Transformations of Cosmology

Transformations of Cosmology

Other involved Scholars: 

See activities covered by this project


Sacrobosco, Iohannis de Sacro Bvsto Libellvs de Sphaera, 1568
Original source owned by the MPIWG Library

This project investigates, from an epistemological and historical perspective, the forms of transmission, innovation and canonisation of astronomical and cosmological knowledge from the ancient world to the early modern era. Although there is no tradition of knowledge that relies on comparably long and continuous forms of transmission, the historical developments of knowledge about the heavens and the structure of the universe are marked by technological shifts, the employment of different conceptual instruments and the emergence of new epistemic approaches, e. g., the introduction of geometric planetary models in antiquity or the telescope in the seventeenth century. The objective of this investigation is thus marked by an inner tension between tradition and innovation, canonization and change. How could new approaches arise from well-established scientific traditions? How did novelties rebound on the basic epistemic structures of astronomy and cosmology? To answer such questions, it is necessary to examine the various processes of knowledge transfer that occurred between different cultural areas and social groups at different times. In addition, interdisciplinary pollination and interactions between different levels of knowledge (above all epistemological and practical) need to be taken into account to understand how ideas migrate and are transformed. All of these aspects can be best illustrated through a thorough study of the astronomical traditions of the pre-Copernican era and their survival in the modern era.