Edinburgh Review,  1 (1802–03), 426–31.

Art.XV. [Review of Observations on the Two Lately Discovered Celestial Bodies, by William Herschel]

[Henry P Brougham] * and [Henry B Parnell] *



Publications reviewed:

Herschel 1802


Astronomy, Discovery, Progress, Nomenclature

People mentioned:

Giuseppe Piazzi, Heinrich W M Olbers

    Gives an overview of William Herschel's observations of the recently discovered 'supposed planets', Ceres and Pallas, 'or, as he [Herschel] calls them, moving stars' (426). States that Herschel 'maintains, that these bodies are neither [...] comets nor planets, but he gives them the name Asteroids' (427). Objects to 'the unnecessary introduction of new terms into Philosophy'. Observes: 'The science of astronomy is, beyond any other branch of the mixed mathematics, loaded with an obscure and difficult technology. As all nations have been observers of the heavenly bodies, so all languages have contributed to form the nomenclature of the astronomer. [...] Knowing, as we do, the great power of words in misleading and perplexing our ideas, we cannot allow the unnecessary introduction of a new term to escape unnoticed. Where a new object has been discovered, we cheerfully admit the right of the discoverer to give it a new name; but we will not allow a needless multiplication of terms, or an unnecessary alteration in the old classification of things, to be either justifiable or harmless, a substitute for real discovery, or a means of facilitating the progress of invention'. (428) Later asks: 'If a new name must be found, why not call them by some appelation which shall in some degree, be descriptive of, or at least consistent with, their properties? Why not, for instance, call them Concentric Comets, or Planatary Comets, or Cometary Planets? or, if a single term must be found, why may we not coin such a phrase as Planetoid or Cometoid?' (430). Concludes by stating that Herschel's theory of 'the influence of solar spots on the price of grain' is 'hasty and erroneous' (431).

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