Halley, Edmond

Halley, Edmond

biographical name


Edmond Halley, detail of an oil painting by Richard Phillips, c. 1720; in the National …—Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London

(born Nov. 8, 1656, Haggerston, Shoreditch, near London—died Jan. 14, 1742, Greenwich, near London) English astronomer and mathematician. He studied at the University of Oxford. In 1676 he set sail for the South Atlantic with the intention of compiling an accurate catalog of the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. His star catalogue (1678) recorded the position of 341 stars. In 1684 he met Isaac Newton at Cambridge, which led to his prominent role (with Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren) in the development of Newton's law of gravitation. Halley edited Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, bringing it to print in 1687. He produced the first meteorological chart (1686, showing the distribution of prevailing winds in the world's oceans) and magnetic charts of the Atlantic and Pacific (1701). In astronomy, he described the parabolic orbits of 24 comets observed in the years 1337–1698. He showed that three of these were so similar that they must have been the same comet, and he accurately predicted its return in 1758 (see Halley's Comet).

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