Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 16: Johannes Schöner

Johannes Schöner
January 16, 1477 – January 16, 1547

Johannes Schöner was a renowned and respected German polymath. It is best to refer to him using the usual 16th century Latin term "mathematicus", as the areas of study to which he devoted his life were very different from those now considered to be the domain of the mathematician. He was a priest, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, cosmographer, cartographer, mathematician, globe and scientific instrument maker and editor and publisher of scientific tests.

In his own time he enjoyed a European-wide reputation as an innovative and influential globe maker and cosmographer and as one of the continents leading and most authoritative astrologers. Today he is remembered as an influential pioneer in the history of globe making and as a man who played a significant role in the events that led up to the publishing of Copernicus' "De revolutionibus" in Nürnberg in 1543.

Schöner had made still unpublished data of Mercury observations from Walther available to Copernicus, 45 observations in total, 14 of them with longitude and latitude. Copernicus used three of them in "De revolutionibus", giving only longitudes, and falsely attributing them to Schöner. The values differed slightly from the ones published by Schöner in 1544.

In 1538, Georg Joachim Rheticus, a young professor of mathematics at Wittenberg, stayed for some time with Schöner who convinced him to visit Nicolaus Copernicus in Frauenburg. In 1540, Rheticus dedicated the first published report of Copernicus work, the Narratio prima, to Schöner. As this was well received, Copernicus finally agreed to publish his main work, and Rheticus prepared Copernicus' manuscript for printing.

A crater on Mars is named in his honor.

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