The Moon A Full Description and Map of its Principal Physical Features (TREDITION CLASSICS)

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  2. The Moon a Full Description and Map of Its Principal Physical Features by Thomas Gwyn Elger
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Published February 28th by tredition first published More Details Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Its status as a likeness is therefore thrown into serious doubt, although it has a resemblance to the man — supposedly Thomas Harriot — depicted in Francis Delaram's engraving of c. Four centuries ago, in , the human race's capacity to perceive the natural world changed radically. Harriot, however, did not invent the telescope. The precise inventor, indeed, is still a matter for conjecture, for the patent or reward claim made by Hans Lippershey to the States General of Holland on 2 October was immediately contested by two other Dutchmen, and Lippershey, while obtaining a contract to supply some instruments to the government, received no major reward.

Yet even by the standards of the telescope was a fairly simple instrument to make, for all that one needed was a convex object-glass of 10, 20 or 30 inches focal length, and a concave eyepiece of a one or two negative power. And when aligned at the right distance apart, they made a distant object suddenly appear magnified, in the tiny field of view.

Indeed, by London alone had enough spectacle-makers and glass-grinders living within the Square Mile to enable them to obtain a charter as a City Livery Company. After all, grinding and polishing small slips of glass or quartz had no doubt grown out of the ancient art of the lapidary or gemstone polisher, to whose craft the Old Testament and other ancient documents refer. And a couple of centuries before , spectacles had even made their appearance in Western art, where portraits of learned men — including allegorical depictions of those long dead, such as St Jerome the fourth-century AD Bible translator — invariably showed them sporting a pair of glasses.

Indeed, what is genuinely surprising is that the optical configuration of the simple telescope had not been chanced upon centuries earlier, though I do not believe that a pre device had been known Ronan , , Chapman Yet how did the telescope transform mankind's sense of physical reality? Of course, it showed hitherto unseen craters on the Moon, the satellites of Jupiter, sunspots, and a host of new astronomical phenomena. But I would suggest that it did something much more profound. For up to , humanity's capacity to perceive Nature had been firmly bounded by our five natural senses, which had imposed strict limits upon physical knowledge.

The simple telescope, on the other hand, broke through this boundary. And as magnifications increased, so more and more things became visible in the universe. It seemed that for the first time in scientific history, knowledge was expanding exponentially alongside a new technology.

Once the telescope had shown the way, other instruments — optical and physical — began to open up entirely new domains of Nature: the microscopic world by ; the atmosphere, meteorology and combustion, explored by means of the thermometer, barometer, hygrometer and airpump by ; and the geomagnetic properties of our planet by , to name but a few.

And what made these once unimaginable realms real and physically accessible to scientific study was a new generation of instruments, each one capable of accessing a particular domain of Nature and showing how unit improvements in the technology could yield abundant new harvests of data. For after , astronomical research ceased to be exclusively concerned with measuring celestial angles, and came instead to pay increasing attention to the physical characteristics of objects.

Indeed, one of the most powerful defining features in the rise of post-Renaissance Western science was the swelling tide of new data that had started to pour in to Europe in the wake of the great geographical discoveries of Columbus and Magellan, and of which scholars had been trying to make sense since around For classical and medieval science had been largely concerned with the taxonomic, mathematical and philosophical understanding of Scientia , or rational knowledge.

It had not, generally, been concerned with a radical investigation into the very inner fabric and structure of Nature. I have long argued that Europe's great geographical discoveries after c. These geographical discoveries, moreover, could not be accessed by pure geometry, logical syllogisms, or the authority of ancient writers: access to them came only via men in ships.

Yet when these explorers had charted and reported their discoveries, so that they entered the domain of public knowledge, then any other man with a ship could sail forth and confirm them and add yet more to the original discovery. One can, therefore, see the deep-sea sailing vessels of Renaissance Europe as scientific instruments in their own right, in so far as they were physical tools that took an observer to terrestrial places that his eyes and perceptions could not otherwise reach or see. Just as the telescope would do for the heavens, in fact. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in this Elizabethan and Jacobean world of maritime images and analogies, Harriot himself had been a scientist on a major voyage of exploration, that many of his friends and patrons were intimately bound up with the sea, and that so many 17th-century scientific writers, including Robert Hooke, connected the great modern instrument-based discoveries in astronomy, physiology, microscopy, aerostatics and mechanics, with the achievements of the great navigators.

In , Harriot was a comfortably off year-old bachelor with residences at Syon Park, near Kew, and probably in Threadneedle Street in the City of London, and was rightly ranked among the eminent astronomers and mathematicians of the age Stevens , Shirley , Roche a.

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In particular, he was a leading force in English mathematics and was known on the continent, where he corresponded with Kepler, then living in Prague. Like most mathematicians of that age, Harriot was a geometer who was fascinated by the flawless elegance of Euclid, Apollonius and their successors, and by the way in which the conceptual realm of intellective mathematics synchronized with the observed motions of the heavens.

But he was also a highly original pioneer of the new mathematics of algebra and the theory of equations. St Mary's Hall no longer exists, having been incorporated into its neighbour, Oriel College, in the late-Victorian period. Oriel now claims Harriot as one of its own. He clearly displayed outstanding talents as a mathematician, for soon after graduation he entered the household of Sir Walter Raleigh — an Oriel graduate eight years his senior — as a mathematical teacher and companion.

