Stars, Mules, and Interferometers in Early Transnational Astronomy in 1960s Chile


  • Barbara K. Silva Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile


In the early 1960s, international astronomy was about to take off in Chile. This essay examines Jürgen Stock’s expedition, which led the first site testings to develop the United States’ plan of building an astronomical observatory in the Southern Hemisphere. By addressing the experience of technological settling in Latin America, specifically in a semidesert area in northern Chile, it is possible to observe the convergence of high technology, animals, scientists, and local actors. In this way, stars, mules, and interferometers represent a multifactor history of technology and its intersections with environmental history.

Author Biography

Barbara K. Silva, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile

Barbara Silva is a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities, Alberto Hurtado University, Chile. Her current research is about history of science and technology in contemporary Latin America, with a global perspective. Currently, the main topics of her research are history of astronomy, history of solar energy, and scientific knowledge production. She recently published the books Astronomy at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Chasing Southern Stars (Palgrave, 2019), Estrellas desde el San Cristóbal (Catalonia, 2019), Identidad Terremoteada (Ediciones UAH, 2018), and edited the volume The Sun at the Service of Mankind. History of Solar Energy in Chile (Ril, 2019).

The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Photograph by Dennis Crabtree, 2008. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.