me again. Please help me, to which work of Rittenhouse you refer. I could find (have to work and still to distribute two slices of that eucrite, which will be then quite the most beautiful EUC in the collections of the happy buyers), could find on web only a short letter by Rittenhouse to Franklin. Where he told a short note about the observation of the Meteor, his height and in which distance he believed to have calculated to fallen down, and that he's supposing
The other is the same, but a little more comprehensive, the source Chladni quote, the publication of a letter of Page to Rittenhouse and his answer, published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society:
Such meteor observations where data were recorded, were rare, but happened also before. As well as the theory, that the meteors origin from space was not new. I mean, read it - Rittenhouse writes, that he adheres to that opinion, and regarding the data, he writes, that is known, that meteors appear in such large heights.
So from that I wouldn't see any novelties. Nothing about stones at all, nothing about the physical properties, nothing about the origin. Just an observation.
Uh Doug, I can't paraphrase the whole book of Chladni! If only an English translation would exist! (then we wouldn't have to discuss at all).
>that bolides and meteors were of cosmic >origin based on a database of prior observations
But that happened earlier. Take Halley's observation of the fireball of 17.July 1719. Height 64 Miles, having passed 300 miles in a minute.
Balbi's observation of the fireball of 22.Feb. 1719, whatever unit that might be: Height 16-20,000 feet, diameter 3560 shoes...
Halley: 31.July 1708, 40-50 miles high.
Pringle: 26.Nov. 1758, 26-32 English miles high. 30 miles per second
Silberschlag: 23.Juli 1762, height initial 19 miles, 4 miles in the end at the break-off.
And so on.
And about the extraterrestrial origin, writes Chladni, that Halley believes them to be matter dispersed in outer space, (Philosophical transaction # n.341).
As well as Hevelius (Cometographia), Wallis (Phil.trans. Vol. XII. Nr. 155), Hartsoeker (Conjectures de Physique, à la Haye, 1707-1710) would believe them to be solid bodies orbiting the sun.
And so on. Hence no new idea, no genuine idea.
Doug, I know it's in German and in an old font, but it can be a fun for you, to take Chladni's book in Google-books and to look-up all the articles he refers to by means of the bibliographic references he gives there.
And... I don't think, that you understood, what Chladni did.
He didn't invent the idea that meteors or meteorites origin from outer space, neither he claimed ever to have done so.
At his time you had a huge jumble of hypothesizes, theories, opinions about these phenomenons ...and zero beef!
Some - recall the bolides thread - meteors regarded - classically as meteorological occurrences. There again varying opinions, how they were generated. Accumulation of gases, fire, electricity, lightning ect. Others saw no connection between fireballs and shooting stars and comets, other did. Again others saw a connection between stones have been reported to have fallen and these phenomenons, others didn't. Some believed to be the meteors being of gaseous, others of liquid, others of solid, others of soft nature. Some believed them to be caused by bodies intruding the atmosphere from outer space, others not. And of those believing to be extraterrestrial, the stones, had again different theories about their origin in space. Lunar volcanoes, accretions between the planets and so on. While others regarding the stones and irons had again diverging opinions about their formation. Condensations in the air, erupted from volcanos, artificial heating products, lightning strokes, smoldering coalbeds...
So. What did Chladni. He collected all fireball observations he could get, all reports of stonefalls (and all stones and irons), Evaluated the informations, and made a systematical interpretation. And found regularities. By means of these and the contemporary knowledge about physics, He took each and every of these above mentioned hypothesises, (named also their exponents and gave the literature) and checked whether they work or not. He tried a line of arguments, a proof. And he took the stones themselves, in particular the Pallas iron, and deduced from their physical properties and the circumstances of their falls, which theories about their formation are probable, which not.
Aaaaand in the end, he had first a small book, afterwards after some years a fat huge tome, the largest record of fall and fireball reports and a large inventory of worlds meteorites.
Well and the result of his first attempt was: Shooting stars and meteors are the same phenomena. And falling stones and irons result from them. And these stones are extraterrestrial. And they are fragments of other celestial bodies. And their chemical composition tells us something about these celestial bodies. (And that one should collect the stuff, and that meteorology and astronomy alone isn't sufficient to describe these natural phenomenons, and and and....).
