Recovery in progress

ALERT: Links to pages, resources, PDFs and images mostly do not work. The Lynx Open Ed drupal website became corrupted and is now in a process of recovery. I am converting it to a WordPress site called “” — “” will redirect to “” for a while but eventually go away. Lynx Open Ed textual content is being restored first, then links, images, and PDFs will be re-established. I’m gathering additional materials together here as well (see About). Check back at the end of summer when the site will likely be operational.

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Johann Kepler, Harmonices mundi (Linz, 1619)

In this work, Kepler integrated theoretical astronomy and music, showing that the motions of the planets employ the same numerical ratios as the most harmonious musical scales. Kepler’s “harmonic law” still describes how planets and stars and satellites and galaxies revolve around one another in space.

Kepler’s integration of theoretical astronomy and music fulfilled an ancient dream. Plato wrote, “As our eyes are framed for astronomy, so our ears are framed for the movements of harmony, and these two sciences are sisters” (Republic, VII 530d). From antiquity, music was a sister science to astronomy, with both subordinated to mathematics.

The beauty of music provided the context for what we now call Kepler’s “third law.” The story of science reveals creative leaps across disciplinary boundaries; in this case, bringing together music and astronomy.

Kepler’s vision truly was cosmic, of a cosmic hope and consolation amidst earthly sorrow. In the midst of many trials during the writing of this book, Kepler affirmed that:

“The movements of the heavens are nothing except a certain ever-lasting polyphony (intelligible, not audible)…. Hence it should no longer seem strange that man, the image of his Creator, has finally discovered the art of singing polyphonically, which was unknown to the ancients. With this symphony of voices man can play through the eternity of time in less than an hour, and can taste in small measure the delight of God the Supreme Artist…” (Kepler, Harmonices mundi).

Consider three tributes to Kepler’s Harmony of the Universe:  Carl Sagan, Laurie Spiegel and Jonathan Annis.

  • Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York, 1980)

The Voyager space probes launched in 1977 to explore the outer solar system and travel through interstellar space. Carl Sagan led a NASA committee that prepared two Golden Records to represent humanity and planet Earth to any extraterrestrial intelligence that might someday discover them. Each Golden Record contains hundreds of images and audio recordings, and was inscribed, “To the makers of music – all worlds, all times.” The many works of Sagan, professor of astronomy at Cornell, ignited public interest in astronomy for a generation. Cosmos became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television, and with it came a deepening appreciation for the history of science. On the Golden Records, dozens of musical recordings – from Bach to Chuck Berry to the songs of Humpback Whales – were launched into the ocean of space to represent the music of a small planet.

  • “Kepler’s Harmony of the Worlds,” in Laurie Spiegel, The Expanding Universe (Unseen Words, 2012)

Music honoring Kepler is now on board two spacecraft that are leaving the solar system:  Laurie Spiegel’s tribute to Kepler’s Harmonices mundi was chosen to travel on the Voyager spacecraft Golden Records in 1977.

One reviewer described Spiegel’s piece: “Spiegel’s realization is bracing, menacing, and disorienting, the piercing tones not unlike a choir of air raid sirens. An alien life form encountering it on Voyager’s Golden Record would conclude that our world was a maddening, maniacal place.” Spiegel, a pioneer of computer music, interpreted Kepler’s laws in light of modern conceptions of science and the universe.

Listen to a clip of Spiegel’s interpretation of Kepler, courtesy of NASA.

  • “Cosmic Suite,” Jonathan A. Annis (OU, 2015)

A different approach to recovering Kepler’s music of the spheres is that of OU School of Music graduate student Jonathan Annis. For the Galileo’s World exhibition, Annis composed a suite for harp, flute (doubling alto flute) and oboe (doubling English horn) entirely comprised of musical themes from Kepler’s Harmonices mundi. Annis arranged the themes, but they derive from Kepler’s musical description of the harmonic law. In this piece, Kepler’s universe becomes a cosmic dance.

Spiegel’s tribute to Kepler may reach other worlds. Annis’ suite, on the other hand, reaches back to the world of Kepler and the music of the spheres.

Visitors to the Music of the Spheres gallery during the Galileo’s World exhibition were able to listen to a short excerpt of the suite on an iPad kiosk.

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Galileo Church

Watch at Vimeo | Download slides/script PDF

This coming Wednesday, May 3, 2023, I’m looking forward to speaking at McFarlin Methodist Church here in Norman on Galileo and the Roman Church. This post is a landing page for resources related to that talk. The video above is a draft version that will be slightly abridged for the occasion.

To grapple with the Galileo Affair and what it means for us today requires a journey of open inquiry and a readiness to question anew what we have received, especially from contemporary society, including popular culture. The journey must necessarily be personal and authentic. A semester course for graduate credit would not exhaust the inquiry.

