Boscovich, the discovery of Uranus and his inclination to theoretical astronomy

  • Article
  • 8 pages
  • Level: university

A 2013 article by L. Guzzardi, published in Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana Supplement, concerning the 18th-century Jesuit astronomer Roger Boscovich:

Abstract: On March 13th 1781 Frederick William Herschel observed a bizarre celestial body moving in the sky. Retrospectively, that astral body was not at all new at that point. It was observed by a number of astronomers since the end of 17th century (and maybe earlier). But they failed to find out its motion and catalogued it as a fixed star – each time a different one. On the other hand, Herschel realized it was moving, and catalogued it as a comet. That news of a new finding in the sky rapidly spread throughout Europe, and after some months the `Herschel’s comet’ was correctly recognized as a new planet, which will be named Uranus. The present paper assumes the event of the discovery of Uranus and the assessment of its planetary nature as a system of complicated, interrelated processes which involved a number of actors in the 17th-century astronomical community. In this framework, the role of the Dalmatian-born Jesuit scientist Ruggiero G. Boscovich is emphasized and the meaning of this discovery is discussed as an example of his interest in theoretical research more than in observational science.

Click here for this article from NASA ADS.

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