Btw. as a good scientist he let many questions open-ended, telling that further research would be necessary and pointed in the direction, that research should go to.
And that is IMHO really something genuine and more than a single fall report and the repetition of a hypothesis. To knit all that together, to a single theory, is certainly more remarkable, than e.g. the discovery of the Widmanstätten pattern (and the discussion, whether Thompson was first).
>and where we agree, his contemporaries ridiculed him and >this was not a pleasant experience.
I don't agree. Some accepted it, others disliked, and some were indecisive.
...but which was no big deal. Soon after in 1802 independently from eachother Howard and Klaproth discovered a chemical hint, that meteorites are different from terrestrial rocks, in detecting that the iron flakes as well as the iron meteorites contain nickel, not to be found in terrestrial iron, and one year later, with the fall of L'Aigle, the case was closed.
The disregarding of the electric theory you'll find in chapter 4, Art II) a)-d). My English is to poor to give a exact translation, respectively it's to straining to look-up the correct terminology in English.
"Therefore... Rittenhouse played no role for Chladni's work. Neither did he adorn himself with borrowed plumes."
Not so fast Martin,
Before it becomes a national issue, I'll allow Chladni each and every benefit of interpretation. Just as Germans kindly give Nininger the benefit of doubt for being another sort of father of meteoritics ;-)
Further, your recollections of what Chladni did are based only on Chladni's work and where we agree, his contemporaries ridiculed him and this was not a pleasant experience.
Chladni may have many references and built a compendium as if fighting a case in a court of law, and therein may be his credit. But, in referencing Rittenhouse, he was referencing a published work eight years prior to own which was a first hand analysis of data, triangulation of path, and detailed statement, analysis, and proof of why meteors were of cosmic origin, done by a professional astronomer.
So from Chladni's point of view we can credit him with a wonderful compendium.
However, from Rittenhouse's point of view, which you nearly dismiss calling it a report, we can credit the American as having done the experiment and deduced the results from scientific observation to conclude and publish ion 1786 that bolides and meteors were of cosmic origin based on a database of prior observations Rittenhouse was privy to, in independent orbits that intersected earth in our trip around the Sun.
So, unless one or more of the 'reports' you mention has similar proof and discuss that the objects had mass and were able to potentially survive the passage and land on a house, which of course it may, the claim to publish the theory that meteors were of cosmic origin was already solved and published by Rittenhouse. In Rittenhouse's case it was not solely a report, but a proper analysis and conclusion published in the leading American Scientific Journal of the day.
Interesting, that Chladni didmissed the idea that meteors were an electric phenomenon. Here, Rittenhouse, though tersely, clearly had the scientific insight that Chladni lacked, as well as a closer relationship with Franklin who was a world expert on electrical phenomena in the atmosphere who surely discussed it with him extensively due to their being direct peers in the same institution dealing in the area of their specialty - the University of Pennsylvania which Franklin founded. Rittenhouse was right about that conjecture, of course. He was searching for an explanation for the source of the awesome incandescence of a bolide and his general observation of meteors which he clearly stated were two manefestations of the same phenomenon, itself a major statement.
Today we know that the cause of the light phenomenon is due to the electrical excitation of ablating material and their emission of light upon relaxation.
So, let's agree that I overstepped on Chladni's mindset; but it would be incorrect for me to continue crediting Chladni as the one with the radical theory when the American scientific establishment of the time clearly had already accepted this in their preeminent society where it was published. It certainly paints a better picture of scientific community in the Colonies. Rittenhouse received nothing but acceptance in 1783, as far as we can see, and collaboration a peer astronomer of the same mind. Nowhere is there any evidence of ridicule in the American scientific community; but, there is one modern day misplaced scientific quote which unfairly could give the impression that meteoritics in the newly emerging country was not at the head of the scientific pack. In fact, it lead the pack!
