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Exhibition of photographs from 1893 eclipse expedition to Brazil

In 1893 the RAS funded an expedition to northern Brazil, so astronomers could observe the Sun's corona during a total solar eclipse. Now a collection of photographs taken by Sir Benjamin Stone during the trip is being exhibited at the Embassy of Brazil in London.

For the first time, members of the public are able to see these images of late 19th-century Brazil. The free exhibition runs until 7 November 2014.

Visitors at the Benjamin Stone exhibitionVisitors admiring the Benjamin Stone exhibition at the Embassy of Brazil, London. Click to enlarge. Credit: Pete James / Library of BirminghamThe expedition to observe the solar eclipse of 16 April 1893 from Paracuru, Brazil, was organised and funded by the Joint Solar Eclipse Committee of the Royal Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Solar Physics Committee. Sir Benjamin Stone was a Birmingham industrialist and keen photographer who accompanied astronomers A. Taylor and William Shackleton to northern Brazil.

Their aim was to take photographs of the sun's corona, using a coronagraph, and photographs of the corona's spectrum using slit spectrographs. Although the eclipse occurred at the height of the rainy season, the clouds parted briefly and observers were able to take detailed photographs. Reports of the expedition were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (preliminary report, final report).

The major interest in this exhibition lies in Stone's record of the people and places he encountered during his voyage by sea and land. It includes numerous images of local landmarks, everyday life, and 19th-century travel.

The photographs are part of a collection of 22,000 prints and 17,000 glass negatives held by the Library of Birmingham. The exhibition is curated by Pete James (Library of Birmingham) and Rodrigo Orrantia (Lucid-ly).

The exhibition is open weekdays from 9am-5pm, at the Embassy of Brazil, 14-16 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5BL until 7 November. Entry is free.

More details from the Embassy of Brazil

BBC News article on the exhibition

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