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Undaunted: The Forgotten Giants of the Allegheny Observatory (2012)

TV-PG | | Documentary | 18 April 2012 (USA)
4:23 | Clip
This film tells the surprising story of how the Allegheny Observatory has been a world leader in the study of the stars since the 1860s. Self-educated, and often facing unrelenting ... See full summary »


Dan Handley


Dan Handley





Credited cast:
Cain Alexander ... Young Samuel Langley
Kurt Bell Kurt Bell ... Self
Robert R. Bell Robert R. Bell ... Josiah King (as Bob Bell)
Len Caric Len Caric ... Harvey Childs
David Conrad ... Narrator
Tom D. Crouch Tom D. Crouch ... Self (as Tom Crouch)
William Fickinger William Fickinger ... Self
George Gatewood George Gatewood ... Self
Art Glaser Art Glaser ... Self
Matthew Green Matthew Green ... Wealthy industrialist
Jay Keenan Jay Keenan ... John Brashear (voice)
Daniel V. Klein ... Professor Lewis Bradley
Nick LaMantia ... Assistant #1
Henry Lenard Henry Lenard ... Dr. James Keeler
Demetria Marsh Demetria Marsh ... Julia Smith Brashear (voice)


This film tells the surprising story of how the Allegheny Observatory has been a world leader in the study of the stars since the 1860s. Self-educated, and often facing unrelenting hardships, the people associated with the Allegheny Observatory defied the odds to make enormous contributions to the founding of astrophysics and early aviation. Among its many distinctions, the Allegheny Observatory is often regarded as the birthplace of astrophysics, laid the foundation for climate and solar energy research, had made major discoveries in planetary science, and have discovered and studied planets outside our solar system. Samuel Pierpont Langley made the first truly scientific studies of the principles of flight and published a textbook on the subject in 1891. He was also the first person to fly a documented heavier-than-air powered flying machine in 1896. Starting with only a grade school education, John Brashear taught himself physics and astronomy to become one of the world's foremost ... Written by Dan Handley

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Did You Know?


The film's Executive Producer, William Peduto, was elected Mayor of Pittsburgh in 2013. See more »

User Reviews

Really cool background stories to aviation, spectroscopy, and astrophysics
23 March 2013 | by pitt-penguinSee all my reviews

This is a fantastic documentary (more like a collection of stories)! The production quality and the music make what could be a very dry subject enjoyable. But then the story telling and wealth of information packed into this movie make it one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It is really unlike most documentaries--crossing into the boundary between movie and documentary. What keeps it from being a movie is the lack of heavy personal drama, but this was never intended to be a movie so it is not a fault at all.

You learn about two men, Samuel Pierpont Langley, and John Alfred Brashear, and their work at the Allegheny Observatory. What is fascinating is all of the interesting science that occurred from these two men--individually, collectively, and even away from the observatory.

You learn about how spectroscopy birthed astrophysics--and I mean you really learn about it, not just hear it mentioned. Great use of Neil deGrasse Tyson here. My wife turned to me and said "I never understood red shift until I saw this movie." Doppler effect is also well done, as is the Michelson-Morley experiment--which required Brashear's advanced optics. And there is a lot more.

I don't want to give too much away, but this is a great documentary.

It's better than the 400 years of the telescope, if you have ever seen that one.

Whoever rated this only 1 star is crazy.

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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

18 April 2012 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA See more »


Box Office


$260,000 (estimated)
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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