A new play explores the short life of Jeremiah Horrocks, whose astonishing discoveries ‘changed the way we see the universe’
On a cloudy afternoon in England in 1639, 20-year-old Jeremiah Horrocks became the first person to accurately predict the transit of Venus and measure the distance from the Earth to the sun.
His work proved, for the first time, that Earth is not at the centre of the universe, but revolves around the sun, refuting contemporary religious beliefs and laying the foundations for Isaac Newton’s groundbreaking work on gravity.
Yet today Horrocks has been “almost forgotten” and few are aware of the important contributions he made to the field of astronomy. Due to his untimely death at the age of 22, his work was never published in his lifetime and he never gained widespread recognition for his dazzling mathematical achievements.
“Without Horrocks, all the pieces wouldn’t have been in place for Newton,” said Dr Matt Bothwell, public astronomer at the University of Cambridge. “Yet he has been almost forgotten, except among history of astronomy buffs.”