Famous British people: Edmund Halley and the Journey of the Comets

Dear friends of Training Centre Raya London, we have decided to start a series of articles about famous Brits for you. You’ll be able to learn facts about their lives and activities and at the same time learn English in a pleasant and easy way. As we have already advised you, you can change the language of our website using the button on the top right and read our articles in both Bulgarian and English. This will make it easier for you to learn new words and help you get used to the expressiveness and the rules of the language.

Today’s famous person is Edmund Halley, captivated by the stars. He was born on November 8, 1656 near London. He attended the school at the church “St. Paul”, and then continued his studies at Oxford. Young Edmund was fortunate enough to come under the tutelage of John Flamsteed, a royal astronomer who guided him into space science. John Flamsteed himself had already drawn up a star map of the Northern Hemisphere and Halley proposed to make one for the Southern Hemisphere. With financial help from his father and the King himself, he went to St. Helena in the South Atlantic. His observations and mapping of 341 southern stars secured Edmund Halley membership at the Royal Scientific Society.

In 1684, Halley visited Isaac Newton for the first time and contributed to the Theory of Gravitaty. Newton had long been working on the question of why planets didn’t break away from the Sun and fly into space, and why they didn’t fall on the Sun itself. The answer concerned planetary mechanics, and Newton concluded that the orbit of the planets had to describe an ellipse. Encouraged by Halley, in 1687, Newton finalized his calculations and published his great work “Principia Mathematica” with the help and editing by Halley.

Edmund Halley had the talent to reduce vast amounts of data to comprehensible tables and devoted himself to calculating the movement of winds (a work that helped meteorology); he was the first one to link mortality rate to the population age data, he calculated the deviations of the compass due to the difference between the magnetic north pole and the real one. But he did not forget the stars and in 1705, he published “A Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets”, in which he described the parabolic orbit of 24 comets. Based on historical data, he found that some comets visited us during certain periods and correctly calculated the next appearance of the comet, later called Halley.

Edmund Halley made many more observations, he compared the notes of ancient astronomers and found patterns in the movements of stars and planets. His work served navigation well, which was his practical purpose. His calculations became the foundation of meteorology and life insurance. He relied on mathematics and computing in all his diverse interests, reaching high levels of professionalism. His influence on Newton is undeniable, leading to Newton’s finalizing of his great work on gravity. Drawing on ancient and contemporary scholars, Edmund Halley became one of the major representatives of Western scientific thought.

He lived to be 85 years old and died in 1742 in Greenwich. His sarcophagus still stands today in the yard of the church “St. Margaret.”

Author: Iveta Radeva


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