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[sacredlandscapelist] Re: Heilbron/Geometry Civilized

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  • lwalker
    Mike Bispham , I hope this makes some sense of past messages and that copyright is respected with the New York Times,particularly William BROAD . The message
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 30, 1999
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      Mike Bispham , I hope this makes some sense of past messages and that
      copyright is respected with the New York Times,particularly William
      BROAD .

      The message of history is truth will perseverein sacred geometry .

      By WILLIAM J. BROAD

      Many people know that the Roman Catholic Church once
      waged a long and bitter war on science, and on astronomy in particular.
      But that seemingly well-established fact of history, it turns out, is
      wrong.

      While it is true that the church
      condemned Galileo, new research
      shows that centuries of
      oversimplifications have concealed
      just how hard Rome worked to
      amass astronomical tools,
      measurements, tests and lore.

      In its scientific zeal, the church
      adapted cathedrals across Europe,
      and a tower at the Vatican itself, so
      their darkened vaults could serve as
      solar observatories. Beams of
      sunlight that fell past religious art and
      marble columns not only inspired the
      faithful but provided astronomers
      with information about the Sun, the
      Earth and their celestial relationship.

      Among other things, solar images
      projected on cathedral floors
      disclosed the passage of dark spots
      across the Sun's face, a blemish in the heavens,
      which theologians once
      thought to be without flaw.

      In a new book, "The Sun in the Church" (Harvard, 1999), Dr.
      John L.
      Heilbron, a historian of science, reveals the ubiquity of the
      solar
      observatories, which heretofore were little known among
      scholars. And
      he shows that the church was not necessarily seeking knowledge
      for
      knowledge's sake, a traditional aim of pure science. Rather,
      like many
      patrons, it wanted something practical in return for its
      investments: mainly
      the improvement of the calendar so church officials could more
      accurately establish the date of Easter.

      When to celebrate the feast of Christ's resurrection had
      become a
      bureaucratic crisis in the church.

      Traditionally, Easter fell on the Sunday after the first full
      moon of spring.
      But by the 12th century, the usual ways to predict that date
      had gone
      awry.

      To set a date for Easter Sunday years in advance, and thus
      reinforce the
      church's power and unity, popes and ecclesiastical officials
      had for
      centuries relied on astronomers, who pondered over old
      manuscripts and
      devised instruments that set them at the forefront of the
      scientific
      revolution.

      According to Dr. Heilbron, the church "gave more financial and
      social
      support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from
      the
      recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into
      the
      Enlightenment, than any other, and probably, all other,
      institutions."

      Dr. Heilbron, 65, is professor emeritus and vice chancellor
      emeritus at
      the University of California at Berkeley and a senior fellow
      at Worcester
      College, Oxford, England. He lives in England and travels
      widely to study
      old solar observatories.

      In a telephone interview last week, Dr. Heilbron said he was
      astonished
      by the old instruments, which he first saw eight years ago in
      Bologna,
      Italy, at the Basilica of San Petronio.

      "The church itself was beautiful, somber," Dr. Heilbron
      recalled. "When
      the sun crawled across that floor, there was nothing else.
      That's what you
      had to look at. It was intense."

      After discovering that other churches throughout Europe had
      solar
      observatories, he produced a book rich in old drawings,
      equations,
      geometrical figures and astronomical lore.

      Dr. Owen Gingerich, a historian in Cambridge, Mass., at the
      Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, praised the work
      as
      re-creating a lost world.

      "It's a very important piece of scholarship," Dr. Gingerich
      said.

      In the book and an article in The Sciences, a journal of the
      New York
      Academy of Sciences, Dr. Heilbron shows that the observatory
      findings
      (usually made in sight of a cathedral altar) often
      contradicted church
      dogma of that time.

      The Jesuits, for instance, used observatories to confirm
      theories about
      Earth movement, which they were forbidden to teach.

      Over the centuries, Dr. Heilbron said, observatories were
      built in
      cathedrals and churches throughout Europe, including those in
      Rome,
      Paris, Milan, Florence, Bologna, Palermo, Brussels and
      Antwerp.
      Typically, the building, dark inside, needed only a small hole
      in the roof to
      allow a beam of sunlight to strike the floor below, producing
      a clear
      image of the solar disk. In effect, the church had been turned
      into a
      pinhole camera, in which light passes through a small hole
      into a
      darkened interior, forming an image on the opposite side.

      On each sunny day, the solar image
      would sweep across the church floor
      and, exactly at noon, cross a long
      metal rod that was the observatory's
      most important and precise part. The
      noon crossings over the course of a
      year would reach the line's
      extremities -- which usually marked
      the summer and winter solstices,
      when the Sun is farthest north and
      south of the Equator. The circuit,
      among other things, could be used to
      measure the year's duration with
      great precision.

      The path on the floor was known as
      a meridian line, like the north-south
      meridians of geographers. The rod, in
      keeping with its setting and duties,
      was often surrounded by rich tile
      inlays and zodiacal motifs.

      The instruments lost much of their astronomical value around
      the middle
      of the 18th century as telescopes began to exceed them in
      power.