Kindest wishes Doug (UPenn '92)
-----Original Message----- From: Martin Altmann <altmann@mete...> To: meteorite-list <meteorite-list@mete...> Sent: Sun, Oct 23, 2011 11:16 am Subject: Re: [meteorite-list] Part II: American David Rittenhouse (Warning - Pre-Chladni)
>... the only question I have is to what degree Chladni references this prior published work in his work.
Well, if we take Chladni's work of 1794 about the origin of meteorites and fireballs, He refers to Rittenhouse (& Page) in the third chapter, where he gives several fireball observations as examples. There Ritterhouse's&Page's account is one among many, there Chladni wrote, giving also the correct source (Philos. transact. of the American Society, Vol II, page 173) - that Page&Ritterhouse describe a fireball, they observed on Oct 31, 1779 which had a long and winded tail, that the observed height was 60 miles, the diameter of the fireball at least 3 miles and that the velocity couldn't have been measured. In that small catalogue the Rittenhouse report is only one from many other, like those of Muschenbroek, Vassali, Silberschlag, Chalmer, Ulloa, Kirch, Balbi, Halley, Winthrop, Smith&Baker, Pringle, Le Roy& LaLande, Cavallo, Aubert, Cooper, Edgeword, Pigot, Bernstorf, Bladge.. Several earlier than Rittenhouse and many with similar or more "data".
For the heights, he listes data retrieved by parallaxes of the fireballs of 1676, 1708, Feb. 1719, May 1719, 1758, 1762, 1771, - to name those before Rittenhouse.
For the electric origin, which he disregards, he refers to Vassalli 1787, Senebier, Saussure & Toaldo 1789, Reimarius 1778, le Roy 1771, Beccaria (1716-1781).
And finally as exponents for the origin of meteors stemming from outer space (and also partially orbitating the sun) he refers to Maskelyne, to Wallis, to Hartsoeker (1707), Hevelius, Halley. (always giving the bibliographical references).
Therefore... Rittenhouse played no role for Chladni's work. Neither did he adorn himself with borrowed plumes.
OK, let me change the tone a bit and remind you that we left off with Franklin's death in 1790, Chladni playing his musical instrument for a physicist who told him to dig through the Philosophical Society Journals to explain meteors, in a similar fashion Franklin tried to explain what the other light in the sky was-lightning.
We have the American Astronomer, David Rittenhouse taking the presidency of the American Philosophical Society at Franklin's passing in 1790 and until his death in 1796. This interval was precisely the time Chladni, who had a lifelong connection to Franklin through music, probably of great respect, was in the library reading obsessively the accounts of the Philosophical Societies looking for information about meteor accounts.
As Franklin must have been a larger than life figure in Chladni's world, let's say now that Chladni may have admired him, undoubtedly he read the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society where Franklin published more than any other and Franklin greatly respected Rittenhouse as a great astronomer. Independently, Rittenhouse had a great reputation among Europeans as a first class astronomer, which was shocking that it could be possible to some given the adverse conditions in the colonies ref:
You can read the potential electrical explanation Rittenhouse touches upon and be certain he discussed this with his great buddy Ben Franklin (He was the Chairman at the time of the Astronomy Department at the University of Pennsylvania, which Ben Franklin founded and they were great friends). So we can safely assume now that Franklin had a similar line of thinking and it may not have been contentiously "electrical" when talking about the meteor phenomenon.
What follows is the text of the original Letters exchanged between Rittenhouse and John Page a fellow astronomer. In this exchange you can see what is likely the first triangulation of a bolide, the first theory that a a bolide or meteor produces light by passing dense material that is sufficiently solid to resist immediate destruction upon passing through the atmosphere. You can also find the height at which the luminous path begins reasonably calculated, and you can find the question on why these bodies from space at one point compared to iron filings don't hit people and buildings more often, being early references to hammer stones or irons.
You can also find the convincing scientific arguments on why they have mass, are from space in their own independent orbits and not from earth and occur upon chance intersection with earth's trip around the Sun.
The only thing we are missing is the meteorite itself which was conjectured.
The witness reports these gentlemen made was so convincing, published 10 years before Chladni, and given Chaldni's special connection to Franklin and now Rittenhouse's being the president of the American Society at just the right time ... the only question I have is to what degree Chladni references this prior published work in his work.
