Friday, January 8, 2010

A Sign from Heaven?

The appearance of Halley's comet over North America in 1682 spurred Increase Mather to write his landmark work in the development of astronomy and empirical science in the British colonies: Kometographia, or, A Discourse Concerning Comets (Boston in New England: Printed by S.G. for S.S., 1683). Mather had published earlier sermons regarding comets, but here diverges from a purely religious interpretation of "blazing stars" by incorporating his own scientific observations while referencing Kepler, Hevel, Tycho Brahe, and Robert Hooke. In so doing he deftly combines his religious beliefs with the latest scientific theories and presents them in a form easily understood by a lay audience.

His mission is laid out in his note "To the Reader":
Some Worthy Persons having desired me to Write the History of Comets; I resolved (with Divine Permission and Assistance) to spend the spare hours of a few Weeks in an endeavour that way.

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