Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/368

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lest so many hours should be entirely thrown away," he made use of his results to predict the positions of the planets. "While thus engaged, I received," he proceeds, "my first intimation of the remarkable conjunction of Venus and the sun; and I regard it as a very fortunate occurrence, insomuch as about the beginning of October it induced me, in expectation of so grand a spectacle, to observe with increased attention." Nevertheless, his heart was wroth within him against Lansberg, insomuch that he could not refrain from the extreme step of "forgiving" him in the following agreeable terms: "I pardon, in the mean time, the miserable arrogance of the Belgian astronomer who has overloaded his useless tables with such unmerited praise, and cease to lament the misapplication of my own time, deeming it a sufficient reward that I was thereby led to consider and foresee the appearance of Venus in the sun. But, on the other hand, may Lansberg forgive me" (this is exquisite) "that I hesitated to trust him in an observation of such importance, and from having been so often deceived by his pretensions to universal accuracy that I disregarded the general reception of his tables. . . . Lest a vain exultation should deceive me," he proceeds, "and to prevent the chance of disappointment, I not only determined diligently to watch the important spectacle myself, but exhorted others whom I knew to be fond of astronomy to follow my example; in order that the testimony of several persons, if it should so happen, might the more effectually promote the attainment of truth, and because by observing in different places our purpose would be less likely to be defeated by the accidental interposition of clouds, or any fortuitous impediment." He was particularly anxious because Jupiter and Mercury seemed by their positions to threaten bad weather. "For," says he, "in such apprehension I coincide with the opinion of the astrologers, because it is confirmed by experience; but in other respects I cannot help despising their puerile vanities." Among the astronomers to whom he wrote was his friend Crabtree.[1]

Horrox calculated that the transit would begin at three o'clock in the afternoon of November 24th; but "being unwilling to depend entirely on his own opinion," he began his watch on Saturday, November 23d. On Sunday morning he resumed it, only interrupting it to go to church—so, at least, I interpret his remark that he "was called away by business of the highest importance, which, for these ornamental pursuits," he "could not with propriety neglect. . . . About fifteen

  1. Both these ardent students of astronomy died young. Horrox (or Horrocks, as his name is now more commonly spelled) was but twenty years old when he calculated the transit, so that his feat may not inaptly be compared to that of Adams in calculating the place of the unknown planet Neptune within a few months of taking his degree. Each instance of an early mastery of difficult problems was fated to meet with neglect; but Horrox died before justice had been done him. Adams was quickly able to prove that his work was sound, notwithstanding the coolness with which it had been received by the Astronomer Royal. Horrocks died in 1641, in his twenty-second year. Crabtree is supposed to have been killed at the battle of Naseby Field.