The Galileo Myth

I recommend beginning with Bertold Brecht, The Life of Galileo. Read the English translation by Charles Laughton, or attend a production of the play if at all possible. Brecht’s play has likely shaped popular beliefs about Galileo more than any other source. By “Galileo Myth” I mean the “meaning” of the Galileo story for us today, irrespective of the details and their historical accuracy.

Brecht’s account does justice to the poignancy and tragedy of Galileo’s trial, concluding with his coerced recantation and abjuration. This presents the core question and meaning of the Galileo Affair.

We are fortunate at OU that a brilliant production of Brecht’s play was just put on by the Helmerich School of Drama with a talented group of undergraduate actors, directed by Emma Woodward, with dramaturgical support by James McCabe.

OU Galileo theater production

I think it’s the most effective production of Brecht I’ve seen, paradoxically because of the intimate setting in the studio theater. This play comes off better when it’s performed by a group of very talented undergraduate actors in a university setting, not overproduced, but with creative props, costumes, and staging. It came off personal and authentic, and was a delight to attend.

The Galileo of History

But eventually questions arise about historical truth and popular misconceptions of Galileo. To enter into that phase of the journey, remember that Brecht’s play is less about the Galileo of history than about the Galileo myth. Brecht’s intention was not that of a historian, to reconstruct a factual and true account of Galileo, that is, to seek understanding of Galileo in the context of his own times. Rather, Brecht sought to use the Galileo myth to critique his contemporary society, particularly the rise of fascism and the Nazi party, from the standpoint of his own Marxism. So after reading Brecht, continue your journey for historical truth by critiquing Brecht’s play itself with the following resources…

Historical scholarship:

  • Stillman Drake, Galileo: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1983); Amazon. Read this excellent brief overview in Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series. I’ve prepared a Drake discussion guide (PDF) to support an 8-week reading group.
  • Ronald Numbers, ed., Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 2009); Amazon. Short chapters on Galileo and other episodes of science and religion by leading historians of science.
  • Maurice Finocchiaro, ed., The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents (Hackett Publishing Company, 2014), Amazon. Finocchiaro conveniently brings together translations of the documents of the case.
  • Annabole Fantoli, Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 3rd ed.; Amazon. The most comprehensive, insightful, and judicious analysis of the Galileo Affair in my opinion. Because of the plethora of newly available documents in the wake of the Vatican’s greater transparency after John Paul II, each edition of Fantoli includes substantive revisions; thus, make sure you get the third edition.
  • Maurice Finocchiaro, Retrying Galileo: 1633–1992 (University of California Press, 2005); Amazon. An intriguing study of how the story of the Galileo Affair has been retold in every generation from 1633 through 1992, which includes a helpful chapter on Brecht.

My own resources:

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Starstruck Tonight

Starstruck Tonight, draft version (1 hr, 5 mins)

Thursday night, April 27, at 6pm, Candace and I presented a virtual program for the Pioneer Library network. Here’s the event page. My thanks to Pioneer Library and Librarian Catherine Wahpeconiah for inviting us and for all the effort in hosting the event as part of spring series on astronomy.

The official title I turned in, back when it was arranged, was “Constellations: Merging Art and Science.” While creating it, I added “Starstruck Tonight” to the title, because I drew upon some scripts I used for two planetarium shows back in the 1990’s. The presentation feels to me like a fusion between a planetarium show and a tour of the History of Science Collections.

On the Vimeo page for the draft video, the caption has links to jump to any section.

  1. Intro, 0:00:00 (3:35 mins)
  2. 6 Constellations: 3:35 (9:08 mins)
  3. Circumpolar stars: 12:43 (7:15 mins)
  4. Winter Hexagon: 19:58 (7:42 mins)
  5. Summer Triangle: 27:40 (5:08 mins)
  6. Zodiac: 32:48 (6:40 mins)
  7. Star Atlases: 39:28 (18:44 mins)
  8. Two Stories: 58:12 (5:22 mins)
  9. Afterword: 1:03:34 (2:10 mins)

I’ll post a link here when the improved version as given is posted on the Pioneer Library website. It’s also significantly shorter!

I’m making the presentation available under a Creative Commons license, with attribution (CC-by). All images from books are courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Some of the links mentioned in the presentation are:

Recommended books to get started with the constellations

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Love books! – with wisdom

Around 2000 B.C. an Egyptian priest counseled his son:

“Behold, nothing surpasses books. Would that I might make you love books more than your mother. Would that I might make their beauty enter before your face, for it is greater than any office. You are to set your heart on books.” (translation of a hieroglyphic papyrus in the British Museum)

But consider also the words of Qoheleth, the Teacher, from a millennium later:

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

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Hoot the Owl

A children’s book, The Story of How the Constellation ‘Hoot the Owl’ Began, was written and Illustrated by Anna Todd (2017), a 2nd grade student at Rose Witcher Elementary School, El Reno Public Schools, located in El Reno, Oklahoma. The book developed in collaboration with Stacey Stephenson and was inspired by the Galileo’s World exhibition (backstory).


