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George Darwin and The Theory of Moon Formation

Updated on May 27, 2011

Theory of Moon Formation

Darwin did to his sons what the composer Bach did to his. Even though the composer Carl Philip Emanuel Bach is relatively well known today, he pales in comparison with his father Johann Sebastian Bach. Few books have been as widely read or highly acknowledged as Darwin's "On the Origin of Species."  So it should come as no surprise to anyone why Charles Darwin's son George, isn't nearly as well known as his father is.

George Howard Darwin was born on 7-9-1845, and died on 12-7-1912. He was a great English astronomer and the son of Charles Darwin. George studied under Charles Pritchard, and then went on to study at Trinity College. He had a great love for science; in 1883 George became Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge. He had a great deal of interest in tidal forces. His love and interest in this field would eventually lead him to formulate the fission theory of Moon formation. In 1892, George won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. He would later serve as the president of this prestigious organization. George Darwin was acknowledged during his lifetime, however; Charles Darwin has become so famous amongst the scientific community, that many forget how great his son George was.

Theory of Moon Formation:

George Darwin believed in Newtonian theory which proposed that the Moon could have been much closer to the Earth at one point in time. Soviet and NASA tests later proved the theory by showing that the Moon was gradually moving away from the Earth. According to this theory; the Moon was spun as a result of a collision between a young Earth and a Mars size planet sometimes known as Theia. Sample of the Moon's surface have shown the Moon was once molten. Indirect evidence of this impact was later proven with rocks collected by the Apollo Moon landings. Samples of the Moon's crust gave rise to the idea that a large impact could have supplied the energy needed to form such a magma ocean. The Moon's small core has also helped in formulating and explaining this theory. The theory proposes the Moon could have formed from mantles of the Earth and Theia (also known as Orpheus and/or Hephaestus) after their impact/collision supposedly took place.

In the scientific community, Charles Darwin is still considered top dog (although Charles Darwin was actually a naturalist which is a bit different than a scientist which is what his son George was, but try to argue that with popular culture/society). Today, theories have vindicated George, who for years was thought of as a sort of pseudo-scientist, and nothing else.


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