Monday, September 11, 2017

Neptune Discovered

In the history of science, this discovery is important because the knowledge of a new planet preceded its actual sighting.  From the series which tells how this happened.

The explanation by Newton of the observed facts of the motion of the moon, the way he accounted for precession and nutation and for the tides; the way in which Laplace explained every detail of the planetary motions — these achievements may seem to the professional astronomer equally, if not more, striking and wonderful; but of the facts to be explained in these cases the general public is necessarily more or less ignorant, and so no beauty or thoroughness of treatment appeals to it or excites its imagination. But to predict in the solitude of the study, with no weapons other than pen, ink, and paper, an unknown and enormously distant world, to calculate its orbit when as yet it had never been seen, and to be able to say to a practical astronomer, “Point your telescope in such a direction at such a time, and you will see a new planet hitherto unknown to man” — this must always appeal to the imagination with dramatic intensity, and must awaken some interest in the dullest.

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