General natural history and theory of the sky

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The General Natural History and Theory of Heaven is a work by Immanuel Kant , which he wrote in 1755 and published anonymously.


According to Kant, our solar system is a miniature version of observable fixed star systems , such as our Milky Way system and other galaxies . In his opinion, planetary systems and star systems arise and disappear periodically from a primordial nebula . The individual planets condense independently. With regard to the formation of the moon , Kant assumed that it had formed together with the earth from a compression of the presolar primeval nebula directly into a double planet.

The English astronomer Thomas Wright (1711–1786) had previously advocated the hypothesis in his work An original theory or new hypothesis of the Universe (1750) that the band of the Milky Way visible in the sky represented a rotating disk of stars that moved to the ground of Newton's law of gravitation. Kant elaborated this theory further and concluded that such a cosmic island - today we speak of galaxies - would resemble a circular or, depending on the viewing angle, elliptical cloud from a sufficiently great distance. He correctly concluded from the observation, which was already known at the time, that the universe had to encompass a great number of islands in the world and must therefore be considerably larger than what his contemporaries imagined.


With his theory, Kant comes closer to today's ideas about cosmogony than Pierre-Simon Laplace , who developed his hypothesis on the formation of the planets in 1796, 41 years later, independently of Kant. Nevertheless, both theories are often summarized as the Kant-Laplace theory about the formation of the solar system (cosmogony).

Kant's assumption about the multitude of galaxies by Edwin Hubble in the 1920s was proven by direct measurements .


  • General natural history and theory of the heavens or an attempt at the constitution and mechanical origin of the whole world structure according to Newtonian principles. Petersen, Königsberg and Leipzig 1755. Digitized and full text in the German text archive

An annotated new edition of the original text:

  • Immanuel Kant: General Natural History and Theory of Heaven. with afterword (pp. 147–212) by Jürgen Hamel , 4th exp. Ed., Frankfurt am Main 2005, 2009 (Ostwald's classic of the exact sciences 12)

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