Lecture / Reading

Mapping the Heavens: Celestial Cartography from Ancient to Modern Times

Sponsored by Stanford University Libraries, David Rumsey Map Center


Friday, December 4, 2020
2:45 pm – 4:15 pm
Add to my calendar


Online via Zoom

Contact via email

This event is open to:

Event Details:

In this online talk, Nick Kanas will explore the evolution of celestial cartography. People have observed the night sky since antiquity in an effort to predict celestial events and understand their place in the universe. Many cultures organized the stars into heavenly patterns that reflected issues important to them. In ancient Greece, the stars were placed in constellations that were viewed as allegorical representations of classical Greek heroes, heroines, and monsters. These images formed the backbone of the cosmological and constellation maps that appeared in stunningly beautiful star atlases of the 17th and 18th Centuries. But telescopic and scientific needs called for more accuracy in star placement, and gradually the heavenly bodies were positioned in increasingly accurate coordinate systems superimposed on the sky. Constellation images became redundant, and they have largely disappeared in today’s modern star atlases.

Nick Kanas, M.D., is a Professor Emeritus (Psychiatry) at the University of California, San Francisco, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He has conducted NASA-funded research, has been an amateur astronomer for over 60 years, and has collected antiquarian celestial maps, books, and prints for nearly 40 years. He has given a number of talks on celestial cartography to amateur and professional groups, and he has written two books on the subject: Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography, now in its 3rd edition, and Solar System Maps: From Antiquity to the Space Age.

Please register for this online talk using the RSVP form. On the day of the talk, Zoom will open at 2:45pm PST. The talk will begin at 3:00pm, followed by Q&A.

This talk is hosted by the David Rumsey Map Center.