Lord Kelvin in 1901 tested an “old and celebrated hypothesis” that if we could see far enough into space the whole sky would be occupied with stellar disks all of perhaps the same brightness as the Sun. Kelvin was the first to solve quantitatively and correctly the riddle of a dark night sky, a riddle that had been previously solved qualitatively by Edgar Allan Poe, and is now known as Olbers' paradox.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
$199.00 per year
only $3.90 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Thomson, W. Phil. Mag. Ser. 6, 2, 161–177 (1901).
Thomson, W. Baltimore Lectures on Molecular Dynamics and the Wave Theory of Light (Cambridge University Press, Clay & Sons, London, 1904).
Thomson, W. Mathematical and Physical Papers (Cambridge University Press, 1882 – 1911).
Thompson, S.P. The Life of William Tomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs (Macmillan, Londo, 1910).
Bondi, H. Cosmology (Cambridge University Press, 1952).
Jaki, S.L. The Paradox of Olbers' Paradox (Herder, New York, 1969).
Harrison, E.R. Cosmology: The Science of the Universe (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1981).
Harrison, E.R. Science 226, 941–945 (1984).
Harrison, E.R. Darknesss at Night: The History of a Riddle (Harvard University Press, in the press).
Halley, E. Phil Trans. R. Soc. 31, 22–24; 24-26 (1720-21),
Loys de Chéseaux, J.P. Traité de la Cométe, 223–229 (M. M. Bousequet, Lausanne, 1744).
Olbers, H.W. in Astronomisches Jahrbuch für das Jahr 1826 (ed. Bode, J. E.) 110–121 (C. F. E. Späthen, Berlin, 1823); Edin. New Philos. J. 1, 141–150 (1826).
Harrison, E.R. Physics Today 27, 69–74 (1974).
Harrison, E.R. Nature 204, 271–272 (1964).
Poe, E.A. in The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe (ed. Beaver, H.) 171–174 (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976).
Poe, E.A. Eureka: A Prose Poem (Putnam, New York, 1848); reproduced in The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe (ed. Beaver, H.) 205–309 (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976).
Thomson, W. Nature 68, 623–624 (1903).
Thompson, S.P. The Life of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, Ch. 1 (Macmillan, London, 1910).
Conner, F.W. in All These to Teach (eds Bryan, R. A. et al. (University of Florida Press, Gainsville, 1965).
Nichol, J.P. Views of the Architecture of the Heavens (Dayton & Newton, New York, 1842).
Thompson, S.P. The Life of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, 1125 (Macmillan, London, 1910).
About this article
Cite this article
Harrison, E. Kelvin on an old, celebrated hypothesis. Nature 322, 417–418 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1038/322417a0
This article is cited by