25 March 2022 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100

Cliff Cunningham (University of Southern Queensland)

“Recent Research in the History of Astronomy: From Babylon to Herschel” 

This presentation includes four of my recent studies in aspects of historical astronomy, ranging from ancient times to the 19th century. The first two revolve around William Herschel, the primary subject of my PhD thesis. They deal with words, both in poetry and in the sense of the newly-coined term ‘asteroid.’ The third explores the nature of ‘dark stars’ and how the stellar magnitude system arose. My fourth study, not yet published, explores a critical time in history that has never before been explored, one that is central to our understanding of the cosmos.


Clifford J. Cunningham earned his Ph.D. in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, where he is now a Research Fellow in the Astrophysics Group.

His undergraduate degrees in physics and classical studies were earned at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He has published 15 volumes on the history of astronomy: Introduction to Asteroids (in 1988), a 5-volume series on nineteenth century asteroid research, 7 volumes to date in the Collected Correspondence of Baron Franz von Zach, and (as editor) The Scientific Legacy of William Herschel. His most recent book, published in 2021, is Asteroids by Reaktion Press. He is currently editing three books: a volume in Bloomsbury’s Cultural History of the Universe; a book on the three comets of 1618 for Springer; and a book on the Solar System for Reaktion Books.

He was appointed by Springer as Series Editor of their Historical & Cultural astronomy books in 2019, and is associate editor of the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage (JAHH), a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica, and since 2001 has been the history of astronomy columnist for Mercury magazine. His scientific research ranging from ancient astronomy to Milton’s Paradise Lost has been published in many leading journals, including Journal for the History of Astronomy, Renaissance & Reformation, JAHH, and Annals of Science. Asteroid (4276) was named Clifford in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In 2020 he was elected to membership in the International Astronomical Union. He also appeared on the “Star Trek” television show Deep Space Nine as a human Starfleet officer, and has had tea with the Queen.