Project (2008-2009)

Knowledge of Astronomy and the Invention of the Telescope: International Year of Astronomy 2009

In the International Year of Astronomy 2009, Department I joined forces with the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg to explore how the invention of the telescope recast our view of the universe; the results were published in a special issue of the German astronomy journal Sterne und Weltraum, directed at both professional scientists and amateurs (circulation 14,500 copies). The research investigated astronomical knowledge existing before the invention of the telescope and the relation between the numerous antecedents of the telescope to the available observational data and ancient sources, such as the works of Plutarch and the medieval reports on sunspots. The conflict between science and the dogmas of the Catholic Church and the figure of Galileo as an engineer-scientist were contextualized in the process of the transformation of ancient knowledge and the reorganization of its internal structure. The work concluded with the analysis of how Galileo’s physical ideas nevertheless remained anchored in Aristotelian natural philosophy, constituting the starting point from which classical Newtonian mechanics emerged.


Renn, J., Valleriani, M., & Staude, J. (Eds.). (2009).Galilei und die Anderen: Hintergründe einer Revolution der Astronomie. Heidelberg: Spektrum der Wissenschaft.

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