Wednesday 6 December 2017

God's Glory in the Heavens by William Leitch: The First Source To Suggest Rocket-Powered Space Exploration

This evidently *very* scarce book (I can find no other non-POD copy currently for sale anywhere online) holds a very special place in the history of astronomy, and space exploration. As the Wikipedia article for its author William Leitch points out:

Space historian Robert Godwin published in October 2015 his discovery that Leitch gave the first modern scientific explanation of the potential for space exploration using rockets (1861).[1] He was said to be "a distinguished astronomer, naturalist and mathematician",[2] and his proposal for rocket spaceflight came four decades prior to more well-known proposals by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1903), Robert Esnault-Pelterie (1913), Robert H. Goddard (1914), and Hermann Oberth (1923). Leitch's rocket spaceflight description was first provided in his 1861 essay "A Journey Through Space", which was later published in his book God's Glory in the Heavens (1862).[3] This description correctly attributed rocket thrust to the "internal reaction" (Newton's laws of motion) and correctly identified that rocket thrust is most effective in the vacuum of space.

Despite the title, this is not a 'religious' book, but a still very readable trip around the solar system as it was known then. This copy is in Very Good condition overall, with all 12 plates present (and numerous illustrations in the text). The half leather binding looks of the time, and the bookplate has a story of its own: this book's previous owner was John Whichcord, the lauded architect, perhaps best known for designing the Grand Hotel in Brighton, which, despite the efforts of the IRA, still stands to this day.

A small piece of history then. (Which, perhaps not surprisingly, SOLD before I had a chance to post this blog!)

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