Greetings! The Smithsonian History, Art, and Culture digital collection recently added a number of titles from the special collections housed at the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. Continue reading
The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology recently enriched its collection with an intriguing 16th century work in astronomy, Christop Clavius’s In sphaeram Ioannis de Sacro Bosco commentarius. Romae, 1570. Apud Victorium Helianum.
This first edition of Clavius’s commentaries on Sacrobosco’s Sphaera opens a fascinating window into the transitional time period of the early scientific revolution: the change from the earth-centered to the heliocentric world view, from Ptolemaism to Copernicanism. The basic text of this book, Joannes de Sacrobosco’s (fl. ca. 1230) Sphaera was the most widely used astronomical resource of the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period and went through literally hundreds of editions inspiring many commentaries. Although the end of the Ptolemaic era was marked by Copernicus’s revolutionary work, De revolutionibus (1543), it was not until the publication of Kepler’s Astronomis nova (1609) and Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius (1610) that the heliocentric theory began to achieve broader acknowledgement. The period between 1543 and 1610, as a result, is a particularly fascinating one. Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) still represented a geo-heliocentric system and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo began his observations and researches continuing the work of Copernicus. Clavius, meanwhile, was the most compelling astronomical voice in support of geocentricism.
Christoph Clavius (1538-1612), was perhaps the most distinguished mathematics professor of his generation at the Collegio Romano, the principal Jesuit seminary and college. He produced two extremely popular textbooks and he also served on the papal commission on calendar reform that would produce the Georgian calendar. After Galileo visited Clavius in Rome in 1587 they corresponded and Clavius, cautiously though, but mentioned in the later editions of his commentaries on the Sphaera, the new invention, the telescope. He also described there some of the observations Galileo made with the telescope, such as about the “roughness” of the surface of the Moon, and the moons (“stars”) of the Jupiter. Clavius’s edition of the Sphaera was an extremely important book, and according to modern historians is the “greatest of all Sphere commentaries” (Lattis, Between Copernicus and Galileo, p. 37). The copy the Libraries has purchased bears extensive marginal annotations and intertextual mathematical calculations of several early readers, and would doubtless reward further study.
The book is richly illustrated. A woodcut of armillary sphere decorates the title-page, three half-page and many smaller woodcut illustrations and diagrams are in the text. There are also woodcut initials of various sizes and styles.
The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, the oldest rare book collection of the Smithsonian Libraries, holds the 1585, 1591, 1607, and 1608 editions of Clavius’s work and numerous other examples of the Sphere-literature. Having purchased the first edition of Clavius completes the holdings on this title in a very valuable way: covering the intriguing time period between Copernicus and Galileo.
—Hosea Baskin & Lilla Vekerdy
It's the astronomical official start of summer — enjoy!
Jonas, Sir Moore, A new systeme of the mathematicks … , 1681.
The planet Pluto was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh on this date in 1930. He used a 13-inch astrograph to photograph and identify the planet. Tombaugh also believed in the possiblily of extraterrestrial activity and claimed to have seen UFOs.
Johannes Hevelius, Machinae Coelestis Pars Prior [and Posterior]
[Celestial machines, or astronomical instruments], 1673-79.
In 2006 Pluto was designated a dwarf planet, minor planet 134340. Tombaugh may not have been too upset at this "downgrade", as Pluto was only one of many of his astronomical discoveries:
Tombaugh discovered nearly 800 asteroids during his search for Pluto and years of follow-up searches looking for another candidate for the postulated Planet X. Tombaugh is also credited with the discovery of comet C/1931 AN, though its orbit is currently unknown. He also discovered hundreds of variable stars, as well as star clusters, galaxy clusters, and a galaxy supercluster.—Wikipedia
Out of the darkness, the planet Pluto. Clyde W. Tombaugh, Patrick Moore.
Clyde Tombaugh: discoverer of planet Pluto. David H. Levy.
Over the past 20 years, Hubble has been sending images of ever greater value thanks to five servicing missions by Space Shuttle astronauts. Among its countless achievements are improved estimates of the age of the universe, new data on the rate at which the universe is expanding, data on galaxies the way they were billions of years ago and on the prevalence of black holes at the center of nearby galaxies, and evidence of extrasolar planets.
Some figures: Hubble orbits around the Earth at an altitude of 570 km and speed of 28,000 km/hr. It weighs 11,000 kg, measures 13 m x 4 m diameter, and its primary mirror has a diameter of 2.4 m. It ‘sees’ wavelengths in the ultraviolet to infrared range. Energy consumption is 2,800 watts, supplied by two solar panels. Each week, Hubble generates 120 Gb of data, which has been equated to 1,100 meters of shelves of books. As of last year, over 3,700 papers by 5,200 different authors had been based on Hubble data (detailed publication figures here).
From the Libraries' collections:
The universe in a mirror: the saga of the Hubble Telescope and the visionaries who built it. Robert Zimmerman. Princeton, N.J.; Woodstock: Princeton University Press, c2008.
Chasing Hubble's shadows: the search for galaxies at the edge of time. Jeff Kanipe. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.
Hubble space telescope: new views of the universe, by Mark Voit. New York: H.N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers in association with the Smithsonian Institution and the Space Telescope Science Institute, c2000.
New cosmic horizons: space astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope. David Leverington. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Seen/unseen: art, science, and intuition from Leonardo to the Hubble telescope. Martin Kemp. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
An acre of glass: a history and forecast of the telescope. J.B. Zirker. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
The National Air and Space Museum's IMAX theater is currently showing the film Hubble 3D. Check their website for showtimes and trailer.