Lucknow, Bruce, Ont.
5 Feby 1897.

Dear Sir,

I have taken the liberty of forwarding you a brochure on Comets, that I think may prove interesting to you and the astronomical society. Of course I send them as my own reflections, as I have never studied astronomical subjects except as a general reader and have only examined the stars here and there on a clear night with a good field glass. As far as I can judge I think the reasons I have advanced are pretty conclusive and coincide with the laws of attraction, cohesion, and repulsion, and with the mechanical forces of light, and leave them before you to form an opinion. I think these reasons clearly solve the motions of comets, their formation, and why they have tails. I mentioned them in part to Sir Daniel Wilson when I last met him and he was called away in the middle of our converse, and we never met again. I saw your remark in your address, and reply in this paper. I did not refer to the reason of the parabolic cause of comets as that must be self evident, nor to the action of distant lights, nor the difference between terrestrial, lunar and solar light as such a matter or matters are altogether too vast for a small paper but you can easily understand their force in the present matter of which I write. I think the theories advanced by me are pretty well proved and hope they may be considered worthy of due and careful investigation. I know little of the scientific phases of the abstruce points of astronomy but take intense interest in various other scientific pursuits in Natural History. I have for some years held the views I have expressed on comets, but living in an out of the way country village I have not a single soul that I care to speak to on such matters. I trust you will forgive my forwardness in writing and consider it as coming from a person anxious to learn and be instructed in matters of which I may say I know nothing.

Believe me yours very truly

John H. Garnier, M.D.

J. A. Paterson Esqr.
Predt. Astronomical Socy.


Some visitors to this page may wonder why Garnier's correspondence is given space on the site of a long-lived Canadian institution devoted to the advancement of astronomy and allied sciences, when the author was neither a member of the Society, nor a noteworthy contributor to the scientific culture of his day, nor even a modestly perceptive commentator on the matters he raises. The answer is simple: his correspondence is part of the history of the RASC, and of the history of science in this country a little more than a century ago. Public perceptions and receptions of science, and active engagement with it constitute significant aspects of its development. In a small community such as Lucknow a medical practitioner like Garnier could be the authoritative local mediator of all things scientific (those in the legal profesisons could play similar roles). His correspondence provides an insight into the level of scientific literacy of one such figure. The relative intellectual isolation imposed by the circumstances of place can elicite sympathy, and one can admire his effort to do something about it by reaching out to the learned society in the big city, as one averts one's gaze at the naiveté of his science.