AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 35 HAD III
Division Oral, Monday, January 5, 2004, 2:00-3:30pm, Regency V

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[35.02] First Description of Discrete Stars Composing the Milky Way in Thomas Watson’s Hekatompathia (1582)

E. L. Altschuler (Mt. Sinai School of Medicine), W. Jansen (Independent Scholar)

We note the first description of the Milky Way as being composed of a large number of discrete stars in Sonnet 31 of Thomas Watson’s (d 1592) Hekatompathia (1582). After prefatory material invoking classical sources and making clear he is discussing the Milky Way, Watson’s poem then starts:

Who can recount the vertues of my deare, Or say how farre her fame hath taken flight, That can not tell how many starres appeare In part of heav'n, which Galaxia hight, Or number all the moates in Phebus rayes, Or golden sandes, wheron Pactolus playes?

We discuss the scientific, literary and historical significance of this finding.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: Eric.Altschuler@mssm.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #5
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.