Thus, the situation in Europe was very different than that among the Americans ... where the question being asked was not, "How can rocks fall from the sky", but rather, How can't rocks fall from the sky?
Transactions of the American Philosophical
Letters on the ACCOUNT OF A METEOR
>From John Page, Esq., to David
Williamsburg, December 4, 1779
Read May 2, 1783
...recalls to my mind the meteor that was seen in many distant places in Virginia on thwe 31st of October at about 6:10 PM It was what is vulgarly called a falling star. It fell as seen at Rosewell about three or four degrees to the north of west and left a bright trail of light behind i; which extended from the horizon perpendicularly above 7 degrees; unluckily I lost view of it when falling, but was called out time enough to see the grand and beautiful appearance of its trail of light. It was seen for near 15 minutes, it was as bright as shining silver, and broad as the enlightened part pf the new moon, when first visible about 7 degrees in length, it might be represented by number 1 (Doug: see figure www.diogenite.com/jpage.jpg ), when I saw it first, and by the other figures at intervals of about a minute after. Just before it disappeared, it resembled the edge of a cloud. The sky was remarkably clear and serene. It appeared in the same manner exactly to several gentlemen above an hundred miles from Rosewell, but on a different point of the compass. I have not yet so accurate an account of its bearing as to ascertain its height and distance. Did you see anything of it? I am, dear sir, yours most sincerely, JOHN PAGE.
from David Rittenhouse, Esquire, to John Page, Esquire
Philadelphia, January 16, 1780
Read May 2, 1783
...The Extraordinary Meteor you mention was likewise visible here, the air being serene and clear.. I did not see it until the bright streak was become very crooked, it then bore 70 degrees W. nearly, from Philadelphia, and comparing this course with that observed by you, adding 2.5 degrees for the depression of that place below your horizon, its entire apparent altitude above the spot where it fell was 9.5 degrees which, on a radius of 365 miles, will be 61 miles perpendicular height. The breadth of the luminous vapor was, I think, in some places, when I saw it, not less than a quarter of a degree; this at 480 miles distancemust have been at least two miles.
It was certainly a grand appearance near the place where it fell, if any human eye was there. May not these shooting stars be bodies altogether foreign to the earth and its atmosphere, accidentally meeting with it as they are swiftly traveling the great void of space? And may they not, either electrically or by some other means, excite a luminous appearance on entering our atmosphere? I am inclined to this opinion for the following reasons: 1st It is not probable that meteors should be generated in the air at the height of 50 to 60 miles, on account of its extreme rareness (Doug: rareness=low density); and many falling stars, besides this, are known with certainty to have been at very great heights. 2ndly. Their motions cannot be owing to gravity, for they descend in all directions, and but seldom perpendicularly to the horizon. Besides, their velocities are much too great. This meteor would not have fallen by the force of gravity from the place where it first appeared, to the earth, in less than two minutes of time; nor in less than 10 seconds, if we suppose it is impelled by gravity from the remotest distance. They are nevertheless affected by gravity in some manner, for I cannot find that any one was ever observed to ascend upwards in its course.
It is true that difficulties will likewise occur, if we suppose them to be foreign bodies of sufficient density to preserve such great degrees of velocity even in passing through the atmosphere, for it may be asked why they do not frequently strike the earth, buildings, etc. Perhaps they are generally, if not always, exploded in passing through the air, something in the manner that filing of steel are exploded in passing through the flame of a candle. And at the same time that they afford us occasion the variety and Immensity of the Creator's works, they may perhaps produce some important and necessary effects in the atmosphere surrounding this globe, for the welfare of man and its other inhabitants.
I am, dear sir, your very affectionate friend And very humble servant DAVID RITTENHOUSE
Clearly David Rittenhouse needs to be written into the history of meteoritics far more than he has been. Next time I go to Rittenhouse square in Philadelphia and visit the Franklin Institute itwill be with renewed respect.
