Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1868. 4to. [xiv]. 662 pp. FIRST EDITION. Publisher’s pebbled cloth binding with gilt lettering on the spine, spine a bit worn at head and faded, corners worn; interior in good condition with browning only on the first and last blanks, small library book label on the flyleaf verso. Item #14252
First edition of this thorough and valuable investigation of theoretical astronomy. Watson provides an in-depth analysis of planetary motion and the discovery of new comets, noting in his preface the fundamental complications of dynamics and all the problems presented. He states historical facts relating to difficulties with theoretical astronomy, citing Newton, Euler, Boscovich, Lagrange, and Laplace, among others. Through a series of observations and tables, Watson attempts to determine the orbit of the “heavenly bodies.”
At age 15, Watson (1838-1880) matriculated at the University of Michigan, where he began studying classical languages and later focused on astronomy with professor Franz Brünnow. He then became the second director of Detroit Observatory, succeeding his late professor. It was during this time he wrote this work on theoretical astronomy.
Watson is best known for his announcement of the discovery of the planet Vulcan, a body between Mercury and the sun. It is now assumed that what he actually viewed were the results of sun spots and small planetoids, which may exist. It is also assumed (in astronomical lore) that his imagined celestial body was the inspiration for the planet Vulcan in the Star Trek series.