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Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.


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Posted in Science / Astronomy & Space / Astronomy

On the Origin of the Word Asteroid: Big Data Strikes Again II

Oct. 1, 2014 12:25 am

Trumpet form the rooftopsPublic Domain

The blog post you are currently reading is a new research, errata and corrections update on my earlier Blog post of June 15th 2014 2014: On the Origin of the Word Asteroid: Big Data Strikes Again

Dr Clifford Cunningham posted a number of most helpful comments on the above blog, Most importantly he corrected my erroneous belief that he was unaware, prior to my blog of the 15th June 2014, that the the word 'asteroid' had been used in botanical literature before his own unique discovery that the word was not coined by Herschel - because it was coined 'anew' by Herschel's friend Charles Burney via Burney's son in 1801

Dr Cunningham informs us his prior-knowledge of the botanical use of the word 'asteroid' is in his PhD. However, we do not yet know the date his PhD was published.

Moreover, in the comments section of my earlier blog on this topic, Cunningham kindly provided an earlier than Forster's published use of the word 'asteroid' in a botanical publication to disconfirm the rationale for my suspicions that the Royal Society may have shown over four decades of reluctance to adopt the word 'asteroid' because Forster had earlier greatly upset them. Because Forster never coined the word, that earlier idea of mine now seems highly unlikely. I would like to thank Dr Cunningham for removing it from my brain.


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Nullius in Verba

Dr Cunningham is keen to stress in his correspondence on the comments section of my earlier blog on this very specific topic that searching for important evidence on Google is inferior to expert archive research. Whilst I do admit in great detail that there are limitations and errors that can occur when using Google to conduct 'big data' searches of the literature (see Sutton 2014) I must stress however the unique value that the ID research method (Sutton 2014) brings to research by way of its amazing ability the find 'the hidden books in the library.' It was this same method, for example, that enabled me to uniquely disprove Charles Darwin's and Alfred Wallace's claims that no naturalist known to them had, prior to 1860, read Patrick Matthew's (1831) book that contained the full hypothesis of natural selection. Moreso, it was ID (internet date detection) that allowed me to uniquely discover that of the 25 people who cited Matthew's book pre-1860 that three naturalists in that number played key roles at the epicenter of influence and facilitation of Darwin's and Wallace's pre-1860 published work on natural selection. The natural conclusion of that research being that Darwin and Wallace can no longer be accepted as independent discoverers of natural selection.

Further research using the ID method this week on the word 'asteroid' leads me to suggest an alternative explanation to Cunningham's expertly informed conclusion that Herschel accepted Burney Jr's suggestion of the word 'asteroid' as a newly coined word for space rocks. I propose, with data, that since ID reveals the word 'asteroides' was used in over 100 botanical books between 1700 and 1801 that members of the Royal Society who voted to accepted the 'asteroid' to name space rocks would, more likely than not, have been made well aware by their polymath and botanical 'gentlemen of science' colleagues that the word was far from new.

My ID evidence-led argument is set out below:


What follows after the image of the Brisano's newly re-discovered use of the word asteroides in astronomy is a mere sample timeline of books also newly “re-discovered” by yours trully with ID (and one with the help of Cunningham) to have used the words ‘asteroid’ asteroides' and 'asteroidem' 'to refer to a type of flower pre-Burney Jnr’s son proposing it in 1801.



The word 'asteroides' referring to heavenly bodies goes back to at least 1588

1. 1588 Girolamo Brisiano. Totius philosophiae synopsis, brevi methodo comprehensa... On Page 88 [NOTE: This is APPARENTLY the first currently 're-discovered' book among others independently detected by Sutton , on 29 September 2014, with the ID method, to have used the plural word 'asteroides' prior to 1861. IN THIS NON-BOTANICAL PUBLICATION, WRITTEN IN LATIN, WE SEE THE WORD ASTEROIDES BEING USED TO DESCRIBE A STAR " Aster" - ASTEROIDES'!

2. 1700 Josephi Pitton Tournefort ... Institutiones rei herbariae, Volume 1 On page 51 - uses 'asteroides' as the plural - NOTE From this date onwards ID reveals over 100 books containing the word 'asteroides' between 1700 and 1801.

3. 1754 Plantarum quae in agro Veronensi reperiuntur supplementum seu volumen tertium. Opera Jo. Francisci Seguierii On Page 308 First discovered (to date) use of the word ‘asteroid’ in Latin as the singular ‘asteroidem’ [Note: this is the first - APPARENTLY -' re-discovered' SINGULAR use of the word asteroid in any language.Discovered by Sutton with the ID method on 29 September 2014]

4. 1767 - Caroli a Linné Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, Volume 3. On page 563 – Discovered by Cunningham (date of discovery unknown but is definitely prior to 17thSeptember 2014 and is apparently cited in his PhD thesis. Date of publication of Dr Cunningham’s PhD thesis is currently unknown). This is currently the first known 're-discovered' publication of the word 'asteroid' in the singular.

