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Edmond Halley, Of Comet Fame, But Really A Brilliant, British Polymath Died 275 Years Ago — Today.

by Anura Guruge

Click to access the Wikipedia entry for “Edmond Halley”.

Edmond Halley (29 October 1656 to 14 January 1741 (new Gregorian calendar)), though best known for COMPUTING the periodic orbit of the comet that bears his name, was quite the man.

Son of a wealthy soap-maker in London, Edmond had the privilege of being able to pursue the many things that interested him.

Just a few of his many amazing achievements include:

  • Financing and publishing Sir Isaac Newton’s, quite literally earth-moving, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) — which among other things included his eponymous laws of motion.
  • Worked out how to determine the size of the Solar System by observing transits of Mercury and Venus across the face of the Sun.
  • Reliably catalogued the stars in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Built a working diving bell!
  • Realized that some comets were periodic and calculated the orbital period of one, 1P/Halley — which he never got to see!
  • Britain’s second Astronomer Royal.

He was an exceptional mathematician. He also made some major contributions in the fields of meteorology, geophysics and physics,


Halley’s famous comet; 1P. In 1910. Click to ENLARGE.

Last time around was in 1986 when it didn’t put on a big show because the Sun was between the comet and Earth when it was at its closest to Earth.

Next time — 2061! 45 years hence. I will not be around.

Google Doodle for Edmond Halley's 355th Birthday, November 8, 2011 (old calendar).

Google Doodle for Edmond Halley’s 355th Birthday, November 8, 2011 (old calendar).

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by Anura Guruge