The method of analysis and synthesis and the discovery of Neptune


  • Sebastián Molina Betancur Università degli Studi di Torino



analysis, synthesis, discovery, demonstration, observation, hypothesis


The discovery of Neptune was one of the greatest achievements of nineteenth-century astronomy. Using nothing but calculus and some observations of the Uranus’ anomalous motion, Adams and Le Verrier got to determine, independently, the possible place and mass of a hypothetical planet, which would produce its observational discovery. In this paper I will demonstrate that the methods used by these astronomers were influenced by Newton’s method of analysis and synthesis. Considering this, I will also expose, that some astronomy’s general epistemological principles could be deduced when we consider these investigation methods.

= 576 veces | PDF (ESPAÑOL (ESPAÑA))
= 276 veces|


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Sebastián Molina Betancur, Università degli Studi di Torino

G.I: Conocimiento, filosofía, ciencia, historia y sociedad
Scuola di Studi Umanistici Università degli Studi di Torino
Torino, Italia. E-mail:


Adams, J. C. (1896). The Scientific Papers of John Couch Adams, William Grylls Adams (Ed.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Chapman, A. (1988). “Private Research and Public Duty: George Bidell Airy and the Search for Neptune”, Journal for the History of Astronomy 19: 121-139.

Cohen, D. J. 2005. “Reasoning and Belief in Victorian Mathematics”, Martin Daunton (Ed.). The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain, 139- 158, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Dick, S. J. (2013). Discovery and Classification in Astronomy. Controversy and Consensus, New York, Cambridge University Press.

Ducheyne, S. (2012). The Main Business in Natural Philosophy. Isaac Newton’s Natural-Philosophical Methodology, New York, Springer.

Grant, R. (1852). History of Physical Astronomy, London, Herny G. Bohn.

Guerlac, H. (1973). “Newton and the Method of Analysis”, Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 3: 378-391.

Guicciardini, N. (2009). Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Hanson, N. R. (1962). “Leverrier: The Zenith and Nadir of the Newtonian Mechanics”, Isis 53(3): 359-378.

Hanson, N. R. (1967). “An Anatomy of Discovery”, The Journal of Philosophy 64(11): 321-352.

Holden, E. S. (1892). “Historical Note Relating to the Search for the Planet Neptune in England in 1845-6”, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 4(21): 21-23.

James, W. & Russell J. E. (1907). “Controversy about truth”, The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 4(11): 289-296.

Jones, H. S. (1947). John Couch Adams and the Discovery of Neptune, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Lequeux, J. (2013). Le Verrier – Magnificent and Detestable Astronomer, New York, Springer.

Le Verrier, U. J. (1845). “Rapport sur des Tables Numériques du Mouvement héliocentrique de Mercure, calculées”, Compte Rendus de L’Académie des Sciences: 316-320.

Le Verrier, U. J. (1846a). “Sur la Planète qui Produit les Anomalies Observées dans le Mouvement d’Uranus. – Détermination de sa Masse, de son Orbite et de sa Position Actuelle”, Compte Rendus de L’Académie des Sciences: 428-438.

Le Verrier, U. J. (1846b). “Sur la Planète qui Produit les Anomalies Observées dans le Mouvement d’Uranus. Cinquième et Dernière Partie, Relative à la Détermination de la Position du Plan de l’Orbite”, Compte Rendus de L’Académie des Sciences: 657-659.

Le Verrier, U. J. (1846c). “Comparaison des Observations de la Nouvelle Planète, avec la Théorie Déduite des Perturbation d’Uranus”, Compte Rendus de L’Académie des Sciences: 741.

Lewens, T. (2005). “Realism and the Strong Programme”, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56(3): 559-577.

Linton, C. M. (2004). From Eudoxus to Einstein. A History of Mathematical Astronomy, New York, Cambridge University Press.

Lyttleton, R. A. (1968). Mysteries of the Solar System, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Merton, R. K. (1957). “Priorities in Scientific Discoveries”, American Sociological Review 22(6): 635-659.

Molina, S. (2014a). “Aspectos metodológicos de la demostración de la fuerza en los Principia de Newton”, Praxis Filosófica 39: 67-92.

Molina, S. (2014b). “La metodología de Newton y la demostración de la realidad de la fuerza”, Estudios de Filosofía 50: 131-154.

Newton, I. (1976). The Mathematical Papers of Isaac Newton, D. T. Whiteside (Ed.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Newton, I. (1987). Principios matemáticos de la filosofía natural, Antonio Escohotado (Trad.), Barcelona, Tecnos.

Newton, I. (1999). The Principia. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. I. Bernard Cohen et al. (Eds.) Berkeley, University of California Press.

Newton, I. (2003). Opticks, or, A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colours of Light, New York, Prometheus Books.

Orozco, S. H. (2009). Isaac Newton y la reconstitución del palimpsesto divino, Medellín, Universidad de Antioquia.

Pannekoek, A. (1953). The Discovery of Neptune, Centaurus 3: 126-137.

Shank, J. B. (2008). The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Shapiro, A. (2007). “La ‘filosofía experimental’ de Newton”, En Estudios de Filosofía, 35: 111-147.

Schliessser, E. (2013). “Newton and the Newtonianism in Eighteenth-Century British Thought”. James A. Harris (Ed.). The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth-Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 41-65.

Sheehan, W. & Thurber, S. (2007). “John Couch Adams’s Asperger Syndrome and the British Non-Discovery of Neptune”. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 61(3): 285-299.

Smith, R. W. (1989). “The Cambridge Network in Action: The Discovery of Neptune”, Isis 80(3): 395-422.

Somerville, M. (1846). On the Connection of the Physical Sciences, New York, Harper and Brothers.

Walker, S. C. (1853). “Investigations which led to the Detection of the Coincidence between the Computed Place of the Planet Leverrier, and the Observed Place of a Star Recorded by Lalande, in May, 1795”. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 10: 141-153.



How to Cite

Molina Betancur, S. (2017). The method of analysis and synthesis and the discovery of Neptune. Estudios De Filosofía, (55), 30–53.



Original or Research articles

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.