Portrait Photograph of James Lattis

James Lattis

Director, UW Space Place

Department of Astronomy

Hometown: Madison, WI

Jim Lattis holds a Ph.D. in History of Science from UW–Madison and is the author of many publications in that field. He helped create UW Space Place, the outreach and public education center of the UW–Madison Astronomy Department and has directed it since its founding. He manages historic Washburn Observatory, teaches courses in introductory astronomy and its history, gives frequent public talks, and consults widely for the media (including UW Communications, Wisconsin and National Public Radio, and other national networks and newspapers). He has also led many trips focused on astronomical tourism.


Extremely relatable and charismatic, Dr. Lattis presented a perfect blend of technical information and general knowledge.
– Nicole, Edgerton Public Library


Eyes on the Skies: The Current Night Sky, What to Watch for, How to Observe it

This talk introduces the stars, constellations, and interesting objects of the current season sky. We’ll talk about observing the brighter planets and how to find them in the night sky, along with other objects suitable for amateur observing. We’ll also feature any important eclipses, meteor showers, or other interesting astronomical events visible in the near future, as well as observing tips and the astronomical use of telescopes and binoculars.

Honey, I Shrunk the Galaxy! How the UW’s Astronomers Measure the Milky Way

Between 1930 and 1936, UW astronomers developed a new astronomical technique that led to a major re-evaluation of the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. Beginning with the astronomical debates of the 1920s, this talk will show how their work established key features that underpin the modern concept of a galaxy.

Approximate Length of Talk: Variable

Wisconsin at the Frontiers of Astronomy: The History of Astronomy in Wisconsin -

Wisconsin was on the western edge of the United States when astronomy began at the University of Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s astronomers soon moved on to the scientific frontier as well, and this talk will illustrate some of the highlights of astronomical research at UW.

Approximate Length of Talk: Variable and flexible length, with 45 to 60 min preferable

Galileo: Frequently Asked Questions

We all know Galileo is famous, but why? Didn’t he invent the telescope, prove that the Earth orbits the Sun, and wasn’t he then imprisoned by the Inquisition because of his discoveries? You might be surprised at the answers to these and other questions about Galileo and the history of astronomy.

Space Astronomy: The Wisconsin Roots of Astronomy Done in Space

Instruments in space, like the Hubble Space Telescope, have transformed our view of the universe and promise much more. Wisconsin astronomers pioneered space astronomy, including the first true space observatory, long before the Hubble telescope, and have led and shaped space science since the late 1950s. How did this come to be? This talk explains the history and discusses some of the exciting explorations of the universe in America’s Dairyland.

History of Washburn Observatory

Washburn Observatory began as a typical Nineteenth Century astronomical research institution but was halfway to obsolescence by 1920.  This talk explains how our traditional observatory evolved onto the frontiers of modern astrophysics and space astronomy.