Friday, September 21, 2012

History Tidbit: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Herschel?

Turns out, the planet Uranus could have been . . . Herschel or Georgium Sidus.  When I was first reading this in the article "On Astronomy: The Solar System Explained, &c.," I couldn't figure out what planet the magazine and the original source, Mrs. Bryan, meant.  So I turned to Wikipedia article "William Herschel," and it had the answer.  Sir Frederick William Herschel discovered Uranus.  To curry favor with King George III, he named it the Georgian star.  Later, the name became Herschel.  Then, finally, Uranus.

So I guess the mnemonic could have been very different: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Him . . . .  
Which would have tied nicely into the male-centric view espoused in this line: "In the center of the solar system is placed the sun, like the father of the family, surrounded by bodies dependent on his emanations, called planets . . . " (Bryan 88).

But hey, I'm just surprised by the fact they have articles on astronomy in a lady's magazine anyway.  Or that they think astronomy is "elegant and useful" knowledge for female readers (Bryan 88).  Especially considering that the original lecture came from a woman no less!  Huh, go figure.

  • Bryan. "Lectures on Natural Philosophy: The Result of Many Years' Experience of the Facts Elucidated" [Excerpt]. Rpt. in "On Astronomy: The Solar System Explained, &c."  La Belle Assemblee 3 June 1807:  88-91. Google Book Edition.
  • "William Herschel."  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. 


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