not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 51 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 5101 Astronomical sciences > 510199 Astronomical sciences not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-3645-4_14
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/48973

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