Philosophy 167: Class 5 - Part 11 - Astronomy After Galileo: Important Figures in the Field.

Smith, George E. (George Edwin), 1938-


  • Synopsis: Lists some of the important people who followed in the steps of Kepler and Galileo over the next few decades.

    Opening line: "I've ended up with forty-five minutes instead of an hour to try to talk about what's technically the assimilation of the two revolutions."

    Duration: 5:11 minutes.

    Segment: Class 5, Part 11.
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I've ended up with forty-five minutes instead of an hour to try to talk about what's technically the assimilation of the two revolutions. There are two revolutions here. One is Kepler's orbital reforms leading up to the Rudolphine Tables, and a standard of agreement with observation totally, well, fifty times better than anything ever known before.
That's a revolution, and it culminated with the publication of the Rudolphine Tables which, I think, is 1627 or so. And then with the Ephemerides that Kepler produced for the subsequent years. And then the other revolution was the telescope. Okay? And both of these need to be assimilated. And I'm gonna make the point I made earlier, namely, until a community picks this work up and does something with it other than just quote it, starts building on it in some way, refining it, sometimes changing it for the better as you'll see tonight in a couple of minutes, until that happens, I'm not sure it's science at all.
I'm not sure it's any different from philosophy, something in a book that you can choose to believe or not believe. It's when the community starts really pushing it one way or another that it starts becoming entrenched. Okay, so without that happening, without a community picking up and doing something, it's remained something of a curiosity.
I mean, Michael here is looking at the later history of general relativity, but for a substantial period of time Einstein's general relativity was not really a part of science. It was not taught in the United States in almost any physics department. Okay? Because nobody knew what to do with it.
Because you couldn't solve the field equations in any interesting cases, or very few cases, etc. So, the same thing happened there until the microwave background, microwave radiation was discovered and cosmology exploded. At any rate, these are names, most of which you've never heard of, but they were all figures in the assimilation of the two revolutions in astronomy up to 1642.
I'm chopping. Essentially, it's 1642. Galileo died in January of 1642. Newton was born on Christmas day, 1642, but not in the same calendars. Newton was born on Christmas day in the old calendar, and Galileo died in January on the Gregorian calendar. That meant they weren't really within 12 months of one another quite because, technically, on the Gregorian calendar, Newton was born in early January 1643, but not in England.
England didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until well into the 18th century. And I think some countries, it's the 20th Century. I think Russia was one of them. That's why the revolution is both the November and the October revolution because it depends on which calendar you use. At any rate, I'll run through some of these people.
I've all ready mentioned Clavius as the one who authenticated the telescopic observations. Harriot, I've mentioned in England, who didn't publish but ran parallel. Fabricius and his son both did telescopic observations at more or less the same time as Galileo, and for some time they claimed priority. I'll come back to in a moment.
Scheiner we've already talked about. Simon Mayor we've talked about. Phillipe van Lansberge was the principal proponent of Copernican astronomy during this period. He prepared full Copernican tables during this time. Cristian Longomontanus, follower of Tycho. He prepared full Tychonic tables. So by 1630 or so, we had three sets of tables.
The Rudophine, the ones by Havan Lansburg, and the ones by Longomontanus. And not surprisingly they all claim, just like the advertisements on television do, they all claim to be the most accurate. Okay? That was the state the field was in at the time. You wouldn't expect them not to claim to be the most accurate, right?
Pierre Gassendi is a very important person in so many different respects. He can legitimately be said to be the founder of empiricist philosophy because he was a major influence on Boyle, and several other people in England at the time who were the influences on Locke. And Locke read Gassendi, I think he even knew Gassendi.
Gassendi was a priest, but not a Jesuit. He ended up in Paris, in University of Paris with Marin Mersenne. He was an Augustinian and for many years would teach scholastic philosophy in the daytime and a rump seminar at night telling people the truth in contrast to scholastic philosophy.
And you're gonnato see his name appearing again and again. He may be, with one exception, the most important person up here for the subsequent development of science. We'll get to in just a moment, notice another Jesuit. Quintanus I'm not gonna say much about, it's in the note. Portencius you will see later, so will you Fontana.
The next three names are English people. They all died very young. They lived around Liverpool and they formed a closely knit group of astronomers in the late 1630s. And the candidate for the most important person up there, other than perhaps Gassendi, is Jeremiah Horrocks as you'll see in just a few moments.
You may of never heard of him, but he is of giant significance in the history of astronomy. And then finally Van Langren was doing maps of the moon that I'll be showing in a moment. The point here is you probably, with a possible exception of Gassendi, probably have never heard of these people, but they were all critical to the assimilation of these two revolutions by doing something with them other then just praising them, teaching them, etc.
They built on them, one way or another, whether it was attacking them or otherwise.