This book assesses the origin of asteroids by analyzing the discovery of Vesta in 1807. Wilhelm Olbers, who discovered Vesta, suggested that the asteroids were the result of a primordial planet's explosion. Cunningham studies that idea in detail through the writings of Sir David Brewster in Scotland, the era's most prolific writer about the asteroids. He also examines the link between meteorites and asteroids, revealing a synergy between Ernst Chladni, Romantic symbolism, and the music of the spheres.
Vesta was a lightning rod for controversy throughout the nineteenth century with observers arguing over its size and color, and the astounding notion that it was self-luminous. It was also a major force for change, as new methods in the field of celestial mechanics were developed to study the orbital perturbations it is subject to. A large selection of private correspondence and scientific papers complete the first comprehensive historical study of Vesta ever published.
With a synoptic look at the four asteroids, Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta, Cunningham provides a valuable resource on asteroid origins and explains how they were integrated into the newly revealed solar system of the early nineteenth century.
Clifford J. Cunningham did his Ph.D. work in the history of astronomy at James Cook University and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, and he is affiliated with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand. He has written or edited 13 books on the history of astronomy, and his papers have been published in many major journals, including Annals of Science, Journal for the History of Astronomy, Culture & Cosmos, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia, The Asian Journal of Physics and The Milton Quarterly. Asteroid (4276) was named Clifford in his honor by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Preface.- Exordium.- 1 Olbers' Hypothesis: The Origin of the Asteroids.- 2 Regnér's Attacks on Olbers' Hypothesis.- 3 Brewster's Support for Olbers' Hypothesis.- 4 The Discovery of Vesta.- 5 Vesta: A Self-Luminous Asteroid?- 6 Asteroids and the Language of Nature.- 7 The Perturbations of Vesta.- 8 Letters: Olbers-Gauss.- 9 Letters: Bessel-Olbers-Bode-Gauss.- 10 Letters: Groombridge-Maskelyne-Herschel.- 11 Schroeter's Asteroid Books.- 12 Scientific Papers .- 13 Historical Surveys of the Asteroids.- Appendix A: Kepler's Singular Audacity.- Appendix B: Master List of Asteroid Correspondence.- Appendix C: Master List of English Magazine Articles.- Appendix D: The Historical Development of the Orbital Elements of Vesta.- Final Thoughts.- References.- Index.