MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections
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by Camille Flammarion
(New York, 1873)
The Atmosphere, by Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), is a translated and abridged English version of L'atmosphere (Paris, 1871), a typical example of popular science writing by France's premier late nineteenth-century popularizer. Flammarion's childhood fascination with astronomy led to a job at the Paris Observatory. His interest in problems relating to the atmosphere took him on numerous balloon flights between 1867 and 1880 to observe atmospheric phenomena at close range. His many books on the atmosphere, astronomy, and other scientific subjects were widely translated, becoming best sellers in many languages. In 1887 Flammarion founded the French Astronomical Society, which aimed to promote an interest in science among members of the general public.
The fanciful woodcut shown here depicts an imagined lunar landscape. The artist's intention is to contrast the geographical harshness and barren condition of the airless moon with the earth's softer contours and biosphere to illustrate the advantages of having an atmosphere.