November 02, 2012
Boyhood Hobby Grows into Amazing Astronomy Gift
Over the course of about 50 years, USC alumnus Robert B. Ariail, '55, put together a major collection of books and documents about astronomy. He has given these treasures to the USC Libraries.
The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy got its start when Ariail’s third-grade teacher introduced the class to the topic of astronomy. "If you just look at one telescope or one star atlas, you’ll know the fascination they have for me,” said Ariail, a Sumter native. “They are so beautiful, and they open up the world."
"And when you think about the people who have used these things throughout time, and you think about their skill, their talent, their intellect. . .it’s just amazing," he continued. "I want to preserve the collection so it can be used by amateurs, scholars, writers, whoever is interested in the topic.”
Amazing Collection Housed at Hollings Library
The collection is astounding: more than 5,000 books, star atlases, manuscripts and other items are to be housed at USC’s Hollings Library, and 200 antique and modern telescopes and other astronomical instruments are to be housed at the South Carolina State Museum.
The collection is important for teaching and research, and the partnership between the University and the Museum will ensure the preservation of the items, some of which date back nearly 500 years. The oldest book in the collection is the earliest printed star atlas, compiled in 1540 by Alessandro Piccolomini, titled “De la sfera del mondo."
Other items include Johann Bayer’s “Uranometria” (1603), the first atlas to cover the entire celestial sphere; Sir Isaac Newton’s book “Opticks” (1718); and a copy of the largest 18th-century star atlas, John Flamsteed’s “Atlas Coelestis” (1753). Perhaps the rarest item is the Bevis Atlas, created by 18th-century British astronomer John Bevis.
Learn more, and see manuscripts from the collection, at http://library.sc.edu/ariail
–Kathy Henry Dowell, University Libraries