In 1782, William Herschel entered the service of his Royal Majesty, King George III of the United Kingdom. Over the next 20 years, he, along with his brother Alexander, would build hundred of telescopes including the largest research instruments in Europe as well as create the largest catalogue of deep sky objects ever compiled. Assisting him in this was his sister, Caroline Herschel, who would become an exceptional astronomer in her own right.
He would seek to answer questions about the Sun's motion through space, the behavior of variable stars, the nature of stellar spectra, the shape of the Milky Way galaxy and the Sun's position in it and the composition of nebulae.
In 1788, he married Mary Pitt (nee Baldwin) and, in 1792, fathered a son, John Herschel, who would go on to be the preeminent scientist of the mid-18th century; competing his father's catalogue work by extending his observations to the Southern Hemisphere and doing much to create the technology of photography as well as making significant contributions to the philosophy of science.
John and his wife, Margaret, would have 12 children, three of whom would become scientists that would make significant contributions during their lifetimes.
William Herschel was a Hanoverian musician turned British astronomer. In this episode we look at his journey from military band oboist to the court astronomer of King George III. Along the way we look at his work as a composer and orchestral director, his entry into the field of astronomical instrument construction and his bringing of the techniques of natural history to astronomical investigation.
We also discuss telescope design, what's the best telescope for a beginner to invest in and the idea of scientific serendipity.
This week we look at the work of William Herschel (the discovery of Uranus), Giuseppe Piazzi (the discovery of Ceres), Heinrich Olbers (the discovery of Pallas), Urbain Le Verrier (the discovery of Neptune), Alexis Bouvard and Johann Galle (the discovery of Neptune) as they discovered new worlds in a Newtonian solar system. We consider the mathematical frameworks of Laplace and the Titius-Bode Law as guiding physical laws for the investigation of the natural universe.
Following the publication of Newton's Principia, the extended process of adoption began. In this episode, we look at what barriers there were to Newton's ideas and how they were overcome. We also look at the acceptance of heliocentricism and the reworking of Newton's mathematical formalism up through the work of Pierre-Simon Laplace. Other scientists discussed include Francois-Marie Arouet, otherwise known by his pseudonym, Voltaire, the mathematician Alexis Claude Clairaut, the polymath Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis and a pair of remarkable women: Gabrielle-Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet and Laura Maria Caterina Bassi.
In our second episode devoted to the life and work of Edmond Halley, we recount his three voyages aboard the Paramour to create a map of magnetic variation, his predictions on the return of the comet of 1682, now known as Halley's Comet, his discovery of the proper motion of the stars, his translation of the works of Apollonius, and his work as Britain's Astronomer Royale among a host of other accomplishments.
This week we look at the earlier career of astronomer, mathematician and natural philosopher Edmond Halley. We look at the first part of his career but through about 1693 including his trips to St. Helena, Danzig and Paris. We also look at his ideas on measuring the size of the solar system, terrestrial magnetism, ocean salinity and the cause of the Biblical flood.
In this episode we finally conclude our biographical sketch of Isaac Newton by looking at his life in the years following the publication of the Principia. We look at his political activities following the Glorious Revolution, his friendship with John Locke, the circle of young followers the gathered around him in London, including David Gregory, and his intense and troubled relationship with Nicolas Fatio de Duillier. We look at the emotional breakdown that took place in 1693 and his work afterwards including his publication of Opticks. Finally, we consider his legacy though the words of those who followed him.
In 1687, Issac Newton, through the hard work and auspices of Edmund Halley, published the greatest scientific work of all time. In this episode we examine the events that led to the book's creation including Newton's correspondences with Robert Hooke and John Flamsteed. We also spend a bit of time considering the work's content.
In this episode we look at the emergence of Isaac Newton onto the public stage with the publication of his first work on Optics in the pages of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1672. We then examine the growing conflict between Newton and Robert Hooke and consider the work of the Society's secretary, Henry Oldenburg in fostering scientific communication during the turmoil.
In part 1 of our multipart biography of the father of physics, we look at the life of Isaac Newton from his early years in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire through his grammar school days to his time at Trinity College, Cambridge. We take some time to specifically look at the cultural and religious background that influenced his upbringing as well as his work on vision, color, light and optics.
In this episode we look at the work in mathematics and physics of Isaac Newton from his time at the University of Cambridge to the publication of the Philosophae Naturalis Principia Naturalis or "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy". Specifically we look at the development of fluxional calculus, the Universal Law of Gravitation and Newton's Three Laws of Motion.