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Hoot the Owl – back story


We believe that educational outreach is at the center of our exhibitions, so nothing could have excited us more than a letter we received last November when Stacey Stevenson told us the story of “Hoot the Owl.” A children’s book, The Story of How ‘Hoot the Owl’ Constellation Began, was written and illustrated this past Fall by Anna Todd, a 2nd grade student at Rose Witcher Elementary School, El Reno Public Schools, located in El Reno, Oklahoma. Hoot the Owl is not one of the 88 official constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Union, but it’s my new favorite constellation! You can read the book and learn the backstory below. As you will see, the story of Hoot the Owl is a specific, concrete example of how knowledge of the stars enhances our lives today.

Read the book at the Lynx Open Ed site:
Anna Todd, The Story of How ‘Hoot the Owl’ Constellation Began (2017). Written and illustrated by Anna Todd, 2nd grade student at Rose Witcher Elementary School, El Reno Public Schools, El Reno, Oklahoma. CC-by-nc-sa.

Here’s the story behind the story:

Stacey has been participating in the NASA Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium (OSGC) Year-long Pre-service Educator Mentorship: Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) which is led by Dorinda Risenhoover, the NASA OSGC Education Coordinator.*

Dorinda Risenhoover demonstrating a Space Suit.
Dorinda Risenhoover demonstrating a Space Suit in the Exhibit Hall.

We so admire Dorinda’s leadership and vision for supporting educators in this state, and appreciate her decision to bring the participating educators to OU Libraries for an all-day workshop, which we held for them last September, to introduce them to open educational resources (OERs) developed for the Galileo’s World exhibit.

Stacey at the OU Libraries workshop last September.
Stacey (far right) at the September workshop.
Left to right: Sharon Scott, Rashid Troupe, Stacey Stevenson.

I wish for any future grandchildren I might have that they will have teachers like Stacey and the other educators in this mentorship! NASA OSGC’s Mission To Planet Earth and the Galileo’s World workshop begin the story of how Anna came to create “Hoot the Owl.” On Nov 7, 2017, Stacey wrote us to explain the rest of the story:

Dr. Magruder,

Good evening! I hope this email finds you well.

I would like to share a story of early inspiration with you. I have been tutoring a 2nd grader in reading for my Diagnostics in Reading course. We have read over 50 books since we started working together. From the beginning I told her to keep in mind, as we read, that she would be writing her very own book at the end of the semester. I told her to consider the subject matter of the books we read and the illustrations as well.

Early into the semester we read Fancy Nancy Sees the Stars. The book is a level 1 reader and it explains planetariums and constellations so early readers can understand. When we were finished, she was fascinated by the idea of constellations. That night I put together several of the materials that were given to me during the HOS [workshop on] Galileo’s World. I also bookmarked a few of the pages from your site as well. The next time we met I had checked out a few more children’s books on constellations, brought my HOS materials and my laptop. She was in awe, absolutely consumed by the idea of constellations. She was able to comprehend that the pictures were not actually in the sky but “imaginary, for my heart to see but not my eyes”, those are her words. We read the captions connected to the images on the materials you handed out and on the website. After a few meetings of reading only about constellations and stars, she decided to write her book about a constellation. She decided to make up and create a story as to how the constellation came to be. The story is absolutely fantastic and she has told her teacher, her family, and her classmates all about constellations and some of the stories she has been able to remember.

I really want to thank you. I was struggling to find a subject for her to really connect with, to give her the desire to read. To her, reading was boring. She had no heart for it and did not enjoy it. She enjoys reading now. She says, “The more I practice reading, the more I will be able to read about the sky when I am older and can understand the biggest words of all”.

I have mailed you a copy of her book. I hope you enjoy the newest constellation “Hoot the Owl”.

Thank you always,
Anastasia “Stacey” Stevenson

What a story “Hoot the Owl” is! Such drama! What a plot, what a flow, how colorful! Anna wrote with amazing creativity! And to think Anna caught her love for reading from Stacey’s intervention — educators make such a huge difference in young students’ lives. Generations from now there will be ever-enduring effects from what an educator does with just one student this very semester. Maybe Anna, and her fellow students, will write many books… teach astronomy or literature or reading… or go to Mars.

As for now, in the 2nd grade, Anna wears beautiful bows, and looks great in pink!

Anna Todd with book
Anna Todd with her book

Anna Todd with sweater
Even Anna’s sweater expresses her love of the stars!

