Contributed Talk - Splinter Culture

Tuesday, 14 September 2021, 10:30   (virtual Cult)

Maximilian Hell's contributions to the quarrel about the naming of the planet Uranus

Doris Vickers
University of Vienna

When William Herschel discovered a new celestial object in 1781, it was unclear at first whether it is to be considered a comet or a planet. It was established relatively quickly that only a planet could account for the path it was taking in the night sky. But another quarrel quickly ensued - spearheaded by two famous European astronomers, Johann Elert Bode and Maximilian Hell - about the name that should be given to the newly discovered family member in the solar system. Bode had proposed "Uranus", whereas Hell put forward "Urania". Of course, there were other suggestions (amongst others, Poinsinet's "Cybele" and Herschel's own "Georgium Sidus") Famously, neither of them (or anybody else for that matter) could resolve the issue and Uranus "officially" got his name in the 1850s, long after their respective deaths. This paper will deal with Maximilian Hell's poetic and literary contributions and the suggestions he has made in several of his publications.