History Of Realizing That Meteors Are Real Term Paper


History Of Understanding the Science of Meteors When did scientists first begin to understand what "falling stars" really were? What did humans originally believe about those flashing lights that darted across the night sky -- and who were the scientific individuals who made and recorded the first accurate observations of meteors? These issues and others related to meteors will be presented in this paper.

Brief Review of Ancient Beliefs about Meteors

Author Tamra Andrews explains in her book Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea, and Sky, that ancient people apparently associated meteors with evil. In particular, Tamara writes, "people believed these flaming rock fragments were demons" that were flying down to earth for "some malevolent reason" (Andrews, 2000, p. 123). Some ancient civilizations had a fear of fire and as Andrews mentions, seeing a "strange occurrence in the sky" seemed to be upsetting the universe in some way so it was a cause for a "sense of doom" (123).

To some ancient peoples, the meteor falling from the sky might have been Thor, the Norse thunder god, hurling a hammer from deep space, Andrews explained. The Mongols of China -- when they found meteorites that had made it to earth -- used the rocks as tools, and ancient peoples in Scandinavia believed the rocks that made it to earth were pieces of "Thor's hammer" (Andrews, 123). The Hindu peoples believed that meteors offered a link to "the severed body of Rahu, the eclipse demon" and the Native Americans in California believed that meteors were from the moon -- calling them the "moon's children" (Andrews, 123). In Queensland ancient people thought the meteors represented "the ropes their dead relatives used to climb to Heaven, and then dropped when they arrived safely" (Andrews, 123).



Towards the end of the 18th century, Lauretta continues, when many scientists and other witnessed meteorite falls (at Sienna, Italy in 1794, and in 1705 in Wold Cottage, England), it became scientific knowledge that meteorites "do indeed fall from the sky and represent material distinct in its composition and structure from rocks formed on Earth" (Lauretta, xvi).
The History of Understanding Meteors (continued)

In the University of Texas alumni magazine, The Alcalde, author Deborah Byrd explains that in the late 1700s, a German lawyer and physicist (Ernst Friedrich Florens Chladni) began a serious inquiry into these "falling stones" and came to the correct conclusion that they were "of cosmic origin" (Byrd, 7). As a result of that discovery, Chladni published a long paper in 1794 detailing his conclusion that these fiery stones were the "remnants of a disintegrated planet" (Byrd, 7). Today, many scholars "credit Chladni with founding meteoritics as a science" while others view his contribution "as scarcely worthy of mention" (Marvin, 1996). But it is true that Chladni's book, Uber den Ursprung der v on Pallas gefundenen und anderer ihr anlicher Eisenmassen und uber einige damit in Verbindung stehende Naturer-scheinungen as the first science-based document on meteors (Marvin, 1996).

In the Field…

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