Ancient Astronomical Observations and the Study of the Moon’s Motion (1691-1757)

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Springer Science & Business Media, Feb 17, 2012 - Mathematics - 158 pages
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The discovery of a gradual acceleration in the moon’s mean motion by Edmond Halley in the last decade of the seventeenth century led to a revival of interest in reports of astronomical observations from antiquity. These observations provided the only means to study the moon’s ‘secular acceleration’, as this newly-discovered acceleration became known. This book contains the first detailed study of the use of ancient and medieval astronomical observations in order to investigate the moon’s secular acceleration from its discovery by Halley to the establishment of the magnitude of the acceleration by Richard Dunthorne, Tobias Mayer and Jérôme Lalande in the 1740s and 1750s. Making extensive use of previously unstudied manuscripts, this work shows how different astronomers used the same small body of preserved ancient observations in different ways in their work on the secular acceleration. In addition, this work looks at the wider context of the study of the moon’s secular acceleration, including its use in debates of biblical chronology, whether the heavens were made up of æther, and the use of astronomy in determining geographical longitude. It also discusses wider issues of the perceptions and knowledge of ancient and medieval astronomy in the early-modern period. This book will be of interest to historians of astronomy, astronomers and historians of the ancient world.
 

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Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction
1
Chapter 2 Edmond Halleys Discovery of the Secular Acceleration of the Moon
11
Chapter 3 A Forgotten Episode in the History of the Secular Acceleration William Whiston Arthur Ashley Sykes and the Eclipse of Phlegon
23
Chapter 4 The Gradual Acceptance of the Existence of the Secular Acceleration During the 1740s
37
Chapter 5 EighteenthCentury Views of Ancient Astronomy
42
Chapter 6 The First Detailed Study of the Moons Secular Acceleration Richard Dunthorne
73
Chapter 7 An Integrated Approach Tobias Mayer
95
Chapter 8 The Final Synthesis Jérôme Lalande
123
Chapter 9 Epilogue
137
References
143
Index
153
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About the author (2012)

John M. Steele is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Durham, where he researches and teaches the history of astronomy. Also by the Same Author Observations and Predictions of Eclipse Times by Early Astronomers (Kluwer Academic Publishers)

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