Ernest Amedee Barthelemy Mouchez

by catcher Monday, July 23, 2012 10:31 AM

'The Visionary Man'

Born: 24th August 1821, Madrid, Spain
Died: 29th June 1892, Wissous, Seine et Oise, France

Rear Admiral Ernest Amedee Barthélémy Mouchez was a man of vision who recognized the role of photography as an important tool to chart the heavens. To this end he instigated the ill fated and over ambitious Carte du Ciel project. His faith in the Carte du Ciel was ultimately rewarded when data from the project was successfully used in conjunction with that obtained from the HIPPARCOS Astrometric Satellite.

“Gentlemen: In the name of the Paris Observatory I also welcome the eminent men of science who have graciously accepted our invitation to this international congress, where will be decided the execution of a work of the first importance for the future of astronomy.

I tender my profound thanks for the cordial readiness with which you consented to come at our call, which proves the great interest you all feel in this new branch of science, astronomical photography, which, by your recent labours, has made such admirable and rapid progress.

It has now become a wonderful and potent auxiliary, the great value of which one could not overestimate. By its aid—since a document can be secured in an hour’s time for which a year’s work would have been required by the old methods— the slow and laborious processes of astronomical observations will be changed. There will, perhaps, be some weak resistance, some obscure regret, as is inevitably produced by every great progress, but which will soon vanish before the brilliant light of success, as a half-century ago the old stage-coaches disappeared before the triumph of the locomotive.

It is, therefore, a great honour for our old national observatory, in the course of the progresses it also has realized, to receive the first assembly, where this (for astronomical science) new era is about to be inaugurated.

It will be a glorious and never-to-be-forgotten date in its history, as will be likewise memorable the grand work which we wish to leave as a legacy to future generations—a work which we might define as an inventory, as exact and as complete as possible, of the visible universe at the close of the nineteenth century.


Le Contre-Amiral, Directeur de l’Observatoire”

The above words were spoken by Ernest Amedee Barthélémy Mouchez (1821–1892) at the opening of the ‘Congres Astrophotographique’ held in Paris from the 16th to the 25th of April 1887.

His vision of a Carte du Ciel (literally - Map of the Sky) never came true in his lifetime. History has written a different ending to that predicted by Ernest Mouchez – one of problems, delays, acrimony, over ambition, failure and ultimate redemption.

Whatever is written of Ernest Mouchez concerning the Carte du Ciel, nobody can deny that he was a Visionary; who tried to do something that at the time was impossible from the outset, but which today is taken for granted – a Complete Photographic Chart of the Heavens.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Ernest Amedee Barthelemy Mouchez or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.


Dome of the Paris Observatory's 'Carte du Ciel' Astrograph Today: Photograph courtesy of the Paris Observatory Museum

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

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Stefan Hughes began his career as a professional astronomer, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Astronomy from the University of Leicester in 1974 and his PhD four years later on the 'Resonance Orbits of Artificial Satellites due to Lunisolar Perturbations', which was published as a series of papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. After graduating he became a Research fellow in Astronomy, followed by a spell as a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Queen Mary College, London. Then came a ten year long career as an IT Consultant. In 'mid life' he spent several years retraining as a Genealogist, Record Agent and Architectural Historian, which he practiced for a number of years before moving to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where for the past ten years he has been imaging the heavens, as well as researching and writing the 'Catchers of the Light' - A History of Astrophotography.