HoST Fall 2010

Tues/Thurs. starting at 4:00 in Babio 203

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Week of 11/9 and 11/11

Assignment 10

A Scientific Revolution: Part I

Picture 3

Vesalius-from De Humani Corporis Fabrica-1543


Look at this scale graphic of our solar system.  Scroll through the whole thing. You’ll notice why Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were not seen by the pre-moderns.

Scale Solar System


Here is another site with the same idea:

Scale Solar System updated


Read the chapter titled “Copernicus Incited a Revolution” in McClellan and Dorn.  (It is Chapter 11 in newer editions and chapter 10 in older editions.)  Look over this web page and as you read the McClellan and Dorn, follow along with the materials I have posted below. 


Read this web page entirely and play with the links provided. 


Browse over these parts of Kepler’s Mysterium cosmographicum (1596) – Kepler_MystCosmoExcerptsSm-OCRd-imaged-5.9MB.pdf. Don’t skip the title page and all the fluff.  The fluff is as interesting as the meat of the book. Just poke around this PDF and see if anything grabs your attention. 


Browse through these excerpts from Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica [On the fabric of the human body] from 1543.  Just look over the illustrations and study a few of them closely.



View this movie: Copernican explanation of the retrograde motion of Mars:



Read this selection of things on and by Girolamo Cardano:


…or here is a somewhat smaller, lower resolution version…



-pp. ix-xviii (The “Introduction” by Grafton), just skim this over...

-pp. 5-7 (“My Nativity)

-pp. 20-24 (“Concerning My Health”)

-pp. 91-104 (“Perils, Accidents, and …Treacheries”)

-this reading is also listed as a resource for a long essay... just read about 20 pages more than the assignment.


Homework: On Tuesday I will have passed back your project homework from last week.  Don't lose these sheets!  I want next week's homework done on the back of them... or stapled to them.

Citations to the assigned readings.


Kepler, Johannes, and E. J. Aiton. The Secret of the Universe (Mysterium Cosmographicum). Translated by A.M. Duncan and with introduction and commentary by E.J. Aiton and a preface by I. Bernard Cohen. New York: Abaris Books, 1981.


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Vesalius, Andreas, J. B. de C. M. Saunders, and Charles Donald O'Malley. The illustrations from the works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels; with annotations and translations, a discussion of the plates and their background, authorship and influence, and a biographical sketch of Vesalius. New York,: Dover Publications, 1973.


Cardano, Girolamo, and Anthony Grafton. The Book of My Life  (De Vita Propria Liber). Translated by Tranlated from the Latin by Jean Stoner. New York: New York Review Books, 2002, written in the 1570s.



The following are selections from various astronomical texts from this period, usually referred to as the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.

You should look at these as you read the McClellan and Dorn. 




This is a reproduction from the manuscript by Copernicus.

[available here:]

In comparing this with the printed version [below] I notice that the labels are below the circular lines rather than sitting above them as in the printed edition.  Also the sun is just a word and the moon is not shown at all.  Is this significant?  I really don’t know, but this manuscript drawing seems to more clearly imply a finite and contained universe, with the sphere of the fixed stars clearly enclosing the universe, whereas the printed version suggests something outside this sphere.  This is more of an issue with Aristotle, but later theological debates over the size of the universe and the possibility of other worlds might have been exacerbated by the somewhat ambiguous diagram in the printed version.



Here is a page from the first printed edition of 1542/3.


The Latin text above and below this diagram reads as follows.  The exact section shown in the page image above is in blue.


The sphere of the fixed stars is followed by the first of the planets, Saturn, which completes its circuit in 30 years. After Saturn, Jupiter accomplishes its revolution in 12 years. Then Mars revolves in 2 years. The annual revolution takes the series’ fourth place, which contains the earth, as I said [earlier in I, 10], together with the lunar sphere as an epicycle. In the fifth place Venus returns in 9 months. Lastly, the sixth place is held by Mercury, which revolves in a period of 80 days.


[You will note that the numbers on this diagram do not correspond with the text that surrounds this illustration. I have two theories for this. 1) This can be explained by the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers.  In your first year of life you are not yet one year old. When you are finally one year old you are in your second year of life.  The diagram uses cardinal numbers while the description uses ordinal.  2) In the text Saturn is the first planetary sphere as distinguished from the sphere of fixed stars.  Either way, his presentation is a bit confusing.]


At rest, however, in the middle of everything is the sun. For in this most beautiful temple, who would place this lamp in another or better position than that from which it can light up the whole thing at the same time? For, the sun is not inappropriately called by some people the lantern of the universe, its mind by others, and its ruler by still others. [Hermes] the Thrice Greatest labels it a visible god, and Sophocles’ Electra, the all-seeing. Thus indeed, as though seated on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it. Moreover, the earth is not deprived of the moon’s attendance. On the contrary, as Aristotle says in a work on animals [De anima? On the Soul?], the moon has the closest kinship with the earth. Meanwhile the earth has intercourse with the sun, and is impregnated for its yearly parturition.


