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Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel

Nature volume 13, pages 361363 | Download Citation

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Abstract

A STRONOMY may justly claim to be one of the most comprehensive branches of human knowledge, not merely from the immeasurable extent of the region which it undertakes to investigate, but from its embracing in a common boundary, and directing towards a common end, mental processes and lines of study which otherwise would have found but little ground for convergence and combination. It is, perhaps, not generally understood how varied are the courses, or how distinct the attainments, of those who are comprehended under the general title of “astronomers,” or how strong, more especially, is the demarcation between the pursuit of theory and the practice of observation. Very different are the requirements of Greenwich and Parsonstown. The collection of facts, and the investigation of the laws which are gathered from those facts, are entirely distinct processes, and though the qualifications demanded separately for each have occasionally been found in combination, yet more frequently they have existed in individuals who have had little in common besides the general end of their pursuit. Laplace or Clairaut would have exhibited but little aptitude for wielding the instruments of Slough, and many an eye that has rested with the liveliest interest on the magnificence of the lunar scenery, or the mysterious glories of those regions where the great Creator has “sowed with stars the heaven thick as a field,” would pore in vain on a page of intricate analytical formulæ or perhaps turn from it with a feeling of positive dislike and annoyance.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/013361a0

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