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Studying the ASTRON/SRZM archive

Submitter: David Baneke
Description: Last month I spent a few days in a vault-like room near the JIVE computers. I leafed through thousands of documents, mostly the records of meetings that happened decades ago. Sound dull? Most of it was. But from these pages, I got a look at the development of ASTRON and its predecessor SRZM, which is in fact a very interesting story as well as a crucial part of my research project: a history of the Dutch astronomical community in the twentieth century.

J.C. Kapteyn, the great astronomer, once described his work as "grinding huge masses of fact into law". My work can best be described as "grinding huge masses of historical record into one coherent story", which admittedly sounds less catchy. Luckily, not all of the records that I need reside in windowless basements. In addition, I talk to active and retired astronomers and science administrators, besides which I also read more general books to get a better idea of the (national and international) scientific, political, cultural and economic sides of the world in which Dutch astronomers worked.

It was great to spend a few days in Dwingeloo, experiencing the atmosphere at ASTRON and in the guest house. Those are things that can't be learned from archives, but are nevertheless relevant for the story that I want to tell. If all goes well, a Dutch-language book will appear next year. An English-language book will follow.
Copyright: DB
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