Anna Todd with Stacey Stevenson
Anna Todd with Stacey Stevenson

Congratulations to Anna and all of her fellow students at Rose Witcher Elementary School! We’re sure her principal, Mrs. Tiffany Patrick, and all the teachers are quite proud and super-excited about her new book.

An original, laminated copy of Hoot the Owl has been placed in the Marilyn B. Ogilvie Exploration Room. The Exploration Room is part of the OU Libraries’ Exhibit Hall on the 5th floor, where the Galileo’s World Reprise exhibit continues. Here, alongside other books in the Exploration Room, children who visit Galileo’s World can read Anna’s story, right where they might sit down to color their own constellation pages and imagine their own stories of the stars.

We are grateful to be able to share Hoot the Owl in both our on-site and off-site educational programs, and to share it in the Lynx Open Ed website. We think many other young children will be inspired by reading Hoot the Owl. We also think many educators will be encouraged by its example to encourage their students to write their own constellation stories. Hoot the Owl also has been placed in the ShareOK repository of the University to guarantee that it will remain available in perpetuity.

Stacey’s story of working with Anna encapsulates perfectly what I mean when I tell myself that without educational outreach, exhibits wouldn’t be worth doing. The story of Stacey and Anna is what makes the time and effort we pour into exhibits worthwhile. This story illustrates the kind of impact that can occur when libraries work with educators through exhibitions. Hoot the Owl is going to be one of my favorite constellation stories of all time! 🙂

We’re grateful to Anna Todd and her family, and to Stacey Stevenson, for giving us full permission to share Anna’s book, this story-behind-the-story, and these photographs with you. Anna’s book is published with a Creative Commons license to share-alike, for non-commercial purposes, with attribution (CC-by-sa-nc).

Read the book at the Lynx Open Ed site:
Anna Todd, The Story of How ‘Hoot the Owl’ Constellation Began (2017). Written and Illustrated by Anna Todd, 2nd grade student at Rose Witcher Elementary School, El Reno Public Schools, El Reno, Oklahoma. CC-by-nc-sa.


* More on MTPE: The NASA OSGC Year-long Pre-service Educator Mentorship: Mission To Planet Earth is designed to empower pre-service educators from each of our eight affiliate universities (OU, OSU, SNU, ECU, Langston, Cameron, SWOSU, SEOSU) as STEM educators through a year of unique and hands-on STEM institutes, engagements, VIP NASA center tours, and more!  Participants network with NASA educators, researchers, scientists, museum curators, and other leading STEM-related experts while utilizing the latest iPad technology.  At the end of their year-long mentorship with NASA OSGC, the end goal is that each participant graduates the program with a passion and motivation to seek any and all opportunities in order to empower our next generation of STEM thinkers and doers through aerospace education as they begin to influence young minds in their own classrooms.


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Outline: Historic Star Atlas Stories


VideoSlides (PDF, 160MB) • Image

Thomas Carlyle spoke for all of us when he lamented…

“Why did not somebody teach me the constellations,
and make me at home in the starry heavens,
which are always overhead,
and which I don’t half-know to this day?”

In this richly illustrated presentation, come hear stories of the constellations and the early star atlases that portrayed them.

Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple
Postcards from the Universe series
Sam Noble Museum Thursday, January 25, 2018; 7pm
Free admission


From the Renaissance to the dawn of the modern age, art and science fused together in the representation of the stars and constellations. Historic star atlases combined state- of-the-art scientific observation of the cosmos with appreciation for the aesthetic dimension of the sky. Galileo inscribed OU’s copy of his Starry Messenger to a poet. Art, music, literature and astronomy merge in humanity’s creative and ongoing exploration of the stars and constellations. We will examine images of the constellations from the star atlases of Bayer, Hevelius, Flamsteed, Bode and various other historical sources to discover how the wonder of the sky at night is common to science, literature and art. We will also show how to access these images for your own creative, educational, or research-related projects.

Constellation images appearing in this presentation are taken from the original rare books of the OU History of Science Collections. Many of these books were featured during 2015-2016 as part of Galileo’s World joint- exhibitions at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, the National Weather Center, and the Schusterman Library on the OU-Tulsa campus. After the presentation, a reprise of “The Sky at Night” portion of Galileo’s World will be available for viewing on the 5th floor of Bizzell Memorial Library until 10 pm.