5. 1771 (First currently discovered English language publication containing the word 'asteroid' in the singular) John Forster (1771) Flora Americæ Septentrionalis; Or a Catalogue of the Plants of North America.Containing an Enumeration of the Known Herbs, Shrubs, and Trees, Many of which are But Lately Discovered; Together with Their English Names, the Places where They Grow, Their Different Uses, and the Authors who Have Described and Figured Them. B. White; and by T. Davies SOURCE: On Page 37 [ Independently discovered by Sutton using the ID method - and details published below on June 15th 2014 ].

6. 1771 Travels Through that Part of North America Formerly Called Louisiana, Volume 2 By M. Bossu. Translated by Forster and containing his earlier (above) publication of 1771.On Page 53 . [ Independently discovered by Sutton using the ID method - on September 29 2014 ].

7. 1795 - Der Gartenfreund: Ein Auszug aus des Herrn D. J. G. Krünitz ökonomisch technologischen Encyklopädie. Von Aa bis Bel : Mit 3 1/8 Bogen Kupfer, Volume 1.On page 513 . [ Independently discovered by Sutton using the ID method - on September 29 2014 ].

8. 1796 - Démonstrations élémentaires de botanique, contenant les principes généraux ...By François Rozier, Marc-Antoine-Louis Claret de La Tourrette. On page 516 .[ Independently discovered by Sutton using the ID method on 29th September 2014 ]

Is this a Science Problem in Need of a Solution?

The big data ID method reveals that the extensive botanical literature was literally awash with the word 'asteroid' for at least 273 years before the son of Burney Jr first proposed it be used in astronomy in 1801.


Trumpet from the rooftopsPublic Domain

Asteroid Flower

As more and more pre-1861 publications containing the word 'Asteroid turn up - as they surely will as more and more books are scanned by the mighty Google Library Project - how might we calculate the probability that the son of Burney Jr, and/or Banks / Herschel knew full well that the word originated in botany and was not coined anew by Burney Jr.?

Meanwhile, intuitively, surely it is hard to believe that the members of the Royal Society, many of whom were botanists and polymaths, who sat in judgment of the choice of the world 'asteroid', who were members of various other clubs and societies founded with the sole purpose of sharing information, would have been oblivious to the fact that the word asteroid was common parlance in the field of botany. More so since Hershel's friend, Banks was a botanist and knew well the, by then, despised Forster who was, apparently, first to go into print with a botanical book written in English that contained the word 'asteroid.'

Summary and Conclusion

  1. Dr Clifford Cunningham discovered that all the astronomy textbooks are wrong to claim that Herschel coined he term 'asteroid' for space rocks. Because his expert archive research proved that the son of Burney Jr suggested it and that this suggestion was conveyed directly to Herschel, as Cunningham (2013) informs us:"Asteroid was Herschel's choice, but it was not his creation."
  2. Cunningham (2014) concludes from this that the son of Burney Jr. coined the word anew in 1801 - being a Greek scholar (Sept 19th 2014. See below in the comments section of this blog): 'Burney Sr., who began with the prefix "aster" was a musicologist, not a botanist, and would certainly have no knowledge of the use by Linne. Burney Jr., who added the suffix "oid" was a Greek scholar with no interest in or knowledge of botany. The letters of Burney Sr. make it clear what his inspiration was, and it had nothing whatever to do with Linne or any other botanist. The Burney creation of "asteroid" was as a new word in English as derived from Greek, nothing to do with botany'.
  3. An alternative explanation, discovered with ID's unique ability to search millions of forgotten - and incredibly hard to otherwise find - books is that the word 'asteroid' would have been already well known to key members of the Royal Society in 1801. Because the word in the plural 'asteroides', and in the singular 'asteroidem' had by 1801 been used in many books on botany for 273 years to classify chamomile (yellow star wort - also known as fever wort). Between 1700 and 1801 the word 'asteroides' is used in over 100 books. Jospeh Banks of the Royal Society - was a famous botanist and he knew Herschel well. Banks, therefore, it seems highly probable, would have told Herschel that the word was very far from being new in 1801. Latin, after all, was the language of science at the time - an ability to read it was a necessity for these men. Moreover, Banks knew Forster - who had in 1771 used the word 'asteroid' in a botanical book written in English. Forster was the first to do so. In sum, my alternative proposition is that Burney Jr and his son might well have genuinely and honestly believed that they had uniquely coined a new word for space rocks - although of that we cannot be sure - others in the Royal Society - Herschel included - more likely than not knew that Burney Jr and son had coined nothing new whatsoever. If this is so, then a well-known lack of originality of the name might, therefore, in great part explain the reluctance of the scientific community to use a botanical term for space rocks until the 1850's.
  4. As a second alternative explanation. it is quite possible that members of the Royal Society, particularly Heschel were well aware of Girolamo Brisiano's 1588 publication that used the words 'aster' and asteroides' in the context of stars!
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