Person: Scheiner, Christoph
Christoph Scheiner was a German Jesuit priest, physicist and astronomer.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Nothing is known of Scheiner's early life before he entered the Jesuit Latin School of St Salvator in Augsburg in May 1591.
- In 1598 Scheiner went to the Jesuit University in Ingolstadt where he continued his long Jesuit education.
- Scheiner had already become interested in constructing mathematical and astronomical instruments and he promised to construct a quadrant for Rader.
- While in Dillingen Scheiner talked to a painter who used a mechanism to draw outlines on paper before he began to paint.
- The painter kept the mechanism a secret by Scheiner was intrigued and worked out how to construct a pantograph, that is an instrument which allows the copying of a diagram in an enlarged or reduced form.
- After two years teaching at Dillingen, Scheiner returned to the Jesuit University in Ingolstadt.
- Scheiner's studies of theology lasted from 1605 to 1609: he was ordained a deacon by bishop Marcus Lyresius on 14 March 1609, and was awarded a doctorate in theology on 30 June 1609 for his Theses Theologicae which he had defended in a disputation in the usual manner.
- Lantz had moved to Munich and Scheiner succeeded him in Ingolstadt as Professor of Mathematics and Hebrew, teaching geometry, astronomy and, in addition, his specialist subjects of sundials and telescopes.
- Being fascinated by mathematical and astronomical instruments, Scheiner had quickly acquired a good quality telescope and we know that by the spring of 1611 he and his assistant Baptist Cysat were observing the moons of Jupiter.
- It was in March 1611 that Scheiner began to make the observations for which he is most famed, namely his observations of sunspots.
- The fact that Scheiner has become important in the story of the discovery of sunspots is because of three letters he wrote to Marc Welser (1558-1614) in Augsburg in the autumn of 1611, describing his own observations of sunspots.
- Welser was a scholar of Greek and Latin with a passion for history and philology who corresponded with many Jesuit scholars, including Christopher Clavius.
- He published Scheiner's letters under the title Tres epistolae de Maculis Solaribus scriptae ad Marcum Velserium Ⓣ(Three letters by Christoph Scheiner written to Marc Welser) on 5 January 1612 although, since Scheiner wished to remain anonymous, he had signed the letters as 'Apelles latenspost tabulam' (Apelles hiding behind the painting).
- Scheiner had drawn a series of diagrams showing sunspots on various days, made by putting dark coloured glass in front of his telescope.
- Also Scheiner's theory of what the spots were was quite incorrect.
- Certainly one can forgive Scheiner for not recognising the same spots after the sun had rotated for they change markedly.
- In 1613 a dispute broke out between Galileo and Christoph Scheiner over sunspots.
- Galileo unfairly accused Scheiner of plagiarism but, although Scheiner's discovery of sunspots was certainly independent of any work by Galileo, his explanation was quite wrong.
- Giuseppe Biancani, however, defended his fellow Jesuit Scheiner and a considerable controversy ensued.
- Throughout 1612 Galileo corresponded about sunspots with Welser and Scheiner continued making regular observations.
- In September 1612 Welser published a second tract by Scheiner under the pseudonym Apelles entitled De maculis solaribus et stellis circa Jovem errantibus accuratior disquisitio Ⓣ(On Solar Spots and the Stars Wandering around Jupiter.
- The controversy did not seem to cause problems for Scheiner who began publishing major works: (with Johann Georg Locher) Disquisitiones mathematicae Ⓣ(On mathematical investigations) (1614); Sol ellipticus Ⓣ(The elliptical Sun) (1615); (with Georg Schönberger) Exegeses fundamentorum gnomonicorum Ⓣ(Exegeses foundations gnomonicorum) (1615); and Refractiones coelestes Ⓣ(Refraction in the sky) (1617).
- In 1617 the Archduke requested Scheiner's permanent presence in Innsbruck as his advisor.
- Scheiner's whereabouts in this seven-year period, ...
- In 1624 Scheiner was called to Rome by the pope.
- Although Galileo almost certainly did not have Scheiner in mind, Scheiner did not see it that way.
- Galileo believed, correctly, that Scheiner's interpretation of sunspots was wrong and, by this time, Scheiner accepted Galileo's argument that they were on the surface of the sun.
- However, Scheiner had every right to be upset over priority issues which he discussed in his most important work, Rosa Ursina sive Sol Ⓣ(Spots on the sun), published in 1630.
- To his attack upon these conceptions Scheiner devoted fourteen chapters of 150 folio pages.
- Scheiner claimed, correctly, that he was the first to make continuous observations of sunspots of scientific value.
- It also contains Scheiner's argument in favour of a geocentric universe, which he supported with quotations from the scriptures.
- While in Rome, Scheiner also published Pantographice seu ars delineandi Ⓣ(On the art of drawing with a Pantograph) (1631) describing the pantograph he had invented more than 25 years earlier.
- In 1633 Scheiner left Rome and went to Vienna.
- Although Scheiner probably intended to go to Neisse, in fact the war prevented him from doing so for around four years.
Born 25 July 1573, Markt Wald, near Mindelheim in Swabia (now in Germany). Died 18 July 1650, Neisse, Silesia.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Germany
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive