- Halley, Edmund 1656-1742
- Astronomer and geophysicist; prompted Newton to write the
Principia. At the age of 20 Halley went to St Helena
and made the first accurate catalogue of the southern stars. His
subsequent career included work on meteorology and terrestrial
magnetism, as well as the astronomy for which he is famous today.
In 1684 Halley travelled from London to Cambridge to ask Newton
what would be the shape of planetary orbits if the force of
gravity varied as the inverse square of the distance to the sun.
Newton's response that it would be an ellipse, and the papers
written in proof, eventually led to the publication of the
Principia in 1687. Halley financed the printing himself
when the Royal Society was unable, and expressed his selfless
admiration for what Newton had done, in the book's
Halley's modern fame is based on
his identification of Halley's Comet in historical records, as it
returned every 76 years, and this in turn is based on his
calculation of its orbit with Newtonian techniques. During the
1696 recoinage, Halley was deputy comptroller of the Chester mint.
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