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Comets, Popular Culture, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology
Sara Schechner

Book Description | Reviews

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xi
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xv
INTRODUCTION Shared Culture, Separate Spaces 3
High and Low Culture 5
The Verbal and Visual in Popular Culture 10
The Culture of Comets 12
PART ONE: SIGNS OF THE TIMES 15
CHAPTER I Ancient Signs 17
Physical Theories of Comets 17
Tokens of Doom 20
Political Messages and Means 24
CHAPTER II Monsters and the Messiah 27
Popular and Patristic Views of Comets 27
Monsters and Their Messages 30
Monstrous Comets in Scripture 31
Star of Bethlehem, Herald of Judgment 38
Time of the End 46
Reformation in Religion 47
CHAPTER III Divination 51
Color 51
Conjunctions 53
Passage through Zodiac and Prominent Constellations 53
Astrological Houses and Cardinal Orientations 56
Pointing of Tail 58
Position of Nucleus 58
Shapes and Sizes 58
Motion 60
Duration 61
Historical Induction 65
CHAPTER IV Portents and Politics 66
In Streets and Alehouses 66
God on Their Side 68
Prophecies and Propaganda 70
PART TWO: NATURAL CAUSES 89
CHAPTER V From Natural Signs to Proximate Causes 91
New Attitudes toward Nature and the Recovery of Classical Science 91
Aristotle and Terrestrial Corruption 92
Ptolemy and the Power of Mars 94
Stepping-Stones from Symptoms to Causes 96
Critics and Strategies 99
CHAPTER VI The Decline of Cometary Divination 104
Astronomical Reforms 104
Epistemological Critics 114
Shift in Priorities and Signs of Decline 117
Social Reasons for the Decline 123
PART THREE: WORLD REFORMATION 131
CHAPTER VII Comets, Transmutations, and World Reform in Newton's Thought 133
Celestial Mechanics of Comets 135
Pristine Truths and Political Corruption 138
Transmutations and Perpetual Interchange 142
Fire, Water, and a Heavenly Physiology 148
"Revolutions in the Heavenly Bodies" 149
Comets, Teleology, and Newton's Appropriation of Comet Lore 153
CHAPTER VIII Halley's Comet Theory, Noah's Flood, and the End of the World 156
Interest in Orbits 156
Halley's Theory of the Deluge 162
The End of the World 164
The Benefits of Comets 166
The Scientific Response 167
Ecclesiastical Criticism 168
Halley's Alleged Freethinking in Political Context 171
The Satirists' Barbs 174
PART FOUR: COMET LORE AND COSMOGONY 179
CHAPTER IX Refueling the Sun and Planets 181
Circulation of Vital Matter 181
Critics 183
Stoking the Stellar Fires 186
CHAPTER X Revolution and Evolution within the Heavens 188
Come Hell or High Water 189
From Creation to Cosmogony 198
CONCLUDING REMARKS Popular Culture and Elite Science 216
APPENDIX Recent Resurgence of Cometary Catastrophism 222
NOTES 225
BIBLIOGRAPHY 309
INDEX 353

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File created: 4/17/2014

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