In this episode, we look at the work of four men who bridge the period between Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton: Giovanni Battista Riccioli, Rene Descartes, Christiaan Huygens and Robert Hooke. In this discussion we pay particular attention to each man's work in physics that will set the stage for Newton's great synthesis.
We examine the events leading up to the heresy conviction of Galileo Galilei in 1633 including his dispute with Orazio Grassi regarding the comets of 1618, the publication of The Assayer, the deal with Pope Urban VIII and the publication of the Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems.
In this episode we look at the 25 months leading up to the Congregation of the Inquisition censuring the two propositions related to the work of Copernicus; namely that the Earth moves and the Sun does not. We specifically examine the the statements regarding interpretation of Holy Scripture and Tradition by the Council of Trent and how those were expanded on by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine. We also consider Galileo's Letter to Castelli and Pauli Foscarini's Lettera as well as the role of Galileo's work and Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina in the proceedings and what follows.
In the first part of a three episode series on the emerging conflict involving Galileo Galilei, the Aristotelian natural philosophers of the Italian universities and the Catholic Church, we examine the factors that would lead to the initial confrontation of 1615 and 1616. These will include a debate that led to a fundamental revaluation of hydrology and a priority dispute on the discovery of sunspots. Finally, we discuss the piece of information that may have led to Galileo's open support of the Copernican model of the solar system.
In this supplemental episode, we look at the study of hydraulics related to pulling water up a pipe by Galileo Galilei. This leads us to the development of the mercury barometer by Torricelli and the investigations of atmospheric pressure and vacuums by Blaise Pascal and Florin Perier. This, in turns leads us to the work of von Geuricke and Robert Boyle.
In our third episode discussing the Scientific Revolution we look at the development of the linguistic device we call the fact from Latin legal ideas. We consider the work of Kepler and Galileo as well as the thinking of Blaise Pascal, Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle.
This week we look at the development of the idea of mathematics as a way to represent reality from perspective painting and accounting to Kepler's Harmonic Law. We also discuss the rise of the idea of laws of nature as the way in which the natural world was understood.
In the final part of the part of our biography of Johannes Kepler, we look at his scientific work from 1612 to his death in 1630 including the Epitome of Copernicus, Harmonice Mundi and the Rudolphine Tables. We consider the accusations of witchcraft against his mother, Katharina, and a number of other personal tragedies. In conclusion we discuss the Somnium, Kepler's work of science fiction.
In part three of our biography of Johannes Kepler we look at his years in Prague and the scientific work he did there including Astronomiae Pars Optica, Dioptrice and Astronomia Nova. We discuss how he arrived at his first two laws of planetary motion and his description of how lenses produce images in various optical systems including the eye. We also follow the personal tragedy of the death of his son Frederick, how wife Barbara and the chaos that eventually engulfed Prague.
Part 1 of our biography of of Johannes Kepler covering his early life from his seminary schooling to his time in Graz. We discuss his school in the lower seminary at Adelburg, the upper seminary at Maulbronn and at Sift at the University of Tubingen. After this we follow him to his assignment at the Protestant school in Graz and his work as the district mathematician. IN this we examine his attitudes on astrology and the publication of the Mysterium Cosmigraphicum.
This week we dock in Venice for a question and answer episode wherein I talk about podcasting, understanding quantum mechanics, the origin of the universe, and the evidence for human activity causing climate change. I also address questions about how doing the podcast has affected my teaching and where some of the strange things in academia come from. Then there's the story of the time I ran out of food but was saved by a do-it-yourself carwash in the middle of nowhere.
This week we take a look at the early life and work of Tuscan natural philosopher and engineer, Galileo Galilei. We examine his investigations on motion, specifically falling bodies, that will lead him into the initial stages of conflict with the Aristotelian natural philosophers of the Scholastic universities of Italy. We will also examine the steps of scientific inquiry he developed as a part of his work.
This week we take a break from the scientific narrative to look at the events following the Protestant Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire. We specifically discuss the Peace of Augsburg, The Inquisition, The Counter Reformation and the Thirty Years War before turning to a brief account of the life of Giordano Bruno and the German witch trials.
In this final episode devoted to the life of the Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, we look at his conflict with Nicolaus Reimers Bar (aka Ursus) as well as a number of other factors that led him to depart the island of Hven and eventually land in Prague where he would spend the last two years of his life.
