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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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The Coast of Infinity

The Coast of Infinity

(p.283) Chapter Thirty-Four The Coast of Infinity
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

This chapter focusses on the work of Wilhelm (or William) Herschel, whose observations of the stars eventually confirmed Newton’s universal hypothesis. Herschel first came to the attention of the Royal Society when William Watson, the son of the then secretary, found him on a street in Bath looking at the Moon through a telescope. When Watson asked if he might be permitted to look in, he discovered that the clarity and resolution of what he saw were superior to any telescope he had ever used. Herschel began constructing his telescope in 1773 (nearly half a century after Newton’s death) when he realized that to achieve what he called ‘space-penetrating power’, he would need a larger version of the tiny reflector telescope that Newton had presented to the Royal Society.

Keywords:   Sir Isaac Newton, universal hypothesis, Wilhelm Herschel, Royal Society, telescope

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