Person: Wittich, Paul
Paul Wittich was a Polish mathematician and astronomer who anticipated Tycho Brahe's planetary theory. He may have influenced Napier.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- In addition, Rheticus, who had been Copernicus's only disciple, corresponded with a Johannes Wittich in Wrocław, who may have been another of Paul's relatives.
- The first precise date we know for Wittich is that he matriculated at University of Leipzig in the summer of 1563.
- If Wittich was born in 1546 then he was born in the same year as Tycho Brahe.
- Certainly Tycho was a student at Wittenberg at the same time as Wittich but later remarked that he scarcely remembered him.
- This, of course, may relate to the fact that Tycho later became extremely antagonistic towards Wittich for reasons which we shall explain below.
- Wittich matriculated at Frankfurt an der Oder in 1576 and there he met John Craig, from Edinburgh, who was dean at Frankfurt an der Oder for several years before returning to Edinburgh.
- It is certainly possible that the method referred to by Wood is one invented by Wittich since we know that Wittich found how to replace multiplication and division with addition and subtraction using the rules for sines and cosines of the sums and differences of angles.
- Certainly Dudith did not succeed in persuading Wittich to give up his enthusiasm for travelling for in the summer of 1580, taking with him a letter of introduction from Thaddaeus Hagecius, he went to visit Tycho on the island of Hveen (called today Hven or Ven) in Copenhagen Sound where Tycho had his observatory Uraniborg.
- In 1580, however, he was exposed to the rich commentaries of Copernicus that Wittich had brought with him during a four-month visit at the isle of Hven, the site of Tycho's observatory.
- Wittich's diagrams are semigeoheliocentric, and therefore retain the solid crystalline spheres, only because they fail to solve completely the problem of the possible collision between the Sun and a planet such as Mars.
- In the process, Tycho accused Wittich of divulging secrets, which suggests that some communication between Ursus and Wittich could conceivably have occurred.
- Now the dispute between Tycho and Wittich was based on more than who had invented the planetary theory.
- Clearly, despite Tycho's appreciation of Wittich at this time, Wittich had become tired of Tycho; he promised to return but never did.
- By 1584 Wittich was in Kassel working with Bürgi helping improve the design of the instruments he was making for the Observatory of Wihelm of Hesse in Kassel.
- Wihelm of Hesse was Tycho's great astronomy rival and Wittich now passed on Tycho's secrets regarding star-sights and scales.
- Wilhelm was delighted and gave Wittich a gold chain in return for his suggestions about improving his instruments.
- Tycho, on the other hand, was furious and had his revenge when he published the first volume of his correspondence where he strongly asserted that ideas in the planetary theory were entirely his own, and scarcely mentioned Wittich despite the fact that his planetary theory originated with him.
- He also claimed to have discovered the method of prosthaphaeresis which Wittich had shown him.
- Tycho now made serious attempts to buy the copies of Copernicus's De revolutionibus which Wittich had owned.
- He remembered that they contained not only details of Wittich's planetary theory but also his work on prosthaphaeresis.
- These copies still survive and historians wrongly attributed the inscriptions of Wittich to Tycho until recent research by Gingerich has given Wittich the credit he deserves.
Born 1546, Breslau, Hapsburg Empire (now Wrocław, Poland). Died 9 January 1586, Vienna, Austria.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Poland
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive