I love the idea of a long-worked-for legacy.
A few that I admire are:
- Celia Rosser‘s ‘The Banksias‘: “... in 1974 she was appointed [Monash] University Botanical Artist to paint every known species of Banksia. At that time there were thought to be 58 species but soon after, Alex George became involved in the project and he brought the number up to 72. Following the national survey for The Banksia Atlas in 1987 the final tally was 76. It took Celia 25 years to illustrate them all.” [source]; for more, see the publishers page on the three volumes.
- Owen Gingerich‘s ‘The Book Nobody Read‘: a 35-year project to examine every surviving copy of the first two editions of ‘On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres’ by Nicolaus Copernicus (1543 and 1566); “Gingerich showed that nearly all the leading mathematicians and astronomers of the time owned and read the book; however, his analysis of the marginalia shows that they almost all ignored the cosmology at the beginning of the book and were only interested in Copernicus’ new equant-free models of planetary motion in the later chapters” [source]
- Caroline Herschel’s revision of Flamsteed’s star catalogue ‘Catalogue of Stars‘ (1798): ‘contained an index of every observation of every star made by Flamsteed, a list of errata, and a list of more than 560 stars that had not been included‘; Caroline is also most amazingly incredible for her invaluable work supporting her more famous brother William as she ‘also learned to record, reduce, and organise her brother’s astronomical observations. She recognised that this work demanded speed, precision and accuracy‘ [source]
Sigh. What is left to do?