Kindest wishes Doug
PS this is one of the best witness account I've ever read Would anyone like to try a modern triangulation - the data is better than you get nowadays, that's for sure
-----Original Message----- From: MexicoDoug <mexicodoug@aim....> To: Meteorite-list <Meteorite-list@mete...> Sent: Sun, Oct 23, 2011 4:08 am Subject: [meteorite-list] On the Father of Meteoritics (Warning - Original Radical Theory)
Dear List, an account of the coming of age of Chladni which may rock the boat a bit:
"When in the course of scientific endeavors it becomes necessary for one scientist to dissolve the bonds which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the God-given phenomenon of meteoritics entitle them, a decent dignity for one's inventions requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation...."
Such was the case for Ernst F. F. Chladni, who quite abruptly focused his interest in "fathering" meteoritics in the early 1790's: an accomplished musician and musical instrument designer with an interest in waves, electricity, and physics. He suddenly dedicated some time to a radical theory of meteoritics; the question is....What *sparked* his sudden and intensive, obsessive-compulsive interest? No one really knows, excepts, perhaps the Shadow. Read on please, for my theory after a discusson wih my Shadow...
First we must define what exactly was on Chladni's mind during those years and more importantly what was his mindset? Well, he was recovering from a failed attempt to promote his musical instrument which he toured playing in hope to gain some recognition. His instrument never became popular. The reason was not because it was bad ... but rather because there was a superior instrument that displaced it in public events all the time. By 1790, he gave it up, and quite frustrated he was with his extensive efforts.
Chladni's first love was music and acoustics. It is often cited that his interest in meteoritics was suddenly fomented by conversations with Georg Christoph Lichtenberg in 1791-1793. But Lichtenberg himself had nothing to say about it, despite making notes of the meetings and commenting that Chladni was working on a new musical instrument to supplant his previous failed one.
A world away lived the bane of Chladni's existence, until his death in 1790: one Dr. Benjamin Franklin, American genius, and the antithesis of everything Chladni socially was... Franklin was the model of an brilliant human being, even able to have the French aristocracy eat out of his hand while founding the United States of America, all in his spare time while he pursued intellectual pursuits of everything and frequently made great scientific advancements with a sort of Midas' Touch with only a wit that could beat them. Such was the case with the armonica, a musical instrument that was a clever adaptation of sound waves produced by utilizing friction like the rubbing on a wine glass which allowed the simultaneous playing of nearly a dozen notes. This musical instrument precisely was the one that displaced Chladni's who otherwise might have found more success. Franklin's instrument was an American contribution to Europe that even the great composers wrote parts for as Chladni's own foundered. How frustrating it must have been.
At heart, Dr. Franklin was truly a scientist and had managed some of the most truly remarkable experiments and even was credited as being the father of electricity after harnassing the meteorological phenomenon of lightning and proving exactly what it was: electricity. There was nothing he couldn't do and yet, he always got all the women, fame and power he wished.
On the other hand Chladni was forced into a career he had no interest in doing by an overpowering father, had absolutely no luck with the woman and was spurned by his contemporaries when he initially tried to present his ideas to his peers. Bummer to be Chladni in 1790.
But Franklin died in 1790. Chladni didn't waste a moment, dropping his failed instrument and immediately appropriated Franklin's armonica a step further and redesigned a new instrument in 1791 he named, immodestly CHLADNI'S EUPHONIUM (basically a synonym for armonica but addiding his name for recognition) he hoped would be superior - and finally, Franklin was dead and unable to wittily comment or compete. It was a prototype of that instrument he was playing for Lichtenberg.
After all those years of playing second fiddle, it was only natural that Franklin's scientific triumphs were a subject of discussion; after all the new instrument was a direct improvement on Franklin's intended to supplant it at best... and victory would be as sweet as waking among the muses, especially for Chladni who was trained as a lawyer with all the benefits and vices that the practice of law breeds.
One noteable subject of Franklin's successes was in meteorology, and especially legendary, regarding the proof that lightning bolts were composed of electricity. Franklin also went on record saying meteors were probably an electrical phenomenon as well. Well, these strange rocks were turning up at that time and there were murmurs that they came from the sky. Chladni became obsessed with making his mark (and in the process showing Franklin was wrong) by choosing the other light phenomenon - meteors - just as Franklin had chosen a phenomenon, just as Franklin had inspired his instrument - in hopes finally making a reputation for himself and perhaps a dab of revenge for all those years lost with his instrument due to Franklin superior design.
