Eclipses

Millions of people all across the country recently witnessed the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. But you may not know about the relationship between the eclipse and an eccentric Jesuit who used to teach at SLU.

Charles Marie Charroppin, S.J. (1840-1915) was born on the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and, in the words of one of his fellow Jesuits, he was a “quaint genius.” [http://cdm.slu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/histories/id/56 ] At various points in his life he was a missionary in Central America, the pastor of a church in St. Charles, MO, and a professor of math and chemistry at SLU. He also wrote books on subjects ranging from astronomy to ancient Greek to chess.

His most famous achievement was his pioneering work in combining two of his favorite subjects: astronomy and photography. In May 1900, Fr. Charroppin became one of the first people to capture a high-quality image of a total solar eclipse.

A recent exhibit in Pius Library considers another interesting way that Fr. Charroppin may have changed the world, probably without even knowing it. During his time as a faculty member at SLU in the 1890s, Charroppin used to offer free demonstrations of his telescopes on the quad. A young boy, originally from Marshfield, MO, lived in an apartment building nearby, and he used to love visiting SLU to look through the telescopes. For his 8th birthday, a relative gave the boy a book on astronomy and a telescope of his own. This set the boy, Edwin Hubble, on the path to becoming one of the most important astronomers in history.

[photos of Charroppin can be found here: http://cdm.slu.edu/cdm/search/collection/photos/searchterm/charroppin/order/nosort ]

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