  1. Introduction
    1. Galileo and the Telescope
    2. Tennyson
    3. Galileo telescope replica
    4. Questar
    5. Shelley
    6. Byron
    7. OU Skywatch twitter:  #ouskywatch; @ouhosCollection
    8. Galileo’s World Reprise exhibit
      1. Exhibit Guide
      2. The Sky at Night Reprise gallery
  2. Featured Constellations
    1. Ursa Major the Big Bear
    2. Ursa Minor the Little Bear
      1. Nocturnal dial
    3. Orion the Hunter
      1. Messier
      2. Frost
    4. Leo the Lion
    5. Sagittarius the Archer
    6. Scorpius the Scorpion
    7. Lynx Open Ed
      1. “Collaborating in exhibit-based learning.
      2. Website:
      3. Twitter: @lynx_open_ed
      4. Urania’s Mirror
      5. Astronomy OERs (Open Educational Resources)
  3. Featured Star Atlases
    1. Before
      1. Hesiod
      2. Aratos
      3. Hyginus
      4. Ptolemy
    2. Four “Golden Era” celestial atlases (criteria:  scientific + artistic)
      1. Bayer
      2. Hevelius
        1. Star catalog
        2. Method
        3. Star atlas
      3. Flamsteed
        1. France
        2. Germany
      4. Bode
    3. After
      1. von Littrow
    4. Star Charts on Instruments
      1. Beijing observatory celestial globe
      2. Shickard astroscopium
      3. Coronelli book
      4. Coronelli gores
      5. Astrolabe replica
      6. Astrolabe book
    5. What possibilities!
      1. Galileo’s World digital library:
      2. Sky Tonight:
      3. Changes in a constellation over time (Orion)
        1. Piccolomini
        2. Gallucci
        3. Montanari
      4. Unexpected visual features
        1. Hyginus
      5. Star charts of the same event (Comets of 1618)
        1. Grassi
        2. Bainbridge
        3. Controversy over the Comets gallery
      6. Constellations nearby (southern skies)
      7. Orientations of star patterns and constellation figures
        1. Kepler and others
      8. Constellations from around the world
        1. Nobutake
        2. Williams
        3. Saulnier
    6. Two Dramatic Constellations
      1. Middle Earth astronomy
      2. Hoot the Owl:  Book | Backstory
    7. Conclusion
      1. What is the artistic and scientific heritage 
of the sky at night?
      2. What draws you to the stars?


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Interview with Marilyn B. Ogilvie


Marilyn Ogilvie (portrait by Mike Wimmer)
Marilyn Ogilvie (portrait by Mike Wimmer)

Interview:  Marilyn B. Ogilvie, 2nd Curator of the OU History of Science Collections
Location:  Marilyn B. Ogilvie Exploration Room
Date:  January 26, 2017; prior to the public unveiling of Marilyn’s portrait in the Ogilvie Exploration Room.
Interviewer:  Kerry V. Magruder, 3rd Curator

(posted with Marilyn’s permission)


KM:  The history of science is an unusual and somewhat obscure field.  Few people find their way to the history of science by a direct highway; rather, most travel through backroads and byways.  What were your early academic interests?

MBO:  I was going to be an astronomer.  When I was about 8 or 9, I was planning to go to the Moon or to Mars.  I won’t tell you about the Egishdeemen who lived on Mars, but I told my little friends all about them.

KM:  When and where did you obtain your undergraduate degrees?

MBO:  I went to Baker University [in Baldwin, KS], for a Bachelors in Biology.  Baker is a small liberal arts college.  At that point, I realized, in what I regarded as a great discovery on my part, that all knowledge seems to connect together.  Later, I earned a Masters in Zoology from KU.

KM:  What are some of the diverse life experiences that brought you to first consider the history of science as a profession?

MBO:  Chance is the biggest one.  We had been in east Africa for 2 years.  I was teaching biology and chemistry for TEA [Teachers for East Africa], in bush country outside Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika [formerly German East Africa, now Tanzania].  We were coming back to Norman because my husband Phil wanted to get his PhD in Zoology here.  While we were in Africa, we heard of Duane Roller from someone who knew him at Columbia and found out that he had some sort of collection of old books at OU.  So I wandered up, looked around, and eventually met him.  I thought the old books in history of science were so wonderful, and decided to take a reading course.  It was by Tom Smith on American science.  One course led to another.  When a seminar paper was raked over the coals, I wondered, Why am I doing this?  But I was really hooked.  I loved the old stuff.  We held class right among the old books, and used them all the time.  What was so great about being in this program is that we had it all, right at our fingertips.


KM:  Marilyn, you embody the spirit of the OU history of science program in many diverse roles, including student, teacher, mentor, scholar, professor and curator.  Let’s start with your experience as a student.  When did you begin your studies at OU, and what year did you graduate with your PhD in the History of Science?

MBO:  I started in 1963, and finished my PhD in 1973. It took so long because we had moved first to Minneapolis and then Portland, Oregon while I was working on my dissertation. When I finished, we were living at the Oklahoma City Zoo! [where Phil was director.]

KM:  Duane H.D. Roller was the first curator and professor of the History of Science at OU.   What are your memories of Dr. Roller from your student days?

