Charles Olivier and the Rise of Meteor Science

Richard Taibi

“This fascinating portrait of an amateur astronomy movement tells the story of how Charles Olivier recruited a hardworking cadre of citizen scientists to rehabilitate the study of meteors. The story focuses on the movement that amateur astronomer Charles Olivier started. By 1936, Olivier and the other American Meteor Society members had successfully proved that a common misconception about meteor showers was incorrect. By making careful observations, they were able to win back the public’s faith in their ability to accurately predict periodic showers and rekindle the respect of professional astronomers in the United States for the field of meteor astronomy. Charles Olivier and his group of enthusiastic observers who spent their nights looking for meteors in the night sky made a significant contribution to the development of this field.

The author provides biographies of some of the scores of women and men of all ages who assisted Olivier in making shower observations, from the Leonids and Perseids and others. In addition to describing Olivier’s career and his struggles with competitive colleagues in a hostile scientific climate, the author also describes Olivier’s struggles in a hostile scientific climate. One-half of these amateurs who volunteered their time were between the ages of 13 and 25. Their work made it possible for Olivier and the AMS to disprove the false belief that stationary meteor showers last for an indefinitely long period. This brought the theory of their origin into alignment with the celestial mechanics. The study of meteors took a significant step forward in the twenty-first century thanks to Olivier and his coworkers, and professional astronomers now recognize it as a topic that deserves to be studied in its own right.”