[Book] Between Rhetoric and Reality – Instrumental Practices at the Astronomical Observatory of the Amsterdam Society ‘Felix Meritis’, 1786-1889

Felix Meritis, the remarkable ‘Temple of Enlightenment’, adorns the Amsterdam canals since 1788. The building accommodated the most ambitious attempt in the Netherlands for the integration of activi- ties regarding literature, music, the visual arts, commerce, and the sciences. What so far went unnoticed is that, from the very start, Felix Meritis was also equipped with an astronomical and meteorological observatory. In fact, it was the first scientific observatory in the Netherlands designed from the drawing board.

In a new book by Huib Zuidervaart and Rob van Gent, the history of the observatory (which functioned until 1889) is described in detail, with a special focus on the tensions between the objectives formulated by its founding fathers and the ultimately difficult practice of scientific research. The Felix Meritis Observatory was crucial for the training and early careers of various eighteenth- and nineteenth-century astronomers, among whom were Nieuwland, Van Beeck Calkoen, Moll, Keijser, Uylenbroek, and Kaiser (the father of modern Dutch astronomy).

More information at the Felix Meritis Web site.