Foreword to the Japanese Edition

   When I was first approached by the Herschel Society of Japan about a Japanese translation of my Victorian Amateur Astronomer, I felt very flattered and honoured. I am delighted that the project has now come to completion, and that my book is available to Japanese readers.

   At first I was intrigued that my book should have such an appeal to Japanese people – both astronomers and historians – for nineteenth-century England seems, in many ways, such a very different place from Japan.

   On further consideration, however, I came to realise that there were, in fact, quite a lot of parallels, especially between astronomers in Victorian Britain and their counterparts in modern Japan. And perhaps the most obvious of these is that love of technological ingenuity and invention which the Victorians had in abundance, and which the modern Japanese also share. For where the Victorian British pioneered the then modern technologies of steam engines, railways, electric telegraphy, mass-production manufacture, and optical instrumentation, so modern Japan has pioneered the twentieth- and twenty-first-century technologies of computing, electronics, motor-car engineering, and, again, optical instrumentation.

   Both Victorian Britain and modern Japan, moreover, were, and are, essentially commercial societies. Deeply capitalist in instinct and seeing free business markets as crucial to growth and prosperity, both have placed a high value upon business acumen. But where they differ, one might suggest, is in the nature of their business institutions; for while modern businesses worldwide are now practised within large corporate organisations controlled by boards of directors, those of Victorian Britain were invariably the products of individual ‘capitalists’. It could well be argued that the modern ‘corporate’ model of business is the natural historical outcome of the growth of business on the global level.

   One might further suggest that both Great Britain and Japan are also societies which respect tradition and have a high regard for good manners and courtesy: attributes which I personally hold very dear.

   Yet what the modern Japanese share in a very big way with the Victorian British is a love of amateur observational astronomy. For just as nineteenth-century British astronomers were willing to spend large sums of money on designing and building ever larger and more powerful telescopes, so modern Japan has one of the most advanced amateur astronomical communities in the world. And just as Victorian amateurs pioneered double and variable star astronomy, and studied the surfaces of the moon and the planets, so their counterparts in modern Japan are some of the most dedicated and successful variable star, solar, and cometary astronomers. And both groups of astronomers, 140 years apart, have been at the forefront of technological innovation. For while the Victorian British amateurs were the first to make serious use of silver-on-glass mirrors and photography in astronomy, twentieth-century Japanese telescope manufacturers have not only produced instruments of superlative quality for the international market, but Japanese observers have been innovative in their use of CCD and computer image processing techniques as ways of seeing forever deeper into space.

   So the more that I think about it, the more I can understand how modern Japanese astronomers and historians of astronomy feel an intellectual and a technological affinity for the world of Sir William, Sir John, and Miss Caroline Herschel. For these three astronomers, in their love of observational research and technological ingenuity, have done much to inspire not only the scientists of Victorian Britain, but also those of modern Japan.

   My very best and warmest regards to the Herschel Society of Japan and to the people of Japan. I hope that you will enjoy my book.

Allan Chapman  March 2006










2006年3月  アラン・チャップマン