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The history of Uranus, the most distant known planet of our solar system, in the various characters of Fixed Star, Comet, and Planet, wbich at different periods of time have been assigned to it, is no less remarkable than are some of the phenomena which, despite of its excessive elongation, observation has been able to detect in regard to it. Previous to that train of discoveries which eventuated in adding this to the number of known bodies of our system, through a period so long that the traditions of man run not to the contrary,' Saturn was supposed to mark the utmost bound of that system. This was taken as an admitted fact, from the time that planetary distances first were measured ; and when the telescope had revealed the singular appendage of rings to that planet, these were supposed to yield some support to the opinion that this body had its orbit
the confines of that region of space through which our sun could bear sway, by the power of its attraction. The wildest vagaries of nature, it was believed had been exhibited here, in arrangements altogether unknown elsewhere, for the purpose of more pointedly attracting the attention of mortals who should witness the fact, and thereby fixing the bounds beyond which they need not seek. Such, if not in words, are by apparently just inference, the views that have been more or less entertained, along with the other almost countless opinions to which credence has, in past times, been given. The indefinite distance, then, from the orbit of Saturn to the fixed stars, was regarded as a realm that, however extensive, could yield no harvest in reward for the labor which science might bestow within it, and therefore it was held unprofitable, in all respects.
The fixed stars which, so far as we know, were never supposed by any of the human family, to belong to our solar system, were objects of the most anxious attention, in the earliest period of the bistory of our race. They constituted the calendar of primitive man; and
. served not only to indicate to bim the several seasons, and other necessary divisions of the year, but they were also his time-keeper by night, as the sun was by day, and pointed out to him the lapse of hours, by their apparent motions in the heavens. This early discovery of the utility of the stars, in the common purposes of life, led to the division of them into groups or constellations, each of which received a name : and in addition to this, individual stars, that by their
brilliancy or particular location were rendered peculiarly serviceable, received particular names, for their more perfect identity, or from mere caprice. This was done at a period so remote as to be now lost; yet we continue both the divisions and the names, at the present day. In the book of Job, and again in Amos, we find these divisions recognised ; and many of the early poets make mention of them. Numbers of the fixed stars are now known to revolve in proper orbits around each other ; but still they are termed fixed, because to the unassisted eye, they suffer no change of position with regard one to another.
It was to this class of heavenly bodies that Uranus, until the year 1781, was supposed to belong. Being visible to the naked eye, it was probably seen by millions of the human family, in the earlier ages of the world ; but it was seen only as one of the countless gems that immovably deck the celestial vault.
When astronomy had so far advanced as to render accurate catalogues of the fixed stars desirable, the compilation of such was undertaken; and Uranus must of necessity have had a place in each of these which embraced stars of so low a magnitude, unless overlooked by inadvertence: in several it certainly appeared.
Observations made by Flamstead, an English astronomer, record the position of this body in the heavens, in the year 1690; and at several other periods. Mayer, a native of Maspach, in Wurtemberg,
one of the greatest astronomers, not only of the 18th century, but of any age or any country,' (says Delambre,) in his new catalogue of zodiacal stars, for 1756, has inserted it as star No.964. Bradley, an Englishman, also observed and noted this body as a fixed star, in 1753. Lemonnier, a French astronomer, first observed and noted Uranus, as a fixed star, in 1765; and his manuscripts, now at the Royal Observatory of Paris, show no less than twelve observations, upon the same planet. In all these instances no opinion was entertained, by any one of the observers, that this particular body differed in any respect, from those by which it was surrounded; and the fact of its identity with these was first suspected by finding no star in either of the several places where stars had been designated, in the maps; and such suspicions were subsequently verified by calculations thai show it to have occupied the respective positions thus assigned, at the stipulated periods of time.
As no planet was suspected to exist beyond Saturn, so none was sought for there; nor had the discovery of motion, in Uranus, the most distant connexion with any preconceived intention of such discovery: it was the result of accident alone. Herschel, (father of the present English astronomer now observing at the Cape of Good Hope,) a native of Hanover, had established himself in England, where he had been some years engaged in the construction of telescopes, through mere curiosity and a taste for astronomy. These instruments he applied to use, as he completed them, and thus became a highly creditable and able practical observer. On the night of the 13th of March, 1781, while engaged in a series of observations upon the parallax of the fixed stars, and regarding with attention several small ones, near the feet of Gemini, he was struck with the fact that one appeared larger than the rest, when seen in his telescope. As