Halley’s comet

1705

Halley’s comet

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Edmond Halley astronomy

Halley’s comet

Apparitions

Perturbations

Halley not only predicted the reappearance of the comet but in doing so helped banish superstition and ignorance regarding such unusual heavenly apparitions. In 1066 Eilmer of Malmesbury wrote, “I see you brandishing the downfall of my country. I hate you!” In 1470 Bartolomeo Platina wrote, “A hairy and fiery star having then made its appearance for several days, the mathematicians declared that there would follow grievous pestilence, dearth and some great calamity.” We might expect medieval monks to be susceptible to superstition, but not mathematicians. Even so, we are all human, and so in 1910 many bought anti-comet pills and anti-comet umbrellas to assuage their susceptibilities.

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