[The earth has “intercourse with the sun and is impregnated.”  That’s an interesting description.]


In this arrangement, therefore, we discover a marvelous symmetry of the universe, and an established harmonious linkage between the motion of the spheres  and their size, such as can be found in no other way. For this permits a not inattentive student to perceive why the forward and backward arcs appear greater in Jupiter than in Saturn and smaller than in Mars, and on the other hand greater in Venus than in Mercury. This reversal in direction appears more frequently in Saturn than in Jupiter, and also more rarely in Mars and Venus than in Mercury. Moreover, when Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars rise at sunset, they are nearer to the earth than when they set in the evening or appear at a later hour. But Mars in particular, when it shines all night, seems to equal Jupiter in size, being distinguished only by its reddish color. Yet in the other configurations it is found barely among the stars of the second magnitude, being recognized by those who track it with assiduous observations. All these phenomena proceed from the same cause, which is in the earth’s motion.


Copernicus, Nicholas. De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium; Translated by Edward Rosen. New York: Dartmouth College, Sept. 1999 accessed 2004; Available from


De Rev

Sun Centered Copernican System, first proposed in public in 1540.

Sun-Mercury-Venus-Earth (with moon)-Mars-Jupiter-Saturn-Starry Sphere

This image and the detail from it is from 1543, Book I, Chapter X of

On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.

Here are the translations of the spherical captions. 


I. Immobile sphere of the fixed stars

II. Saturn, is turned in 30 years

III. Twelve-year revolution of Jupiter

IV. Two-year revolution of Mars

V. Earth (Tellus), with the orb of the moon …[?] …

VI. Venus nine month return

VII. Mercury … [?] …80 days

VIII. The Sun


Martin Luther’s Comment on Copernicus

tycho system labeled copy

Cosmological System of Tycho Brahe, ca. 1577

It is earth centered, but all other bodies besides moon orbit the sun, which orbits the earth.


Given the date, why is Tycho’s theory somewhat odd?

Here is a FlashMovie of his system:  Tycho for Windows  or Tycho for Mac


The Systems if Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)


Detail from Kepler’s first cosmological system from Mysterium cosmographicum – detail of the cosmos.  (1596)

Full Image Link (with translated details- click on thumbnail)



Kepler's MiFaMi

"mi-fa-mi" [mp3]

Click on this link to hear the cosmos sing.


This link plays the music of the planets as Kepler’s mind’s ear heard them.  This piece produced by Produced by Willie Ruff and John Rodgers

starts with Mercury and keeps adding in planets (Venus, Earth, Mars…etc).  You can follow along by referring to the score below, which presents the planets in the opposite order.




Notice the eccentricities. The bigger the eccentricity the greater the interval the planet sweeps out in its song. 

Compare with the music directly above this chart. When viewed in this way, Kepler’s use of music is not quite so strange.

Tons of astronomical animations can be found here:

Last week I mentioned where Hg (Mercury) came from.  Here is the Roman architect, Vitruvius, on this issue. Vitruvius-excerpt-cinnabar-mercury-544KB.pdf It’s just a page or so long.  It is quite interesting because it covers mining, extraction, chemical and alchemical techniques, matter theory, and uses.  Need a point of two?  Write a modern theoretical counterpoint to Vitruvius’ description and some other thoughts that come to you.

Vitruvius, Dewar, Howe, and Rowland. Ten Books on Architecture (De Architectura Libri Decem). Translation from the Latin and commentary by Ingrid D. Rowland. Additional commentary by Michael J. Dewar. Illustrations and commentary by Thomas Noble Howe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999 (from first century BC).

Short and Long Essays.

We now have a lot of background to work with.  Short and Long Essays still need to refer in some manner to the readings for this week, but now you should be able to also refer to previous readings and maybe even launch out on your own a bit.  Be creative.  Don't forget that image analysis is always an option.  Fictional dialogues between different characters... comic books... even sci-fi plots or historical fictions that incorporate some of the theories and technologies we read about.  Cite sources.

Long Essay writers may choose to go with a witchcraft topic (or not).  Tying witches into the McClellan and Dorn reading might be a bit tricky, so feel free to just make a passing reference to the historical period described in the McClellan and Dorn reading and then write about witches.  I'll be particularly impressed if you can work into your essay some older readings.

Long Essay resources:


Struik, Dirk Jan. A Source Book in Mathematics, 1200-1800 Source Books in the History of the Sciences. Cambridge, Mass.,: Harvard University Press, 1969.  [The section on algebra and Cardano’s (also spelled Cardan) input to this type of math.  See also the Osler article for additional commentary on this sort of stuff.] Struik_SourceBook-Algebra-Cardano.pdf


Walker, Jonathan. "Gambling and Venetian Noblemen C.1500-1700." Past and Present, no. 162 (1999): 28-69. Looks good…  Walker_GamblingVenice-4.1MB.pdf


Christianson, Gale E. "Kepler's Somnium: Science Fiction and the Renaissance Scientist." Science Fiction Studies 8, no. 1 (1976).


