London, South Kensington
23 April 2008
GAUSS, Carl Friedrich (1777-1855). Theoria motus corporum coelestium in sectionibus conicis solem ambientium. Hamburg: for F. Perthes and I.H. Besser, 1809. 4° (282 x 229mm). Engraved plate. Mid-19th-century boards (rebacked with calf). Provenance: John Crerar Library Chicago (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION of Gauss's important work in which he developed his methods of orbit calculations and which he put to good practical use. 'In January 1801 G. Piazzi had briefly observed and lost a new planet, During the rest of that year the astronomers vainly tried to relocate it. In September, as his Disquisitiones was coming off the press, Gauss decided to take up the challenge. To it he applied both a more accurate orbit theory (based on the ellipse rather than the usual circular approximation) and improved numerical methods (based on least squares). By December the task was done, and Ceres was soon found in the predicted position. This extraordinary feat of locating a tiny, distant heavenly body from seemingly insufficient information appeared to be almost superhuman, especially since Gauss did not reveal his methods. With the Disquisitiones it established his reputation as a mathematical and scientific genius of the first order' (DSB). Norman 879.
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