The present volume, like other volumes in this series, has the aim of introducing nonspecialists to the work of “a difficult and challenging thinker”. Galileo’s thought is often difficult to penetrate; scholars often clash in their interpretations of it.
This article by Curtis Wilson is an account of the origin of Hansen’s powerful systematic method for finding contributions of higher order perturbations in celestial mechanics. Hansen’s method was developed in the course of improving on Laplace’s treatment of the mutual perturbations of Jupiter and Saturn. This method, an entirely new way of doing celestial mechanics when it first appeared, later made possible the successful treatment of the complicated motions of our moon. In this paper Wilson gives a brief historical (...) introduction followed by an account of relevant technical details of the Laplacian background, an account illustrating technical details in Hansen’s initial development in his Disquisitions of 1829, and a treatment illustrating details contributing to the achievement of Hansen’s more refined development in his Untersuchung of 1831. These details include conditional equations Hansen provides for checking the accuracy of calculations. Wilson also includes a detailed assessment showing the extraordinary improvement in empirical accuracy of Hansen’s treatment over the best earlier treatment of the Jupiter-Saturn interactions. (shrink)