Motive in any investigation is always sought. Need Chladni more motive? ;-) He released his first improved design utilizing Franklin's armonica concepts directly, suddenly became obsessed with with proving meteors were not electrical phenomena but rather rocks; immersed himself in the library for a couple of months in a mission (much like many contemporary meteorite folk we've seen battle it out on the list when one scoops the other on a new fall), published his book and in the process of his madness made the assertion that the rocks came from space, a true contribution; and then was immediately ridiculed and mocked ... his contemporaries new what he was up to and this attenuated the believability of his work.
Then immdiatey after publishing, he dropped meteorites, never to return again to the field and gort to work building a new second generation musical instrument. Both instruments he designed and built in the 1790's met with success and Chladni finally could gain some respect he earned after a lifetime of brandishing by fire.
The above theory would explain motivation and why Chladni's work in meteoritics was as efemeral as the meteors themselves.
We should say a little more about Ben's beliefs and how they potentially influenced Chladni, as clearly, the American Philosophical Society, founded by Franklin who was the first president published a Journal just like the Liondon Society, and the Journal was undoubtably read by Chladni. The first president of the Society was Franklin, and he was followed by the great Astronomer Early American astronomer David Rittenhouse, as the second president, who predated much of Chladni's idea on cosmic origins and as the successor of Franklin, undoubtably would have been an interesting subject of study for Chladni as he studied those late nights in the library for that intriguingly brief period of time. As a matter of fact, Chladni himself said Lichtenberg told him to immerse himself reading Philosophical Transactions in the library. What were the Americans saying about meteors that might tip off Chladni and that Lichtenberg definitely read as well?
Let me quote a passage of a post I made to the List in 2006 excerping a letter from Rittenhouse to Franklin, and to comment that Franklin likely had a friendly rivalry with Rittenhouse as to the cosmic origin of meteorites and predated Chladni's "original" contribution by a number of years:
"Ben believed for a time that meteors were also caused by electricity, however his contemporary, the great Astronomer Early American astronomer David Rittenhouse, had other thoughts and most obviously discussed them at length with Franklin. They were both founders and officers in the American Philosophical Society - the Innovative and incomparable Academic Ivory Tower in the unique American tradition of their time responsible for adding scientific thought to the American Revolution and much beyond...Upon Franklin's death, Rittenhouse became the second president of the Society until his own death five years later.
Eleven years before Ben's death, On "All Hallow's Eve", October 31, 1779, Rittenhouse had witnessed a 30-second bolide accompanied by sonic booms near Philadelphia, where he was the head of the University of Pennsylvania's Astronomy department...as the war of American Independence was still in Gear...
Rittenhouse described the event in a letter purportedly to Franklin: "Leaving behind it a bright trail of light of a fine Silver Color, which continued Visible about 20 minutes, altho' but half an hour after Sunset, and then gradually disappeared, after changing from a Strait line to a very crooked one. [Meteors are] bodies altogether foreign to this Earth, but meeting with it, in its Annual Orbit, are attracted by it, and on entering our Atmosphere take fire and are exploded, something in the manner Steel filings are, on passing thro' the flame of a Candle. [It made a] glorious appearance at the distance of a few miles, yet from its prodigious Magnitude it must have been quite terrible. [Had the] Cataract fallen on the plain where on Philadelphia stands, half its inhabitants would probably been [sic] drowned."
In the absence of the word "bolide", a cataract most certainly is the best word choice available to describe the phenomenon. It was brighter than the Sun, "a half hour after Sunset". "
Chladni clearly couldn't make it on his own, and found it easier to But I could be wrong - though I don't mind championing the theory though there may be a few hole in it that doesnt mean it isn't a very good explanation ;-), I just wish I had more time to research my logical assertations.
PS Franklin actually must have a smile in his grave now that we know meteors in fact are an electrical phenomenon.