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Poe, Edgar Allan

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BornBoston, Massachusetts, USA, 19 January 1809

DiedBaltimore, Maryland, USA, 7 October 1849

Edgar Allan Poe's Eureka has gained attention because of its potential affinity with what in the late 20th century emerged as the standard “Big‐Bang” cosmology.

Poe was the second child of actors David Poe and Elizabeth Arnold Poe, both of whom died before their son turned three. Poe then became the foster son of Fanny Allan and her husband, John Allan, a businessman in Richmond, Virginia. Although best known as a writer of haunting poems and exquisitely plotted fantastic tales, Poe has gained attention in the history of astronomy for his speculative but seemingly prescient cosmogony, which opened a cosmic narrative unfolding from a singular “primordial particle.”

In 1848, a year before his premature death, Poe published Eureka: A Prose Poem, dedicated to Alexander von Humboldt , German author of the multivolume treatise Kosmos. In Eureka, Poe sets out “to speak of the physical,...

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Selected References

  • Benton, Richard P. (ed.) (1975). Poe as Literary Cosmologer: Studies on Eureka. Hartford, Connecticut: Transcendental Books. (This collection includes a facsimile of the 1848 Eureka.)

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  • Cappi, Alberto (1994). “Edgar Allan Poe's Physical Cosmology. ” Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 35: 177–192.

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  • Danielson, Dennis (ed.) (2000). The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus, esp. “The Primordial Particle,” pp. 307–311.

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  • Harrison, Edward Robert (1987). Darkness at Night: A Riddle of the Universe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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  • Poe, Edgar Allan (1848). Eureka: A Prose Poem. New York: Putnam.

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  • ——— (1902). The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Vol. 16, edited by James A. Harrison. New York: Crowell.

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  • Quinn, A. H. (1998). Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. (Originally published 1941.)

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Danielson, D. (2007). Poe, Edgar Allan. In: , et al. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer, New York, NY.

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