Date: 03 Sep 2014
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Barnard, Edward Emerson

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BornNashville, Tennessee, USA, 16 December 1857

DiedWilliams Bay, Wisconsin, USA, 7 February 1923

As both a visual and a photographic observer who made a multitude of discoveries, of which that of extended interstellar absorption regions, or dark nebulae, was perhaps the most important, Edward Barnard became one of the greatest astronomers of his time, but his beginnings were extremely humble. He was born into impoverished circumstances just before the American Civil War. After his father, Reuben Barnard, died 3 months before Edward was born, his mother, Elizabeth Jane (neé Haywood) Barnard, who was already 42, raised him and his elder brother Charles (who seems to have been feebleminded) by herself. Elizabeth’s broad literary interests are attested by the unusual middle name she chose for her second son, that of American writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. She taught Edward to read, mainly from the Bible; otherwise Barnard had only 2 months of formal schooling.

At the tender age ...