Regiomontanus

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Regiomontanus : biography

June 6, 1436 – July 6, 1476

In 1471 he moved to the Free City of Nuremberg, in Franconia, then one of the Empire’s important seats of learning, publication, commerce and art. He worked together with the humanist and merchant Bernhard Walther. Contrary to popular belief there is no evidence that Regiomontanus ever erected an observatory, however he did found the world’s first scientific printing press and in 1472 he published the first printed astronomical textbook, the Theoricae novae Planetarum of his teacher Georg von Peurbach.

In 1475 he went to Rome to work with Pope Sixtus IV on calendar reform. Regiomontanus died of unknown causes in Rome, July 6, 1476, a month after his fortieth birthday. According to a rumor repeated by Gassendi in his Regiomontanus biography he was assassinated by relatives of George of Trebizond whom he had criticized in his writings. More likely he died in an epidemic raging in Rome at the time.

A prolific author, Regiomontanus was internationally famous in his lifetime. Despite having completed only a quarter of what he had intended to write, he left a substantial body of work. Nicolaus Copernicus’ teacher, Domenico Maria Novara da Ferrara, referred to Regiomontanus as having been his own teacher. There is speculation that Regiomontanus had arrived at a theory of heliocentrism before he died; a manuscript shows particular attention to the heliocentric theory of the Pythagorean Aristarchus, mention was also given to the motion of the earth in a letter to a friend. Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, Penguin Books, 1959, pp. 212.

In 1561, Daniel Santbech compiled a collected edition of the works of Regiomontanus, De triangulis planis et sphaericis libri quinque (first published in 1533) and Compositio tabularum sinum recto, as well as Santbech’s own Problematum astronomicorum et geometricorum sectiones septem. It was published in Basel by Henrich Petri and Petrus Perna.

The crater Regiomontanus on the Moon is named after him.

Literature

  • Irmela Bues, Johannes Regiomontanus (1436–1476). In: Fränkische Lebensbilder 11. Neustadt/Aisch 1984, pp. 28–43
  • Rudolf Mett: Regiomontanus. Wegbereiter des neuen Weltbildes. Teubner / Vieweg, Stuttgart / Leipzig 1996, ISBN 3-8154-2510-7
  • Helmuth Gericke: Mathematik im Abendland: Von den römischen Feldmessern bis zu Descartes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-540-51206-3
  • Günther Harmann (Hrsg.): Regiomontanus-Studien. (= Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte, Bd. 364; Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Geschichte der Mathematik, Naturwissenschaften und Medizin, volumes 28–30), Vienna 1980. ISBN 3-7001-0339-5
  • Samuel Eliot Morison, Christopher Columbus, Mariner, Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1955.
  • Ralf Kern: Wissenschaftliche Instrumente in ihrer Zeit/Band 1. Vom Astrolab zum mathematischen Besteck. Köln, 2010. ISBN 978-3-86560-865-9

Astrology

Regiomontanus designed his own system in the 15th century, which was one of the most popular systems in Europe in its time. As a young man he cast horoscopes for important patrons, and the tables that he created while living in Hungary, his Tabulae directionum, were designed for astrology, including finding astrological houses.

Criticism

Much of the material on spherical trigonometry in Regiomontanus’ On Triangles was taken directly and without credit from the twelfth-century work of Jabir ibn Aflah otherwise known as Geber, as noted in the sixteenth century by Gerolamo Cardano., p.4

Notes