The sad story of Robert Burnham Jr. and his Celestial Handbook. (Reuploaded due to music copyright issue – sorry for repost)

I just can’t get this guys story out of my head. I feel like this should be a movie. It haunts me and I often catch myself thinking about him for no reason.

With thanks to Tony Ortega and Wikipedia.

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    18 replies to "The Man That Astronomy Destroyed – Robert Burnham Jr."

    • Astronomy For Change

      Good on you, Dylan for producing this video! This story needs to be told far and wide, not just for the Astro community but to anyone who will listen. What's remarkable, even his sister didn't know where he was or that he was gone! I'm going to write a short piece on Bob and was wondering if I could reference your video? Again, good on you for producing this video!


    • Steve Hanson

      Thank you for this presentation Dylan.

    • Les Houghton

      Superb video and poignant and fitting tribute to a largely unknown and forgotten man…even in this digital age…hold the books and read them and you'll feel him

    • KishaScape

      Another good point about the moons gravity not causing madness is people on the ISS don't go mad from being in further away from earths gravitational influence and closer to the moons nor do fighter pilots go insane from the G forces during aggressive maneuvers.

    • Daniel Dunlap

      Dylan, you've brought to life the memory of a dedicated astronomer, whose books I have used for nearly 40 years. Just the name… 'Burnham's Celestial Handbook' … inspired a young man to think that if I read those 3 volumes I would know the heavens. Ha, if only it worked that way. Thank you for a marvelous tribute to a remarkable man.

    • Bronco Oostermeyer

      Because of this video I have ordered all 3 volumes which I received today. This will keep me busy for a while and will make up for the too numerous cloudy nights. Thanks for sharing Burnhams story!

    • Wilton Smith

      Please tell me again exactly how Astronomy destroyed Mr. Burnham? Life is full of ups and downs for everyone.

    • T K

      Hey Dylan, thank you for creating this video. Since I was a child, I was fascinated by space and astronomy. But it was the amazing Clark refractor at the Lowell Observatory that brought about my addiction. It was around 1994 when I got to look through that 24" beast. We first saw Jupiter, and we could see the shadow of one of it's moons on the planet. My jaw hit the floor. I couldn't believe it. Then they targeted M13. That was it for me. It blew my mind, and I was addicted. Those were the days of visual astronomy. It's still a great way to introduce others to the passion. I hope that someday you get a chance to gaze through the Clark refractor. Of course it can't show you things that can be captured by imaging. But when you get to see 500,000 stars clustered together with your own eyes, there's nothing quite like it. I wish I had known the history about Robert Burnham Jr when I was there. This is a very special video for me. Again, thanks Dylan!

    • Fractalite

      I believe there was a very detailed article on his story I would like to track down. Perhaps it was printed in Astronomy magazine ( US). An important part of the story and implicated in his declining mental health and circumstances was the loss of significant royalties for the Handbook when Dover publishing did a deal with a book club where you could get all 3 volumes for $5 or something and then cancel membership. Many amateur astronomers did this and his income plummeted . In the end he was sleeping rough and live painting pictures of cats on the street to survive. He was very bitter about the books publisher right to the end. The handbook had a huge impact on me as an amatuer astronomer growing up in the 70s and 80s before the internet.

    • Chatty Walrus

      It seems to me like astronomy was the joy of his life. That was a shameful, despicable deed of the observatory's chiefs; another stain on humanity. Astronomy would certainly have benefited further from his work if he was allowed to continue it. The benefit for all mankind comes second to the jealousy of good work and the brilliant people who do such hard work. I thought I wouldn't cry while writing this down; I was wrong.

    • Scott Donschikowski

      Inspiring story Dylan! Great work!

    • Dan Kahraman

      Very well done Dylan…a fitting tribute for an unappreciated man.

    • Sick and Tired

      I know I’ve commented it before, but he was buried at Fort Rosecrans national cemetery. A military cemetery in San Diego. Unfortunately his name was spelled wrong on his gravesite, it was later fixed. There’s a beautiful picture a visitor took at his grave, they placed “stargazer lilies” there.

    • Jaime Echegaray

      Great stuff Dylan. Extraordinary story.

    • James Chase

      Thank you for doing this Dylan. Moving and inspirational… You really touched a soft-spot for me.

    • Roc Price

      Just got the 3 volumes from Amazon. Very difficult to put down..great stuff! Thanks for introducing me to him.

    • ASTRO indi

      Wow….I am shocked to hear about such a treatment of a genius mind.

    • Joseph C3

      Thanks for posting 👍.

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