The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories

The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories

by J. L. Heilbron

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Overview

Between 1650 and 1750, four Catholic churches were the best solar observatories in the world. Built to fix an unquestionable date for Easter, they also housed instruments that threw light on the disputed geometry of the solar system, and so, within sight of the altar, subverted Church doctrine about the order of the universe.

A tale of politically canny astronomers and cardinals with a taste for mathematics, The Sun in the Church tells how these observatories came to be, how they worked, and what they accomplished. It describes Galileo's political overreaching, his subsequent trial for heresy, and his slow and steady rehabilitation in the eyes of the Catholic Church. And it offers an enlightening perspective on astronomy, Church history, and religious architecture, as well as an analysis of measurements testing the limits of attainable accuracy, undertaken with rudimentary means and extraordinary zeal. Above all, the book illuminates the niches protected and financed by the Catholic Church in which science and mathematics thrived.

Superbly written, The Sun in the Church provides a magnificent corrective to long-standing oversimplified accounts of the hostility between science and religion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674005365
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/02/2001
Series: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 924,513
Product dimensions: 6.75(w) x 9.75(h) x (d)

About the Author

J. L. Heilbron, formerly Professor of History and the Vice Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, is a Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, University of Oxford. He was awarded the George Sarton Medal by the History of Science Society in 1993 for his contributions to the field.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction

Renaissance and Astronomy

Counter-Reformation and Cosmology

Wider Uses of Meridiane

The Science of Easter

The Luminaries and the Calendar

A Scandal in the Church

A Sosigenes and His Caesars

Florence

Bologna

Rome

Bononia Docet

A New Oracle of Apollo

Astronomia Reformata

Normal Science

Perfecting the Parameters

Repairs and Improvements

The Pope's Gnomon

Calendrical and Other Politics

The Meridian in Michelangelo's Church

Meridiane and Meridians

The Accommodation of Copernicus

Heliometry and Heliocentrism

Protective Measures

Book Banning

The Last Cathedral Observations

The Things Themselves

Their Results

Their Competitors

Time Telling

Some Means of Conversion

The Equation of Time

More Light Play

Appendices

Abbreviations

Works Cited

Notes

Credits

Index

What People are Saying About This

A fascinating history of astronomy that shows, as no other work has done so well, what happened to Italian science after Galileo's trial. An astonishing display of erudition and linguistic control, with a wealth of fine details, this is a major history that carves out a unique territory.

Owen Gingerich

A fascinating history of astronomy that shows, as no other work has done so well, what happened to Italian science after Galileo's trial. An astonishing display of erudition and linguistic control, with a wealth of fine details, this is a major history that carves out a unique territory.
Owen Gingerich, Harvard University

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