AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 1. HAD I: New Views of Historical Research in the 21st Century
Special Session Oral, Sunday, January 6, 2002, 2:00-4:00pm, Caucus

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[1.06] A Documentary History of the Discovery of Neptune

C.B. Waff (Encyclopedia Americana), N. Kollerstrom (University College London)

The discovery of the planet Neptune by Johann Gottfried Galle on 23 September 1846 near the positions predicted by Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier and John Couch Adams has been justly considered by many the greatest achievement of Newtonian celestial mechanics. Aside from communications to societies and journals and a selection of letters published shortly after the discovery by British Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy, however, contemporary documents (especially letters) concerning the discovery have in large part remained unpublished and scattered in numerous archives in England, France, the United States, Germany, and elsewhere. Partially in response to the longtime disappearance and fortunate recent recovery of the Royal Greenwich Observatory file of documents on the discovery, the authors of this paper have formed the project of editing and annotating for publication a chronologically ordered collection of documents relating to the prediction, discovery, and orbit determination of Neptune. A lengthy introductory essay that would summarize research on the Neptune discovery that has been conducted by various historians would accompany such a collection. This paper will outline the criteria that have been used for selecting the documents that will be published in the edition and describe some of the preliminary associated research findings of the authors.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: cwaff@grolier.com

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