The Shape of Saturn’s Rings
Kovalevskaya’s paper (1885b) on the shape of Saturn’s rings was written while she was working with Weierstrass, but quite likely on her own initiative, since Weierstrass does not seem to have touched on the topic in either his published work or in his lectures. The title, “Zusätze und Bemerkungen zu Laplace’s Untersuchung über die Gestalt der Saturnringe,” shows the context of the work. Laplace (1799) had studied the shape and stability of what was then believed to be Saturn’s one ring, though he did mention (1799, II, p. 163) some evidence that there was more than one ring. Laplace assumed that the ring had some kind of continuous structure. However Maxwell (1859) had shown that it was very unlikely that the rings could have any continuous structure such as Laplace’s work evidently postulated. It would seem to follow that further work on the physical model used by Laplace would not be worthwhile. Kovalevskaya therefore phrased her results as a commentary on Laplace.
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