MBO:  We won’t talk about the cigarettes and ash trays. Perhaps I shouldn’t say that!  He was the king.  I was scared to death of him.  He would go on trips to buy books, leaving his paperwork spread out on the big table in the reading room.  He would put all his bills on that table, which we couldn’t help but notice as we held our seminars there.  We shared the excitement as the books arrived.  His classes were absolutely inspiring, and made me realize that history of science was what I wanted to do.

KM:  Who were some of the other professors at that time, and people involved in the program?

MBO:  There were just four professors back then.  Tom Smith, history of technology.  Tom was acting curator when Duane went on trips.  David Kitts, history of geology.  I wrote my first good paper for him.  I still have it, with his encouraging comments.  And Roy Page.  Marcia Goodman was librarian, who would open the books as they arrived from Europe, with Duane’s letters telling about them.  We graduate students divided ourselves according to seniority:  the Golden Age, with Sister Suzanne Kelly, Jim Morris, Chuck St. Clair, Betty Ruth Estes and others.  Then the Silver Age.  I was in the Bronze Age.

KM:  What was it like to research in the History of Science Collections as a graduate student at that time?

MBO:  One had better be in there doing research!  Roller checked to see if we were there, and how many hours we spent.  We often stayed until almost midnight.  Roller chose who had the key to the door. The chosen few were known as the Key Club.  As long as the library was open, we needed to be there.  The Collections were on the third floor at this time.  The carrels were along each row, with the stacks in between, so we studied in the same room as the books.


KM:  You also served the history of science program as a member of the teaching faculty.  You are a professor emerita in the Department of the History of Science.  What attracted you to teaching?

MBO:  I’ve always loved teaching.  I taught secondary biology in Phoenix after receiving my Masters, and then in Africa.  Later, I taught at Portland State and at OBU before coming to OU.

KM:  You taught both undergraduate and graduate courses.  What are some memorable moments from your teaching experience?

MBO:  It’s so gratifying to receive emails from students even after all these years.  They give my Facebook name to their friends.  They remember books we read, like [Rachel Carson’s] Silent Spring.

KM:  Mentoring involves long-term relationships with students that grow out of the teaching experience.  You served on dozens of graduate student committees, including mine.  How were teaching and mentoring meaningful to your work at OU?

MBO:  Caring for the books is just a part of the job.  Relating to the students – and student employees – is just as important.  It’s not teaching facts, but teaching how to relate to people, how to bring books and the public together.  If you like people, and you like teaching, these are as much a part of being a curator as liking the books.  It’s a whole package.


KM:  OU is distinctive in having both a History of Science special collection in OU Libraries and a separate academic Department of the History of Science.  As a result, you were a faculty member in both OU Libraries and in the History of Science Department.  This special relationship between the History of Science Collections and the History of Science Department created a synergy between the two.   How did this special relationship work out in practice?

MBO:  Beautifully.  You might say there was always a blending between teaching and books.  That is what DeGolyer [the founding donor] expected, that the books were to be used, not merely decorative.  We take care of them in order that they might be used.  The reason we have the books is so we can read what’s inside the books, not to keep them on the shelf.  Many are now online, but that’s not the only way we use them.  It’s a historical feeling that you’re talking with people in the past to see where their ideas came from.  To me that conversation is what is fascinating. It’s a conversation between many different people, both past and present. We care for the books to keep that conversation going.  That’s why the faculty in the history of science department are such wonderful colleagues.

KM:  What does that special relationship mean for students, faculty and visiting researchers?

MBO:  One example is our Mellon Travel Fellowship Program.  It’s symbiosis. It happened only because of both, working together as partners.  People now come to use our books from all over the world, and our students gain a more cosmopolitan view.  To study history of science it’s not just about the books alone, or about formal teaching relationships.  We are a community of scholars.  We develop an enlarged circle of friendships.  It’s all about making a place where interesting conversations happen.

KM:  As a professional historian of science, you have given special attention to the history of women and science.  How did you begin your research on this subject?

MBO:  Just by accident, as usual.  I was teaching at Portland State, a survey class in the history of science.  Two girls wanted to write on women and science.  They could only find one woman, Marie Curie.  I couldn’t think of any either.  So I started to search.  The historian of science Marie Boas Hall came to Norman.  We met at a party, and I told her about my manuscript on women and science.  She said, “Why don’t I come over and look at it?  Maybe we can have breakfast tomorrow?”  So sitting around my kitchen table, she set me up to publish it.  MIT accepted it [Women in Science:  Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century (MIT Press, 1987)].  Then I was hooked.  Nobody was working on women in science then.  I was asked to do a two-volume encyclopedia.  I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into, so I asked Joy Harvey to co-author it with me.  Although it was an edited work, we ended up writing most of the articles ourselves [The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science (Routledge, 2000)].

KM:  How would you answer a group of students if they were to ask which 2 or 3 of your books they should read or consult first?

