Astronomers and Their Toys

A history of astronomers and the invention and development of thier instruments from ancient times to 21st Century.

Title Summary

Chapter 1: What the Shadow Tells Us

A sun dial tells us a lot more then just the local time. This established the basis for the development of the most instrument from ancient times, the astrolabe.

Chapter 2 Cycles: The Formulation of Calendars

The first unit used to measure the passage of time was probably the daily rising of the sun, the daily cycle, but that alone would not really qualify as a calendar which implies a system for organizing this natural occurrence.

Chapter 3 Ancient Cosmologies

Almost all ancient, pre-scientific civilizations envisioned a flat earth. Their cosmology may have varied in detail, but the basic concept was that the earth was a plane or a disk floating on water or air covered with an inverted bowl.

Chapter 4 Tycho Brahe: The First Modern Astronomer

There couldn’t have been a more colorful, outrages, or passionate individual than Tyge Brahe, better known by his Latinized name, Tycho Brahe, to be the harbinger of what is considered modern astronomy; to start the process of extricating the study of the stars into two distinct disciplines, astrology and astronomy.

Chapter 5 The Mystic Johannes Kepler

The mystic genius who formulated the laws of planetary motion becoming one of the most famous astronomers of all time became an astronomer by accident. Johannes Kepler. In fact, it was a lucky accident that he even attended a university. Kepler did not come from nobility or even a good commoner family. His adventurer/mercenary father abandoned them while he was a child leaving him to be reared by an unstable mother with a reputation for delving into witchcraft.

Chapter 6 The Invention of the Telescope: “Magic Tubes”

No one really knows who invented the telescope. The device first appeared in Holland and quickly spread throughout Europe, being marketed as “Magic Tubes,” in 1608. Hans Lippershey of Middelburg was the first to apply for a patent. Jacob Metius of Alkmaar also applied for a patent for “seeing faraway things as though they were nearby.” The States General (the national government) in Hague discussed the patent applications and denied both.