Public Observation: 1761 Venus Transit

In an electronic mail message broadcast over the History of Astronomy Listserver Mail Group on 2011 June 20, 11:13 a.m., James Morrison reported accidentally finding a previously, unpublished observation of the 1761 Venus transit in Bermuda. This could be the first documented observation, by members of the general public, of a Transit of the Planet Venus across the image of the Sun.

In about 1920, Mrs. Laura (Cox) Bluck of Bermuda assembled a collection of her family lore over 200 years. She wrote, "My great-grandmother, Christiana Love, who had been born on the island of St. Eustatius on the 1st June 1739, married my great-grandfather, Captain John Dill (of Bermuda) at York House in Devonshire, the old Dill family mansion which had been in the family since the second generation of Dills on Bermuda. On the day of the wedding, which occurred on the 6th June 1761, there was a transit of Venus, and the minister brought with him a smoked piece of glass and explained to the guests in the yard that such an occurrence would not take place again for a good many years. ..."

Clearly, this was not a scientific observation, but it does illustrate how widely information about the transit had been distributed. It also contradicts an article in the New York Times on Dec. 7, 1882, about the 1882 transit: "This is the first time within the memory of man that unlearned common people have been permitted to observe a transit and it is their first revelation of the fact that a transit can be seen through smoked glass."

Return to Public Observing Session of Transit of Venus Across Image of Sun, Pittsburgh - 2004 June 8

Return to History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh

Public Observation: 1761 Venus Transit

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