Belgica

1925 VD. Discovered 1925 Nov. 15 by E. Delporte at Uccle.

Named in honor of the state of Belgium. This is the first minor planet to be discovered in Uccle {see planet (1276)}, Belgium. (H 100)

Brian G. Marsden (private communication) discovered a remarkable piece of history involving minor planet names and World War I. He detected a correspondence between Prof. W. W. Campbell, director of the Lick Observatory, and Rev. J. Metcalf which proves that Metcalf submitted the name "Belgica", evidently during 1915-1917 (after the Belgian relief effort but before the United States entered the war), and had it turned down by Prof. F. Cohn, director of the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut in Berlin. In a letter from October 1, 1919 Prof. Campbell wrote to Metcalf: "Professor Russell of Princeton told a group of astronomers in Washington last June about a most remarkable incident of which he said you were the hero. The circumstances were reported to be as follows: Before the United States entered the great war you forwarded to the Rechen-Institut in Berlin a list of four asteroids discovered by you, with proposals for the names which they should bear. One of these names was Belgica. The head of the Recheninstitut responded refusing to utilize this name and expressing the hope that you were not casting political aspersions, or something of that kind. Would you be so good as to let me have the precise facts in the case? I think the incident is most remarkable..." The {undated} answer by Metcalf says the following: "...The facts of the would be Belgica are briefly these. At the Allied Bazaar Prof. {Henry Norris} Russell asked me for an unnamed asteroid that the naming of it might be sold to the highest bidder. I sent him four. The people paid the price (about $50) and sent me through Prof.

Russell the names. One of them was Belgica. I saw the possibility of trouble but I sent it along as I had agreed to. Prof. Cohn of the Rechen-Institut sent backward that it was "impossible" at that moment anyway. I think myself it was poor taste. Of course he blamed me. I never took the trouble to tell him how it happened. The other names were very long queer ones that they objected also. In fact, the only successful part of it was that we obtained some money for the Allied Bazaar. I am afraid Belgium was a pretty sore spot with them about the time I wrote the letter... " Unfortunately, our search did not show any surviving ARI documents that shed more light on this incident. Marsden suspects that all minor planets discovered by Metcalf from (726) Joella onward, with the possible exception of (747) Winchester { home town of Rev. Metcalf}, were named by Harlow Shapley soon after Metcalf's death in 1925. Metcalf moved from Winchester, Mass. to Portland, Maine around 1920, two years before Shapley came from Mt. Wilson to direct the Harvard College Observatory.

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