Last week I was reminded by a tweet from Phil Metzger (@DrPhiltill) that once I read a book about Pluto. I was 9 (or thereabouts) and the book was on a bookshelf in my classroom. I can’t remember if the teacher pointed me towards it, or whether I just discovered it. I have always remembered the name of the book, though. The Search for Planet X. Phil had also read a book about finding Pluto, but a different one (The Hunt for Planet X). He’s an astronomer at NASA.
Then it dawned on me that this book may have started me on the journey into Science. At 9 years old.
By the wonders of Amazon I found the book, and it arrived today (published in 1962, written by Tony Simon). So familiar. But I read it over 40 years ago. That’s some impact.
The book is magic. Firstly, it’s a detective story. Secondly, it’s a masterclass in scientific method. The first chapter is entitled “On the Shoulders of Giants” and talks about Copernicus, Galileo, Herschel, Brahe, Kepler and Newton! The book has to explain gravity, and its effects on adjacent planets, and how that was used to discover the planet beyond Uranus, Neptune. But, that still didn’t explain the orbit of Uranus. There was another planet beyond Neptune, Planet X. Pluto, discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. There’s even a signed letter from Clyde at the back of the book.
I’m quite emotional about it.