March 29

Nicolaus Copernicus 1473-1543
the nuisance who started all this "modern science"

My page for February 22 includes a man of whom nobody has heard, one Santorio Sanctorius, burned at the stake by the Inquisition for the crime of science. Sanctorius was born on March 29th 1561; he belonged to a quite extraordinary era, and was far from its only victim, though I am surmising that very few of the names below are known to you - still more "Sherpa Tensings" (see July 24 for the explanation of a theme that runs through this blog-book), in this case the men who guided us to the summit of Mount Enlightenment, but never made it to the contents page of Mount Curriculum. An incomplete time-line might include:

1602: Tycho Brahe's "Astronomia Instauratae Progymnasmata" locates 777 fixed stars

1602: Galileo Galilei working on gravitation and oscillation

1603: Hugh Platt discovers coke by heating coal

1603: Fabricio di Acquapendente discovers vascular valves

1604: Giambattista Della Porta describes a machine that uses steam pressure

1605: Gaspard Bauhin publishes "Theatrum anatomicum", an encyclopaedia of anatomy

1606: Galileo Galilei invents the proportional compass

1608: Johannes Lippershey invents the telescope

1609: Johannes Kepler's 1st and 2nd Laws are published in "Astronomia Nova"

1609: The first attempts are made to harness ocean energy

1610: Jean Beguin's "Tyrocinium chymicum", the first chemistry textbook

1610: Galileo Galilei uses Lippershey's telescope to observe the satellites of Jupiter

1610: Thomas Harriott discovers sunspots

1611: The King James Bible is published and Shakespeare's "The Tempest" is performed (Cervantes is just finishing "Don Quixote") - and yes, I know, all three of these did make it to the curriculum, as did Galileo.

1611: Marco de Dominis publishes a scientific explanation of rainbows 

1611: Santorio Sanctorius devises a temperature scale for Galileo's air thermometer (melting snow = 0 degrees, boiling water = 110 degrees)

1614: John Napier discovers logarithms

1614: Santorio Sanctorius publishes "De medicina statica", a study of metabolism and perspiration

1615: Galileo Galilei clearly had not expected the Spanish Inquisition!

1616: Which did not inhibit them from prohibiting him.

1616: While Willebrord Snellius in Holland was proving the laws of refraction

1617: And establishing the technique of trigonometrical triangulation for cartography

1618: Kepler publishes "Harmonices mundi", stating the 3rd law of planetary motion (the ratio of the cube of the distance of a planet from the sun, and the square of the orbital period, applies to all planets - see March 8)

1619: William Harvey discovers what the Arab world has known for centuries, the circulation of the blood

1621: Kepler did not expect the Inquisition either! The "Epitome" is banned

1626: Sanctorius adapts his thermometer for use with humans

1627: Kepler defies the Inquisition and produces the Rudolphine Tables, map-referencing 1005 fixed stars

1629: Giovanni Branca in "Le Machine" describes a steam turbine

1629: Albert Gerard introduces brackets and abbreviations into mathematics

1629: Christiaan Huygens born. Descartes opts for philosophy

1630: Kepler dies

1636: Sanctorius burned at the stake as a heretic

Tycho Brahe (see September 2), whose book at the top of this list was published posthumously, died of natural causes in 1601, the year after Giordano Bruno went to the stake for the heresy of science (see February 16). Galileo (see January 8) survived until 1642. Sanctorius' other achievements were a pulsimeter, and a hygrometer, also called a hygroscope, which measures the density of gases.

Most of these discoveries were not in fact discoveries at all, except in the same sense that Columbus "discovered" America; he discovered it for Europe, which was previously unaware of its existence. As my novel "The Persian Fire" describes (scheduled for publication by TheArgamanPress very soon), most of the above new science had been old science for five hundred years already, in the hospitals, laboratories and universities of the Moslem world.

But what a thirty year period, if we take 1600 as the start and therefore 1630 as the benchmark point. How would, say, 1700-1730 or 1800-1830 compare. How do the first two decades of this century, combined with the promise of the next ten years compare?

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