Edmund Halley

In 1692 Edmund Halley, best known for his discovery of the ever-returning comet that bears his name, offered up a theory of the earth's inner structure that was meant to solve the problem of the motion of the magnetic poles. His solution to the problem was quite ingenious. We must suppose, he said, that the earth is composed of three parts: the outer shell with which we are so familiar, an inner globe or nucleus, and a fluid medium in between. If we further imagine that both the inner and the outer globe are turning around a common center and axis of rotation but slightly out of sync with one another, that is with one turning slightly faster than the other, we can discover a solution to the problem of the motion of the magnetic poles (Fitting, 20).

Halley's theory did not stop there, however. He also suggests that, since life has been observed to thrive in all parts of creation, we might suppose that the inner globe is itself populated with animate life forms. Halley wrote in his A Theory of Magnetic Variations:

But since we see all the parts of the Creation abound with animate

Beings, why should we think it strange that the prodigious Mass of

Matter, whereof this Globe does consist, should be capable of some other Improvements, than barely to serve to support its Surface? Why may we not rather suppose that the exceeding small Quantity of solid Matter in respect to the fluid Aether, is so disposed by the Almighty Wisdom, as to yield as great a Surface for the use of Living Creatures, as can consist with the Conveniency and Security of the whole? (quoted in Fitting, 22)

It might further be supposed, Halley wrote, that the inner, concave surface of the outer shell may glow with sufficient light to provide warmth and vision to the creatures living upon the inner surface. Halley's theory also offered an explanation for the mysterious polar lights, explained as the leaking of some of the inner fluid medium into our atmosphere at the poles, where the surface of the outer shell is thinner than at other locations.

Though Halley's scientific theories would not remain in favor among the scientific establishment, they did prove to be quite long-lived in other communities. Halley's theories may indeed be seen as a bridge between earlier religious or folkloric accounts of hell and subterranean gnomes and later science fiction accounts of the hollow

17. 1951's Superman and the Mole-Men. See Superman battle the tiny vacuum-cleaner salesmen from the center of the Earth!

earth, like those created by Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. They may also be seen as a bridge to a more fully developed, if not more fully persuasive, set of hollow earth theories.

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