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The Eclipse Was A Big Deal in 1878, Too

This month’s Sparks podcast has the team really excited because they got to talk about one of the biggest public science spectacles of the year (probably the decade): the total solar eclipse that will cross the entire United States on Aug. 21.

In the podcast, which runs in FiveThirtyEight’s What’s The Point feed, science writer and FiveThirtyEight contributor Rebecca Boyle joined former senior editor Blythe Terrell, lead science writer Christie Aschwanden and lead health writer Anna Maria Barry-Jester to talk about this year’s eclipse through the lens of David Baron’s new book “American Eclipse.” Baron chronicles a total solar eclipse that made a splash 139 years ago. The 1878 eclipse in the Western U.S. helped America make a name for itself in the world of science and brought out luminaries including inventor Thomas Edison and Maria Mitchell, a Vassar College professor and astronomer who made the case that women deserved a place in the world of science.

Christie’s interview with Baron about the book is below:


Blythe Terrell is a former senior editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Rebecca Boyle is a science journalist covering a variety of topics, from astronomy to zoonoses. She is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, and her work regularly appears in publications including Popular Science and New Scientist.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester reports on public health, food and culture for FiveThirtyEight.

Christie Aschwanden is FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for science.