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Washburn Observatory, UW Madison
Washburn Observatory, 1880 (ca.), Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID 26709.
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Through time, humans have tried to reduce vulnerability to their environment by inventing belief systems and tools for controlling natural forces. The history of science is comprised of intellectual and physical attempts to understand and predict such phenomena as patterns of sun and moon appearance, the seasons, weather, star positions, metal transformation, crop production, health and fertility, illness and death. Knowledge increase through scientific advances builds on preceding explorations and study.

Professor Stephen T. Emlen
Professor Stephen T. Emlen of Cornell University placed indigo buntings in funnel-shaped boxes (seen here on stepstools behind the round star projector) under a planetarium sky and demonstrated that birds learn to select the proper migratory direction according to star patterns. Photo courtesy of Cornell University.
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The history of science encompasses records of who learned what, when they learned it and how they accomplished their achievements. This history is composed of information about:
 
  people who made discoveries—their personalities and individual biographies—as well as the communities and physical settings in which they lived, during the eras when they lived.
 
  tools and instruments that explorers invented and manipulated, their methods of study, and the cognitive processes they employed to predict, compare, and measure.
 
  findings that were dispersed to others and the ways these discoveries shaped others in their endeavors.
 
  influences of what was learned on hypotheses and conclusions about "reality."

Starry Transit: An Installation by Martha Glowacki employs the environment of the Washburn Observatory on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for its historical significance in exploration of the natural world. Based on experimental studies of bird migration and navigation by star patterns, the MMoCA installation invites visitors to engage in processes of research and discovery that simulate some historical activities of human scientific endeavor.