Article: Scientists Didn’t Believe in Meteorites Until 1803

  • During last night's Zoom meeting, it came up that Horace saw lightening during the daytime, and this was the cause of his return to believing in the gods (hope I am remembering this correctly).

    Joshua, what was your story of the explanation of why lightening could not be of the gods?

    Then I was thinking further that maybe Horace saw a flash from a meteorite (and so had an experience similar to the conversion of the Apostle Paul).

    Possibly this was an area in natural physics which was not understood. Does Lucretius mention anything about meteorites?

    And I found this interesting article:

    Scientists Didn't Believe in Meteorites Until 1803
    The l'Aigle meteorite fall involved more than 3,000 pieces of rock and numerous witnesses, and it changed everything

  • "Once I wandered, an expert in crazy wisdom, a scant and infrequent adorer of gods, now I’m forced to set sail and return, to go back to the paths I abandoned. For Jupiter, Father of all of the gods, who generally splits the clouds with his lightning, flashing away, drove thundering horses, and his swift chariot, through the clear sky, till the dull earth, and the wandering rivers, and Styx, and dread Taenarus’ hateful headland, and Atlas’s mountain-summits shook. The god has the power to replace the highest with the lowest, bring down the famous, and raise the obscure to the heights. And greedy Fortune with her shrill whirring, carries away the crown and delights in setting it, there."

    --Horace, Ode 1.34, Translated by A. S. Kline


    This, this it is, O Memmius, to see through

    The very nature of fire-fraught thunderbolt;

    O this it is to mark by what blind force

    It maketh each effect, and not, O not

    To unwind Etrurian scrolls oracular,

    Inquiring tokens of occult will of gods,

    Even as to whence the flying flame hath come,

    Or to which half of heaven it turns, or how

    Through walled places it hath wound its way,

    Or, after proving its dominion there,

    How it hath speeded forth from thence amain,

    Or what the thunderstroke portends of ill

    From out high heaven. But if Jupiter

    And other gods shake those refulgent vaults

    With dread reverberations and hurl fire

    Whither it pleases each, why smite they not

    Mortals of reckless and revolting crimes,

    That such may pant from a transpierced breast

    Forth flames of the red levin- unto men

    A drastic lesson?- why is rather he-

    O he self-conscious of no foul offence-

    Involved in flames, though innocent, and clasped

    Up-caught in skiey whirlwind and in fire?

    Nay, why, then, aim they at eternal wastes,

    And spend themselves in vain?- perchance, even so

    To exercise their arms and strengthen shoulders?

    Why suffer they the Father's javelin

    To be so blunted on the earth? And why

    Doth he himself allow it, nor spare the same

    Even for his enemies? O why most oft

    Aims he at lofty places? Why behold we

    Marks of his lightnings most on mountain tops?

    Then for what reason shoots he at the sea?-

    What sacrilege have waves and bulk of brine

    And floating fields of foam been guilty of?

    Besides, if 'tis his will that we beware

    Against the lightning-stroke, why feareth he

    To grant us power for to behold the shot?

    And, contrariwise, if wills he to o'erwhelm us,

    Quite off our guard, with fire, why thunders he

    Off in yon quarter, so that we may shun?

    Why rouseth he beforehand darkling air

    And the far din and rumblings? And O how

    Canst thou believe he shoots at one same time

    Into diverse directions? Or darest thou

    Contend that never hath it come to pass

    That divers strokes have happened at one time?

    But oft and often hath it come to pass,

    And often still it must, that, even as showers

    And rains o'er many regions fall, so too

    Dart many thunderbolts at one same time.

    Again, why never hurtles Jupiter

    A bolt upon the lands nor pours abroad

    Clap upon clap, when skies are cloudless all?

    Or, say, doth he, so soon as ever the clouds

    Have come thereunder, then into the same

    Descend in person, and that from thence he may

    Near-by decide upon the stroke of shaft?

    And, lastly, why, with devastating bolt

    Shakes he asunder holy shrines of gods

    And his own thrones of splendour, and to-breaks

    The well-wrought idols of divinities,

    And robs of glory his own images

    By wound of violence?

    -Lucretius Book VI, transl. William Ellery Leonard

  • Thank you Joshua, so then it was from Lucretius! The explanation which you gave in last night's Zoom, without the use of poetic embellishment was so direct and clear (and succinct).