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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This Day in Science History - January 21 - John Couch Adams

January 21th marks the passing of John Couch Adams. Adams was a British mathematician and astronomer who calculated the existence of a planet outside the orbit of Uranus to explain the irregularities of Uranus' orbit. He presented his calculations to the Cambridge Observatory, where they did nothing with the information. Meanwhile, a French mathematician named Urbain Le Verrier was doing the same calculations. He presented his results to Berlin Observatory's astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle, who quickly found Neptune within 1° of Le Verrier's prediction. When Berlin announced the discovery, Astronomer Royal George Airy remembered John Adams and his paper and tried to claim priority of the discovery. Both men are generally credited with the discovery today, but Le Verrier's actual published calculations and closer position is cited to give him the credit of discovery.

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