The First Detailed Study of the Moon’s Secular Acceleration: Richard Dunthorne

  • John M. SteeleEmail author
Part of the Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences book series (SHMP)


By the late 1740s Halley’s claim that there existed a secular acceleration of the moon had been accepted by scientists including Newton, Whiston, and Euler, but the existence of the acceleration still needed to be demonstrated and its size determined from empirical data. The first person to undertake a detailed examination of historical records in order to answer these questions was Richard Dunthorne. Dunthorne developed innovative new techniques for using ancient eclipse observations that allowed him to place constraints on the size of the moon’s acceleration. Through his careful study of historical records, Dunthorne proved without question the existence of the acceleration and determined that the coefficient of the secular equation is about 10″ per century2, close to the true value.


Solar Eclipse Philosophical Transaction Typographical Error Lunar Eclipse Eclipse Observation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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