Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Adams, John Couch

  • Nicholas Kollerstrom
Reference work entry

BornLidcott near Launceston, Cornwall, England, 5 June 1819

DiedCambridge, England, 21 January 1892

John Adams is best remembered for his calculations concerning the location and discovery of Neptune. Born a farmer’s son, Adams showed a precocious mathematical talent and sat for the entrance at Saint John’s College, Cambridge, in 1839, winning a sizarship that partially paid his college expenses. He later married Eliza Bruce.

In July 1841, by the end of his first year, Adams began plans to investigate the irregular motions of Uranus to see if they would point to some undiscovered planet. In 1843, he finished as senior wrangler and the first Smith’s prizeman, the top mathematician of his year.

By October 1843, Adams had reached a preliminary solution to the Uranus problem. In February 1844,  James Challis, director of the Cambridge Observatory, brought Adams the results of Uranus observations sent from  George Airy, the Astronomer Royal, thereby providing Adams with the best data...

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Selected References

  1. Adams, John (1896–1900). The Scientific Papers of John Couch Adams. 2 Vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (volume 1 was edited by his youngest brother, professor William Grylls Adams, and contains a biographical sketch by Dr. J. W. L. Glaisher. This volume features Adams’s published writings. volume 2 includes unpublished manuscripts, edited by W. Grylls Adams and R. A. Sampson.)Google Scholar
  2. Baum, Richard and William Sheehan (1997). In Search of Planet Vulcan. New York: Plenum Press, Chaps. 6–8.Google Scholar
  3. Grosser, Morton (1962). The Discovery of Neptune. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Kollerstrom, Nicholas (2003). “Recovering the Neptune Files.” Astronomy and Geophysics 44, no. 5: 23–24.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Moore, Patrick (1996). The Planet Neptune: An Historical Survey before Voyager, 2nd ed. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Sheehan, William, Nicholas Kollerstrom, and Craif B. Waff (2004). “The Case of the Pilfered Planet: Did the British Steal Neptune?” Scientific American 291, no. 6: 92–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Smart, William M. (1947). “John Couch Adams and the Discovery of Neptune.” Occasional Notes of the Royal Astronomical Society 2: 33–88.MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  8. Smith, Robert W. (1989). “The Cambridge Network in Action: The Discovery of Neptune.” Isis 80: 395–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Standage, Tom (2000). The Neptune File: A Story of Astronomical Rivalry and the Pioneers of Planet Hunting. New York: Walker.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LondonUK