Nicolson, Marjorie. "Kepler, the Somnium, and John Donne." Journal of the History of Ideas 1, no. 3 (1940): 259-280. Nicolson_KeplerSomniumDonne-660KB.pdf


Osler, Thomas J. "Cardan Polynomials and the Reduction of Radicals." Mathematics Magazine 74, no. 1 (2001): 26-32.  Osler_CardanPolynomialsReduction-484KB.pdf


Cardano, Girolamo, and Anthony Grafton. The Book of My Life  (De Vita Propria Liber). Translated by Tranlated from the Latin by Jean Stoner. New York: New York Review Books, 2002, written in the 1570s. Cardano-Book_of_My_Life-excerpts-100dpi-9.2MB.pdf [this is the same link as the reading for Thursday.]


Gouk, Penelope. "The Role of Harmonics in the Scientific Revolution." In The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed. Thomas Street Christensen, pp. 223-245. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.  Gouk_HarmonicsInSciRev-2.6MB.pdf


Kepler, Johannes, and E. J. Aiton. The Secret of the Universe (Mysterium cosmographicum). Translated by A.M. Duncan and with introduction and commentary by E.J. Aiton and a preface by I. Bernard Cohen. New York: Abaris Books, 1981. Kepler_MystCosmoExcerptsSm-OCRd-imaged-5.9MB.pdf.  [This is the same link as the one for "looking over" on Tuesday.  Read/analyze some part of this for a long essay.]


Stephens, Walter. Demon Lovers : Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.  Super interesting and rather sordid. The chapter on the Maleus Maleficarum is a very good overview and would be a good place to start an investigation on this book (starts on p32, which is PDF-page 40).  See also a section that tells a story of witches who steal male members (starts on p300, which is PDF-page 29).   Stephens_Demon_LoversExcerpts100-4.8MB.pdf  [If you read the male organ stealing section, also read this Reuters-Congo-PenisStealingWitchesLynched-2008 and this, link]


Connor, James A. Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of His Mother. 1st ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004.   Connor_KeplersWitchCh1-2.7MB.pdf  Pp. 13-end-of-PDF is the part that sets up Kepler's mother's crime.


Bragg, Melvyn. "Witchcraft." In In Our Time, 45 minutes. London: BBC, 2004. IOT_ Witchcraft.mp3

               -Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss witchcraft in Reformation Europe. In 1486 a book was published in Latin, it was called Maleus Mallificarum and it very soon outsold every publication in Europe bar the Bible. It was written by Heinrich Kramer, a Dominican Priest and a witchfinder. "Magicians, who are commonly called witches" he wrote, "are thus termed on account of the magnitude of their evil deeds. These are they who by the permission of God disturb the elements, who drive to distraction the minds of men, such as have lost their trust in God, and by the terrible power of their evil spells, without any actual draught or poison, kill human beings."

            "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" says Exodus, and in the period of the Reformation and after, over a hundred thousand men and women in Europe met their deaths after being convicted of witchcraft.

            Why did practices that had been tolerated for centuries suddenly become such a threat? What brought the prosecutions of witchcraft to an end, and was there anything ever in Europe that could be truly termed as a witch?

            With Alison Rowlands, Senior Lecturer in European History at the University of Essex; Lyndal Roper, Fellow and Tutor in History at Balliol College, University of Oxford; Malcolm Gaskill, Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Churchill College, Cambridge.


Kramer, and Sprenger. Malleus Malifacarum. written 1476, published 1487.  This needs some more citation information.  Kramer-Sprenger-Malleus_maleficarum.pdf  [This PDF is not all that easy to navigate.] This is the classic witch-hunting manual.  Find 20 or so pages of interest and read them.  This is also available online in html format here:, however this site is a bit wonky.  Go to the "Contents" located in the center column and go to the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd part index and from there choose an interesting "question."  The questions in the 2nd and 3rd parts appear to be the most interesting for an introduction to witch hunting.  Those who use this as a source might also find the "WitchCondemnation1472Florence" PDF interesting as well.


Ross, Eric B. "Syphilis, Misogyny, and Witchcraft in 16th-Century Europe." Current Anthropology 36, no. 2 (1995): 333-337.  Ross_Syphilis,Misogyny,Witchcraft16thc-1.1MB.pdf.  If you use this you also must use the citation "WitchCondemnation1472Florence."


WitchCondemnation1472Florence-332KB.pdf- Make up a citation for this if you use it.  WitchCondemnation1472Florence-332KB.pdf




Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, via Getty Images

A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node,

or bubo, of a plague patient, demonstrates the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague.


Wade- Europe’s Plagues Came From China, Study Finds-10/31/10-NYTimes



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Image by Francesco Parmigianino -ca.1530