This week we look at the construction of Uraniborg on the island of Hven and the astronomical work done on it. We also discuss the ideas that informed the facility's founding and the social structure that supported its construction and operation. Tycho's observatory and laboratory was the premier scientific research institution of its time and it marked a transition in how science was done throughout Europe.
In Part 1 of our biography of the Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, we follow his life from the keeps and fortresses of his homeland to the universities of Germany. We look into his interactions with the people around him including his wife, Kirsten Jorgensdatter, and look at the idea of amicitia that would so shape his worldview.
This week we evaluate the Copernicus heliocentric model of the solar system and compare it to Ptolemy's geocentric model. We then look at the model's reception by Erasmus Reinhold, Gemma Frisius, Michael Maestlin and Tycho Brahe. We conclude with Brahe's observations of the supernova of 1572 and the Great Comet of 1577.
To see a simulation showing the equivalence of the various models, click on this link. The yellow dot is the Sun, the blue dot is the Earth and the red dot is Mars.
A continuation of the the biographies of Nicolas Copernicus and Georg Joachim Rheticus from the time of the two men's meeting through the end of Rheticus' life and the publication of his trigonometric tables. Rheticus' work on the Narratio and the publication will be discussed as will the tragic outcomes of his career. The timely encounter with Valentin Otto is also covered.
In this episode we take a look at the scientific work of Nicolas Copernicus including the Commentariolus and On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. We look at the foundational principles of Copernicus' Heliocentric System and how it explains the motions of the planets.
A more in-depth look at the lives of Georg Peuerbach, Johannes de Regio Monte (aka, Johanes Muller, aka Regiomontanus) and Cardinal Basilios Bessarion with a specific focus on the years between 1454 and 1476. The development of the Epitome of the Almagest is discussed as is the role of astrology in late medieval and early modern culture, specifically in relation to the practice of medicine.
In this episode, we discuss the transition of European astronomy from the 13th century to the end of the 15th century. We spend some time taking a look at the effects of The Great Mortality on the institutions of Europe and consider the factors of the rediscovery of atomism, the development of the printing press, the Fall of Constantinople and the rise of the new universities of central and eastern Europe in creating the conditions that would allow for new ideas to develop and spread. We then conclude by looking at the work of Georg Peuerbach and Johannes Muller (Regiomontanus) that brings a full and complete understanding of the Hellenistic model Ptolemy.
This episode takes a look at the rise of the European university in the 12th century, the development of Scholasticism, the impact on the translations of Aristotle's works and the accompanying commentaries on it and the effects of the Condemnations of 1270 and 1277. From this, the challenges to Aristotle's formulation of physics and the terrestrial motion of objects are considered.
In the final episode in our trilogy on the philosophy of time, we look at J. M. E. McTaggart's essay, The Unreality of Time, and then work through various philosophical positions that arise from it. Included in the discussion are presentism, eternalism, the block universe model and the arrow of time.
In this episode we open the account of the temporal realist beginning with Isaac Newton and John Locke. We then look at the a priori idealism of Immanuel Kant before ending on the reformulation of physics by Albert Einstein and his concept of relativity in space-time.
We look at how various ancient philosophers and theologians conceptualized time. We look at the paradoxes of Eleatic school of Parmenides and Zeno, the response of Aristotle and the later reconsideration of the topic by Augustine. This week is spend looking at early versions of idealism and relationalism with just a brief mention of realist concepts like relativity and frames of reference.
We look at the development of the modern western calendar from prehistory through the time of the Roman Kings to the reforms of Julius Caesar (the Julian Calendar) and Pope Gregory XIII (the Gregorian Calendar). Modern attempts at calendar reform are also discussed including the World Calendar and the International Fixed Calendar.
We look at the rediscovery of astronomical texts by western Europe from the time of the Plague of Justinian to the Great Mortality. The work of Martianus Capella, Isidore of Seville, Gerard of Cremona, Averroes and Johannes of Sacrobosco is examined and placed in a wider historical context.
In this episode we look at the astronomical work done during the Golden Age of Islamic Science. This includes the work sponsored by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun, the work of al-Balkhi, al-Battani, al-Biruni and ibn al-Haytham. We conclude with material covering the Andalusian Revolt and the Maragha Revolution.
In this episode we look at the role of astronomy in the culture of the Inca Empire and Kogi Tribe. We examine the Cusco, Coricancha and the ceques and huacas that embody Inca religious practice along with the city of Machu Picchu. Finally, we look at the woven universe of the Kogi tribe of northern Colombia.