Not everyone was satisfied with the results, however. The shortcoming of the Schiehallion experiment was that it was not possible to get a truly accurate figure without knowing the actual density of the mountain. For convenience, Hutton had assumed that the mountain had the same density as ordinary stone, about 2.5 times that of water, but this was little more than an educated guess.
One improbable-seeming person who turned his mind to the matter was a country parson named John Michell, who resided in the lonely Yorkshire village of Thornhill. Despite his remote and comparatively humble situation, Michell was one of the great scientific thinkers of the eighteenth century and much esteemed for it.
Among a great deal else, he perceived the wavelike nature of earthquakes, conducted much original research into magnetism and gravity, and, quite extraordinarily, envisioned the possibility of black holes two hundred years before anyone else—a leap of intuitive deduction that not even Newton could make. When the German-born musician William Herschel decided his real interest in life was astronomy, it was Michell to whom he turned for instruction in making telescopes, a kindness for which planetary science has been in his debt ever since.