James Watson’s Notes to the Michigan Scientific Association on the Orbital Paths of Planets and Comets

This was by Connor Hickey

Date: June 23, 1863 (As noted on the cover page of the article)

Identification: This article was written and presented by James Craig Watson to the Michigan Scientific Association in 1863. James Watson (1838-1880) was a very famous Canadian American astronomer who not only attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, but also was an instructor (Comstock 45-48). He is most well-known for his discoveries of twenty-two minor planets, but he is also known for his works on orbital elements (49). This specific work is in regards to the determination of orbital elements for planets and comets. The works is comprised of a series of points regarding the processes behind calculating and determining orbital elements along with detailed explanations of what can be deduced from these findings. This artifact not only has a direct connection with one of the most famous astronomers of the 1800s (James Craig Watson) and also is related to such a significant subject in astronomy (orbits), but it provides us with great insight as to how astronomers of this time reasoned and presented their ideas. For these reasons, I have placed this artifact in the history of the department of astronomy.

Cover page "On the determination of the orbits of planets and comets"
Cover page “On the determination of the orbits of planets and comets”

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Original in the Bentley Library:

Collection Name: James Craig Watson papers 1855-1881; Call Number: 86223 Aa 2; Ac; Box Number: Box 1; Folder Title: “Ms. presented by Watson to the Mich. Scientific Association, June, 1863. ‘On the determination of the orbits of planets and comets’”


Comstock, George C. “Memoir of James Craig Watson 1838 – 1880.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/watson-james-craig.pdf>.