Edmond Halley is known far and wide thanks largely to the comet bearing his name, the return of which he predicted in 1705. While that discovery would be enough to make the career of any scientist, Halley’s massive contributions to the fields of astronomy, navigation, geophysics, mathematics, engineering, and actuarial science as a young man and eventually as Astronomer Royal are mostly overlooked. Edmond Halley: The Many Discoveries of the Most Curious Astronomer Royal is a revelatory and deeply researched biography of a man whose defining achievement isn’t even the half of it.
A jack-of-all-trades when it came to scientific reasoning, an all-around academic and workaholic who couldn’t leave well enough alone, Halley was amazingly productive and prolific. He was behind some of the most groundbreaking discoveries in human history: It was Halley who was the first to accurately plot the stars of the southern hemisphere. He published Isaac Newton’s Principia, arguably the most important scientific text ever written; translated the works of ancient Greek mathematician Apollonius; captained the ship Paramore on a scientific expedition to plot the Earth’s magnetic fields; was the first to calculate mortality annuities, creating the foundation for actuarial science; made improvements to the diving bell; surveyed the tides of the English Channel; and began the movement to accurately measure the distance between the Earth and Sun, unlocking the key to determining the distances to the nearest stars.
In this incisive and perceptive biography, author David K. Love reveals the boundless mind and endless curiosity of Edmond Halley firmly cementing the legacy of the second Astronomer Royal among the first-rate scientists of his time.
David K Love is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society and holds a BSc honors degree from University College London. After a career as an accountant at British Telecom, he took early voluntary retirement to pursue his scientific interests and writing. He is the author of Kepler and the Universe, a biography of the famous 17th century German astronomer Johannes Kepler. He used to lecture frequently on the history of astronomy and on the origins and evolution of the Universe, but now finds that his grandchildren take up this time instead. Love lives in Exeter, in Devon, England.
“David Love has produced a highly readable account of the remarkably broad contributions of Edmond Halley. Although Halley is most famous for promoting the work of Isaac Newton and using Newton’s law of gravitation to predict the return of the comet named after him, Love capably and authoritatively reviews Halley’s lesser-known but equally significant achievements in navigation, geophysics, and celestial distance measurements. This lively book and its helpful appendices bring to life a much-admired polymath with a gregarious personality.”– Richard Ellis, Professor of Astrophysics, University College London
“Edmond Halley is a well-researched and pacey account of the life and work of the famous seventeenth-century natural philosopher. While best known for his comet and his work with Newton, many other stories are told of this outgoing, likeable man. Love is meticulous in presenting the actual proof (or lack of it) for each, giving the readers the opportunity to decide for themselves, from a wealth of evidence, what type of a man Halley actually might have been.” – Dr. Emily Winterburn, Vice President of the Society for the History of Astronomy and author of The Quiet Revolution of Caroline Herschel: The Last Heroine of Astronomy