      But the observatories still played a significant role because
      the solar
      timepieces were often used to correct errors in mechanical
      clocks and
      even to set time for railroads.

      One of the observatories also impressed Charles Dickens, who
      in his
      book "Pictures from Italy" wrote that he found little to like
      in Bologna
      except "the Church of San Petronio, where the sunbeams mark
      the time
      among the kneeling people."

      Today, the surviving cathedral solar instruments are lovely
      anachronisms
      that baffle most visitors, who are usually unaware of their
      original use or
      historical importance.

      The traditional view of the church's hostility toward science
      grew out of
      its famous feud with Galileo, condemned to house arrest in
      1632 for
      astronomical heresy.

      Since antiquity, astronomers had put Earth at the center of
      planetary
      motions, a view the church had embraced. But Galileo, using
      the new
      telescope, became convinced that the planets in fact moved
      around the
      Sun, a view Nicholas Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, had
      championed.

      The censure of Galileo, at age 70, hurt the image of the
      church for
      centuries. Pope John Paul II finally acknowledged in 1992, 359
      years
      later, that the church had erred in condemning the scientific
      giant.

      Dr. Richard S. Westfall, a historian of science, in 1989 wrote
      that
      Rome's handling of Galileo made Copernican astronomy a
      forbidden
      topic among faithful Catholics for two centuries.

      Not so, Dr. Heilbron claims. Rome's support of astronomy was
      considerable.

      "The church tended to regard all the systems of the
      mathematical
      astronomy as fictions," Dr. Heilbron wrote. "That
      interpretation gave
      Catholic writers scope to develop mathematical and
      observational
      astronomy almost as they pleased, despite the tough wording of
      the
      condemnation of Galileo."

      To illustrate, Dr. Heilbron examined four cathedrals: San
      Petronio in
      Bologna, Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, St. Sulpice in
      Paris and
      Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

      For the great Basilica of San Petronio, he showed how a solar
      observatory was erected in 1576 by Egnatio Danti, a
      mathematician and
      Dominican friar who worked for Cosimo I dei Medici, the Grand
      Duke
      of Tuscany, and who advised Pope Gregory on calendar reform.
      The
      church observatory produced data long before the telescope
      existed.

      By 1582, the Gregorian calendar had been established, creating
      the
      modern year of 365 days and an occasional leap year of 366
      days. Danti
      was rewarded with a commission to build a solar observatory in
      the
      Vatican itself within the Torre dei Venti, or Tower of the
      Winds.

      The golden age of the cathedral observatories came later,
      between 1650
      and 1750, Dr. Heilbron writes, and helped to disprove the
      astronomical
      dogma that the church had defended with such militancy in the
      case of
      Galileo.

      Among the best known of the rebel observers was Giovanni
      Cassini, an
      Italian astronomer who gained fame for discovering moons of
      Saturn and
      the gaps in its rings that still bear his name, as does a $3.4
      billion
      spacecraft now speeding toward the planet.

      Around 1655, Cassini persuaded the builders of the Basilica of
      San
      Petronio that they should include a major upgrade of Danti's
      old meridian
      line, making it larger and far more accurate, its entry hole
      for daylight
      moved up to be some 90 feet high, atop a lofty vault.

      "Most illustrious nobles of Bologna," Cassini boasted in a
      flier drawn up
      for the new observatory, "the kingdom of astronomy is now
      yours."

      The exaggeration turned out to have some merit as Cassini used
      the
      observatory to investigate the "orbit" of the Sun, quietly
      suggesting that it
      actually stood still while the Earth moved.

      Cassini decided to use his observations to try to confirm the
      theories of
      Johannes Kepler, the German astronomer who had proposed in
      1609
      that the planets moved in elliptical orbits not the circles
      that Copernicus
      had envisioned.

      If true, that meant the Earth over the course of a year would
      pull slightly
      closer and farther away from the Sun. At least in theory,
      Cassini's
      observatory could test Kepler's idea, since the Sun's
      projected disk on
      the cathedral floor would shrink slightly as the distance grew
      and would
      expand as the gap lessened.

      Such an experiment could also address whether there was any
      merit to
      the ancient system of Ptolemy, some interpretations of which
      had the
      Earth moving around the Sun in an eccentric circular orbit.
      Ptolemy's Sun
      at its closest approach moved closer to the Earth than
      Kepler's Sun did,
      in theory making the expected solar image larger and the
      correctness of
      the rival theories easy to distinguish.

      For the experiment to succeed, Cassini could tolerate
      measurement
      errors no greater than 0.3 inches in the Sun's projected face,
      which
      ranged from 5 to 33 inches wide, depending on the time of
      year.

      No telescope of the day could achieve that precision.

      The experiment was run around 1655, and after much trial and
      error,
      succeeded. Cassini and his Jesuit allies, Dr. Heilbron writes,
      confirmed
      Kepler's version of the Copernican theory.

      Between 1655 and 1736, astronomers used the solar observatory
      at San
      Petronio to make 4,500 observations, aiding substantially the
      tide of
      scientific advance.

      "It's a great topic," Dr. Heilbron said from Belgium, adding
      that he was
      planning to write at least one more book on the hidden
      influence of the
      solar observatories.





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