MBO:  To consult, start with the Biographical Dictionary.  But I like my Boring book best [A Dame Full of Vim and Vigor: A Biography of Alice Middleton Boring, Biologist in China (Amsterdam, 1999)].  I will have a Boring book and a Nice book!  And I’m really going to like my Nice book best when I get it finished [For the Birds:  The Life and Work of American Ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice (forthcoming)]. It is really pronounced “Neece.”  The most popular one is Marie Curie [Marie Curie: A Biography (Greenwood Press, 2004)].

KM:  At the annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Atlanta this past November, a roundtable session was devoted to you in light of the significance of your work for promoting research on the history of women and science. As I recall, there were no empty seats in the room.  How has the study of women and science changed since you began your work?

MBO:  Totally different.  It could be expected, just as the history of science has changed.  History of science has become a multicultural study now.  Not just about European men and elite ideas.  Its scope has expanded.  We’re still discovering women involved in science.  But studying women and science is no longer focused upon that, upon locating and getting facts about them, but rather about interpreting their work in context.  “Women and science” is no longer a special field, but an inherent part of scientific culture and essential for capturing any intellectual milieu.

KM:  Do you have any advice or wisdom to offer someone starting out today?

MBO:  Get as broad a background as you possibly can, in as many fields as you possibly can.  Don’t try to specialize too quickly.


KM:  When and how did you became the second curator?

MBO:  They did a search, and I got one of those things in the mail indicating that you have been recommended as a possible candidate.  I filled it in and forgot about it.  I was teaching at OBU, but I was in Europe when they were trying to get a hold of me.  They tried to reach me at all my hotels, since we didn’t have cell phones.  I came back to interview with both the Dean of the Libraries and the History of Science Department.  I was thrilled to get the job, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.

KM:  What were some of the most important goals and objectives you envisioned for the History of Science Collections as curator?

MBO:  I wanted to make it open to the whole campus, not just an ivory tower only for elites or a restricted group of scholars.  We want you to see the books and appreciate what we have here.  We gave as many tours as we could.  We tried to establish a connection with friends in Oklahoma City to increase our visibility.  That’s how we established the OU Lynx.

KM:  How did your collecting strategy change?

MBO:  I collected in new areas, including women in science, medicine, alchemy, astrology, and popular science.  But I still built on strengths.  We didn’t try to specify in advance what we might buy.  I never knew ahead of time what opportunity might arise.  We acquired both primary and secondary sources, everything a scholar or student would need together in one place.  Visiting scholars did not have time for inter-library loan, or to wait for books checked out to be returned. We didn’t want to lose books from obscure presses that went out of print after only a few months.

KM:  You’ve traveled widely, both before and after becoming Curator of the Collections.  Is travel important for a curator, and what has it meant for you?

MBO:  In those days it was important to travel in order to find books.  There was no internet.  I’ve set foot on every continent, including Antarctica, although I didn’t buy any books there!  In China, I did research on Alice Boring, an American geneticist who taught there.

KM:  What are some of the most memorable acquisitions you made as curator?

MBO:  Two books high on my want list were the Epitome of Ptolemy’s Almagest by Regiomontanus [1496], and the natural history of Mexico by Hernandez, published by the Academy of the Lynx [1651].  We were able to acquire both.  My favorite might be the book by Maria Merian [Erucarum ortus (1717), “The Caterpillar Garden”].  I wish I had written a book about her!

KM:  Did you acquire many books in unusual or particularly fortuitous ways?

MBO:  I loved going into little bookshops.  At that time you would find books where people didn’t realize their value for the history of science, particularly in the vernacular or for popular science.

KM:  You received an outstanding teacher award here at OU, as voted by students.  How did your teaching experience relate to your role as curator?  Were these two roles in competition, or did one role mutually enhance the other?

MBO:  Since curatorship involves dealing with people, it requires the same attributes as being a teacher.  I honestly do like people, and I’m so proud of the books that I want to show them off to people and help people come to understand them.  So teaching is important to being a curator.  I never stopped.

KM:  How did you manage the demands of professional life, and what advice would you offer for younger professionals in achieving a work-life balance?

MBO:  Love what you do.  My professional and personal lives overlapped quite a bit.  Not when my children were little; that’s different.  And very difficult.  But you have to do what you love.

KM:  You were curator of the History of Science Collections for the better part of two decades, from 1990 to 2009.  How did the role of curator change during your tenure?

MBO:  I was more interested in research.  It’s hard to balance scholarship with administration.  I didn’t like meetings.  But it didn’t seem like I was going to work each morning, because I enjoyed the work and the people I worked with so much.  It was a privilege and a joy.  I could choose what I thought was the most important thing at the time, and work on that, so it was meaningful.  I could have kept busy every weekend giving talks, but I had to limit that.  Outreach was extremely important to me.

