Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 409–497

The coming-to-be of Hansen’s method


DOI: 10.1007/s00407-013-0128-y

Cite this article as:
Wilson, C. & Harper, W. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. (2014) 68: 409. doi:10.1007/s00407-013-0128-y


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 (see Wilson 2010). 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.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. John’s CollegeAnnapolisMaryland
  2. 2.University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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