Le Verrier, Urbain (1811-1877)

Urbain Le Verrier French was astronomer who wrote his name into the history of astronomy by discovering the Neptune.

The discoverer of the planet Neptune was Urbain Le Verrier (1811-1877) a French mathematician who - in contrast to previous discoveries, which astronomers made with telescopes - he used paper and pencil at his desk to find the eighth planet of the solar system. The Neptune was found on 23 September 1846 by Johann Gottfried Galle in the sky less than 1 degree from position that Le Verrier specified. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery a commemorative medal was issued. The cast bronze medal is a work of medalist Guiraud George, whose signature can be read over Le Verrier's shoulder on the obverse. The front panel is very similar Aplhée Dubois previous work (see below). Beside the left-facing portrait the legend around is: "U.J.J.LE-VERRIER 1811-1877". The coin is 80 mm in diameter and 5 mm thick, and has a considerable weight of 257 grams.

leverrier 3 reverseleverrier 3 obverse

The allegorical image of the Capricorn constellation dominates the reverse of the medal. In the middle, the nearly horizontal line passing through is the ecliptic. In front of it you can see Neptune, the planet is referred by the three-pronged trident ♆. The image is decorated with scattered stars. When Neptune was discovered in 1846 it was located at the border of Capricorn and Aquarius constellations. Legend around is: "CENTENAIRE DE LA DECOUVERTE DE LA PLANETE NEPTUNE", that is the centenary of the discovery of Neptune. Below discovery Date: 23. SEPT, 1846 and the date of the release: OCT. 1946.

leverrier reverse

Alphee Dubois made a bronze commemorative medal in 1884 in honor of the discovery and the discoverer. The medal was made by the Paris mint. The title BRONZE and the cornucopia struck into the edge refer to this. Its diameter is 68 mm and weighs 166 grams. On the obverse Le Verrier's left-facing bust is visible. Legend around is: "U.J.J.LE-VERRIER DE L'ACADEMIE DES SCIENCES. 1811-1877". Over the shoulder of Le Verrier, the year 1884 and the engraver's name in shown.

On the reverse the Solar System is drawn by the artist, mostly by allegorical persons. In the middle the Sun on a Quadriga is visible. Around him are the planets in order of their distances from the Sun. After Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars - at the top of the medal - the asteroids are visible (PETITES PLANETES). The fact that the asteroids were displayed on the coin indicates that an astronomer helped the design of the coin. The number of known asteroids now is more than a hundred thousand. leverrier obverse

The first was discovered in 1801, and in 1884 when this medal was made their number was already taken over 100. They are not a negligible part of the Solar System, yet most modern coins are missing them.

Continuing the line of distance from the Sun, the picture of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and the newly discovered Neptune follows. Do not look for Pluto. It had to wait until 1930 to be discovered. The found of Pluto - as in the case of Neptune - is resulted from the fact that the planet's gravitational field distorted the orbits of other planets, leaving a trail of its existence and inspired the search. But it is not a really big problem that it is missing from the medal, because since 2006 Pluto is no longer considered a planet, but a member and the namesake of another group of celestial bodies - the plutoids. It could be on the medal only as the asteroids, as a group of celestial bodies. However, there was not any indication in 1884 for this. The last picture is of planet Vulcan. Where is this planet, and how did it get on the medal? You can read it here.

Alphee Dubois' representation of Le Verrier can be found on a later medal. Le Verrier, who was a polymath of his era, did not only deal with mathematics and astronomy, but he was the founder of the modern meteorological observations in France. This is indicated by the changed legend on the obverse: "LE VERRIER FONDATEUR DE LA METEOROLOGIE MODERNE". Over the shoulder of Le Verrier, the cipher is changed a bit, "D'APRÉS ALPHÉE DUBOIS 1884" that is after 1884 Alphee Dubois' work.

leverrier 4 reverseleverrier 4 obverse

On the revers the Sun and the Earth, clouds are visible. The Sun has an allegorical depiction as of the Sun King, Louis XIV medals.

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Le Verrier appears on official money also. His portrait was visible on the 50 Francs paper money.