KM:  What do you hope for, when you think about the History of Science Collections a hundred years from now?

MBO:  It’s hard to envision.  Not like it is now.  I don’t know.  I would hope that it would still be a repository but not just a repository.  It certainly will be a museum, but I want the books to be used and the context of them to be understood for their own culture and time.  Our human-ness is important to see in them.  I have the same feelings toward the books as toward museum artifacts.  But more than just objects on display, we need understanding of what they meant then and what they mean now for us and at any future time.


KM:  It takes an exceptional person to combine the many roles you have played at this university.  I feel very strongly that no monument could capture all that you have meant for OU, but this Exploration Room seems appropriate. Learning activities from every exhibit gallery are gathered together here, along with exhibit-related books for both kids and adults. Throughout your career, your students, colleagues and friends have described you as animated by a passion to bring the stories of science to everyone.  The Exploration Room is devoted to active public engagement, both on and off campus, to learners of any age, young and old alike.  How did you feel when you first heard about the Marilyn B. Ogilvie Exploration Room?

MBO:  We were having dinner with Dean Luce at the time.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  It’s exciting to think about how this room will be a place of learning for both young and old.  It shows that the books are for everyone to enjoy.  These books do become old friends, yet I will never cease to feel a thrill when I see them.  Through this room, many more people will come to understand.  The activities developed to use here will spread beyond to schools and homes, through the OU Academy of the Lynx.

KM:   The Exploration Room features a portrait painted by noted Oklahoma artist Mike Wimmer.  When you look at the portrait, one can see your books on the shelf in the background.  There are astronomical instruments, too.  What would you want people to notice?

MBO:  He placed my hand on my favorite book by Maria Merian.  When I think of her, I’m determined to preserve the literary culture of the past.  But more than that, we attempt to understand these people who were admirable in striving to understand and to create their world.  Looking back and understanding their efforts will help us to do the same in our world.  We can’t do that very well without help from them.  It’s never completed.

KM (postscript):  As for me, I like how Wimmer represents Marilyn’s smile.  But no painter could ever capture the fierce bright sparkle of her eyes!  Marilyn’s eyes are too bright and too lively to be believable unless you meet her in person.  Thank you, Marilyn, for consenting to this interview, and for remaining the spirit of OU history of science!



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Collaboration Strategies for Educators, Libraries and Museums


| Download slides (PDF, 25 MB) |

On October 13, Brent Purkaple and Kerry Magruder presented a talk articulating our efforts with Lynx Open Ed to the annual meeting of the Southwest Association for Science Teacher Education (SW-ASTE).  The meeting was hosted here at OU, by the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, University of Oklahoma. The day before, we were privileged to host an open-house in our Exhibit Hall for early arrivers to the conference.  On Saturday the 13th, Brent and I were privileged to participate in the entire day of conference activities, and we enjoyed many constructive interactions with educators.

Title: Collaboration Strategies for Educators, Libraries and Museums

Abstract: “Museums and libraries value public engagement and outreach as vital, in the very core of their mission. This was the case for the Galileo’s World exhibition of the University of Oklahoma Libraries, which launched in 2015.  In this presentation, we will review various strategies adopted in our attempts to ‘collaborate with educators in exhibit-based learning’ (as our motto expresses it).  We will relay what we have learned and pose some questions about how best to move forward given the challenges identified.”

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Last chance to see amazing rare books in art and astronomy


The current “Art and Astronomy” exhibit will close at 5 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.

Examples of treasures on display now, but going off exhibit, include: 

  • Four OU copies of Galileo first editions contain his own handwriting. They include Galileo’s Starry Messenger, the first publication of observations with a telescope and the book that made him a worldwide celebrity almost overnight. 
  • The four “golden era” star atlases, by Bayer, Hevelius, Flamsteed and Bode. Seeing these beautiful star atlases on display together in the same place is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s first and only drawings published in print during his lifetime, along with related treatises on perspective drawing that formed a connection between art and astronomy.

Because very few people were able to see all of the exhibits of the original Galileo’s World exhibition, and no single location could display all of the rare books and artifacts at the same time, after the original exhibit concluded, the 5th floor Exhibit Hall in Bizzell Memorial Library has since featured a rotating selection of items. The current rotating exhibit is Art and Astronomy in Galileo’s World. Items in this rotation were originally on display at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, National Weather Center, and OU-Tulsa. 

The next rotating exhibit focuses instead on Life Sciences. Items to be displayed are coming from the exhibits originally held at the Sam Noble, the OU Health Sciences, and Headington Hall. It will open March 11. Almost every book currently on display will return to the vaults, so the Life Sciences exhibit will represent a nearly 100% rotation. The 5th floor Exhibit Hall will be closed Feb 15 through March 10 to change out the exhibit.

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