video record
Media not available in the Digital Archive
Dr. Michael Hoskin is a lecturer in the history of science at the University of Cambridge. He is an expert on Newton, and author - among other publications, of a biography of Herschel. In this prog...ramme he considers the problem posed for cosmographers by Newton's gravitational law. Was the universe static? Were the stars, like the planets, in a state of cyclical motion? Or was the universe, inconceivably to Newton, evolving? The impetus to find an answer to these questions came from theologians and from the philosopher, Kant. But it was the patient observer Herschel, vorking with the best telescopes of the time, who answered them. He proved evolutionary change in the stellar universe and the mathematician, Laplace, almost simultaneously proposed an evolutionary origin of the planetary system. So these two great men bequeathed to nineteenth century scientists an account of 'the construction of the heavens' which rested on the concept of developmental change. Dr. Noel Coley, staff tutor in the history of science at the Open University, introduces and concludes the programme, emphasizing in particular the calm response to an evolutionary theory of cosmology, compared to the reaction to biological evolution.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: AMST283, Science and belief: from Copernicus to Darwin
Item code: AMST283; 06
First transmission date: 29-05-1974
Published: 1974
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:22:52
+ Show more...
Producer: Nuala O'Faolain
Contributors: Noel Coley; Michael Hoskins
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Cosmology; Cosmology; Cyclic change; Evolution; Gravitational law; Herschel; John Newton; Thomas Wright
Footage description: Noel Coley, in the studio, introduces the programme, summarising the state of astronomy at the time of Newton's formulation of the theory of universal gravitation. Graphics of stars. Harpsichord music by Herschel. Michael Hoskin, with a bust of Newton in the background, explains the three possible universes: unchanging, based on cyclic change or based on developmental change, that astronomers favoured after Newton. He speaks of Richard Bentley's role in the preservation of Newton's manuscripts, and places portraits of Newton and Bentley in the 'unchanging' column of a date chart showing the three universes. Music. Next he describes the ideas of Thomas Wright, with diagrams illustrating his theory of cyclic change. These ideas were taken up by Kant, who devised a system of alternative chaos and structure. Further diagrams. Hoskin places their portraits on the chart. Music. Finally he considers Herschel's work in the 1780s. Portrait of him. Engraving of his 1783 telescope. Shots of nebulae. Laplace, working at the same time, inferred a common origin for the solar system. Hoskin places them both in developmental change on the chart. Noel Coley concludes the programme, questioning why the theory of evolution in cosmology arouse less controversy than in biology. Music.
Master spool number: 6HT/71365
Production number: 00525_3118
Videofinder number: 3354
Available to public: no