We found this story of astronomers photographing the sun from Araba in the middle of the 19th century by accident in Google Arts & Culture, an almost infinite source of information and knowledge.

It all began when we were looking for more information about a reference to pirate Michel le Basque, which we’d found a few years ago in a similar graphic reference on the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website.

But what we found was a print in which a group of scientists, led by Warren de la Rue, can be seen preparing the technical equipment necessary to photograph a total solar eclipse from the Araban town of Rivabellosa.

Google arts & culture . Warren de la Rue fotografiando en 1860 un eclipse total de sol en Rivabellosa Rights: © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, Science Museum Group Collection, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0
Google arts & culture . Warren de la Rue photographing an 1860 total solar eclipse in Rivabellosa Rights: © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, Science Museum Group Collection, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

We started digging a bit deeper into this story about the time spent in Araba by this British chemist, paper manufacturer, and astronomer, famous thanks to his pioneering work in astronomical photography.  We found two extremely interesting documents that help us understand what he did and what his work from Araba meant.

Fotografía del Eclipse Total de sol de 1860 realizada por Warren de la Rue desde Rivabellosa
Fotografía del Eclipse Total de sol de 1860 realizada por Warren de la Rue desde Rivabellosa

The first is an article by Alejando Polanco Masa on his blog, Tecnología Obsoleta. In it, he tells how Ricardo Becerro de Bengoa claims that two extraordinary things happened in that small town.  The first was the meeting of the Parliament of Araba on October 11, 1463, when the famous Ordinance Book was discussed and approved.  The second was the visit of arren de la Rue in order to carry out his observation of the total solar eclipse in order to study the protuberance or flashes that appear around the sun during eclipses, and to determine if they were an optical illusion, or if they belonged to the Sun or the Moon.

Alejando Polanco Masa also tells us how one of the observers of that date with science, which had attracted scientists from all over the world, was an 8-year-old boy who had been an accident, born in Petilla de Aragón in Navarre to Aragonese parents: Santiago Ramón y Cajal.  Years later, he would tell this story.

The other document we came across is the astronomer’s publication, containing all the details of his observation and his conclusions regarding the same.

We’ll leave you with those two references.

Tecnología Obsoleta – 12/3/2008 – Spain

Warren de la Rue, Cajal y el eclipse de 1860

Comentaba Ricardo Becerro de Bengoa, en su obra El Libro de Álava, de 1877, la siguiente cuestión sobre Rivabellosa o, como él refiere, Ribabellosa, pueblecito alavés cercano a Miranda de Ebro:

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

On-the-total-solar-eclipse-of-July-18th-1860-observed-at-Rivabellosa-Internet-Archive-

Internet Archive