The Meteor that Changed the World

On December 14, 1807, astonished witnesses watched a giant fireball blaze across the sky. Three sonic booms erupted. Then rocks fell from the air. How did the Weston Meteorite change the world?

What was the Weston Meteorite?

It might be hard to imagine but meteorite science was practically non-existent in the 1800s. Sure, people had seen meteors for centuries. But they were poorly understood and hardly ever connected to odd stories of falling rocks. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1800s that scientists began to realize these falling rocks were quite different from the ones normally found on the ground.

Within a few days of December 14, Benjamin Silliman and James L. Kingsley traveled to Weston, Connecticut to investigate the phenomenon. They interviewed witnesses and gathered and analyzed specimens. It wasn’t easy. They only managed to find 15% of the meteorite rocks. Many others disappeared into the hands of residents who proceeded to crack them open.

“Strongly impressed with the idea that these stones contained gold and silver, they subjected them to all the tortures of ancient alchemy, and the goldsmith’s crucible, the forge, and the blacksmith’s anvil, were employed in vain to elicit riches which existed only in the imagination.” ~ Benjamin Silliman and James L. Kingsley, Account of a Meteor

After Silliman and Kingsley published their account, the story caught fire. It was reprinted in multiple journals. Their words were read before the American Philosophical Society, the Philosophical Society of London, and the Academy of Sciences in Paris. Still, not everyone was a believer.

“I would more easily believe that (a) Yankee professor would lie than that stones would fall from heaven.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

However, Silliman continued to think meteorite rocks had a cosmic origin. He taught this to his students, paving the way for meteorite science in the United States. One of his students, Denison Olmstead, went on to study the famous Leonid meteor storm of November 1833. That storm, witnessed by people all over the eastern United States, was a turning point for meteorite science. But the foundation had been laid decades earlier, thanks to the groundbreaking work done by Benjamin Silliman and James L. Kingsley.

“In Europe I had become acquainted with meteorites and the phenomena that usually attend their fall…. I did not dream of being favored by an event of this kind in my own vicinity and occurring on a scale truly magnificent.” ~ Benjamin Silliman, Life of Benjamin Silliman

Thomas Jefferson’s Secret Bible?

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson put the finishing touches on a strange modified Bible entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The work, which took him over a decade to complete, was not published until 1895, 69 years after Jefferson’s death. What was the purpose of the Jefferson Bible?

Thomas Jefferson & the Jefferson Bible?

Thomas Jefferson was a great admirer of the “Christian System.” However, although he had tremendous appreciation for Jesus’ moral philosophy, he had little patience for stories about miracles, the virgin birth, or the resurrection. So, using a razor, he cut out selected sections of the books of Matthew, Mark Luke, and John. Then he arranged them in chronological order and pasted them to sheets of paper. By the end, he had created his own unique and private account of the life of Jesus Christ, sans supernatural elements.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Afraid of what other people might think, Jefferson never published the book and in fact, only mentioned it to a few people. It was finally brought to market in 1895 and then again by order of Congress in 1904. For many years afterward, “it was presented to all newly elected members of that body.” Jefferson’s secret Bible is not well known today. However, it would appear that his desire to craft his own unique faith informed his views on why religion needs to be protected from intrusion by the state.

“…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1802

Here’s more on the Jefferson Bible from Mitch Horowitz at CNN:

Imagine the following scenario: A U.S. president is discovered to be spending his spare time taking a razor to the New Testament, cutting up and re-pasting those passages of the Gospels that he considered authentic and morally true and discarding all the rest.

Gone are the virgin birth, divine healings, exorcisms and the resurrection of the dead, all of which the chief executive dismissed as “superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications.”

Such an episode occurred, although the revised version of Scripture remained unseen for nearly seven decades after its abridger’s death. Thomas Jefferson intended it that way…

(See the rest on the Jefferson Bible at CNN)