The Moon a Full Description and Map of Its Principal Physical Features by Thomas Gwyn Elger

On his return to England, Harriot lived comfortably on Irish rentals settled upon him by Raleigh. And when the learned Earl, after being implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, joined Raleigh in the Tower in , where he was detained until , he continued to maintain his ace mathematician in fine style at Syon Park, Kew. Of course, detention in the Tower for high status prisoners such as Raleigh and Northumberland did not involve dungeons, for they could use their wealth to rent decent sets of rooms and come and go within the Tower precincts.

Raleigh's wife and servants moved in as Sir Walter pursued alchemy and wrote great works of scholarship, while Northumberland not only enjoyed the freedom to entertain Harriot and his other philosophical friends, but also to run his vast northern estates from within the Tower. On the other hand, one never knew which day would be one's last.

I would suggest that the political turmoil through which he had lived — for Harriot himself had been imprisoned for three weeks following the Gunpowder Plot — may go some way towards explaining his reluctance to publish and draw further attention to himself once he was at liberty and well in funds. For the remarkable thing is, that while Thomas Harriot seems to have made the first recorded telescopic observations of an astronomical body, he made no public claim for this achievement.

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Indeed, apart from his which dealt with his Virginia voyage, he published nothing whatsoever, and what we now know of Harriot comes from modern scholarly researches into his substantial surviving manuscript remains. When Harriot died in , he left his papers to the Earl of Northumberland, who had recently been released after his long detention in the Tower Roche a , Stevens , Tanner This bequest was fortuitous, for it ensured the documents' survival.

They came to be lodged at Petworth House, Sussex, and in the then title-holder of Petworth, Lord Egremont, deposited the greater part, but not all, in the British Museum. Part of the archive was retained at Petworth, including Harriot's lunar drawings and maps, and the Petworth material is now housed in the West Sussex Record Office, Chichester. Then in —3 Stephen Peter Rigaud, Savilian Professor of Astronomy in Oxford, published his own study of the Harriot papers, complete with letters and extracts from notes, dealing in particular with Harriot's observations of the Moon, sunspots and Jupiter's satellites.

Modern Harriot studies really began in , when the American scholar Henry Stevens posthumously published his biography of Harriot and his circle, while from the s onwards, Thomas Harriot became a focus for many distinguished historians of mathematics and astronomy, most notably Prof. John W Shirley, as well as for seminars and lectures held at Durham and Oxford universities. More than a dozen pen and ink lunar drawings by Thomas Harriot survive, the first and crudest being that dated 26 July figure 2.

The rather oddly misplaced terminator line is done so as to suggest its unevenness, but no specific craters or mountains are visible, though a particular roughness in the terminator could perhaps represent the region around the crater Theophilus. Light shading, however, is used to suggest the position of what we now call the Mare Crisium, Mare Tranquillitatis, Mare Foecunditatis and perhaps the Lacus Somniorum. The drawing offers no commentary upon what Harriot saw, nor does he say why he made and recorded the observation.

Harriot's 26 July sketch of the Moon — the first known drawing of a telescopic body — approximately six inches in diameter with the Mare Crisium shaded at the top. Turn the drawing to the right for the correct orientation. West Sussex Record Office, Chichester. Harriot did not draw the Moon again, at least as far as the surviving documentary record is concerned, for nearly a year, on 17 July This second drawing, and those that quickly followed, show an increasing amount of detail. The best of Harriot's two whole-Moon maps, perhaps built up from phase drawings.

The wealth of small details in this six-inch diameter map indicates how quickly Harriot's seleographical draftsmanship had improved. This is undated but probably made between and It has been suggested by Terrie F Bloom , and perhaps even implied by Rigaud, that Harriot's new collection of Moon drawings, made after 17 July , could have been inspired and guided by Galileo's lunar drawings of December to January , published as engravings in Sidereus Nuncius in Venice, in March , and also mentioned by Kepler in his Dissertatio Bloom , Whitaker We know from independent sources that Galileo's discoveries were being discussed in England by June , and it is hard to imagine that Harriot had not seen a copy by 17 July, when he made his next lunar drawing.

I accept Terrie Bloom's point about Harriot and the Galileo drawings, but I would suggest two caveats. First, while none of Harriot's letters to his scientific friends for the crucial year —10 seem to have survived, we do know from letters sent to him that he had friends who were using telescopes to observe the heavens and, judging from the internal evidence within the letters, the telescopes had probably been sent to them by Harriot himself.

Yet by June, these asterisms would long since have vanished into the light of spring, and must therefore have been observed between October and March , for Orion and Taurus are winter constellations. As all this would have happened weeks or months before Galileo's book could have reached England, or even before it was published, I suggest that the practice of observing, and trying to make sense of, telescopic images was already well under way in the British Isles by the summer of , by the time that Harriot made his second and subsequent drawings of the Moon, rather than that Harriot's interest had suddenly been aroused and his perceptions influenced by a reading of Sidereus Nuncius , or by Kepler's comments upon Galileo's discoveries.

What I do believe, however, from evidence in his subsequent writings, is that Harriot was most likely inspired afresh to undertake further telescopic researches after reading Galileo. Secondly, I would argue, on the basis of his surviving papers, that Harriot's telescopes — like Galileo's — were getting more powerful between and And this in itself furnishes us to some extent with an explanation for why he records increasingly fine data, and then produces the beautiful and very detailed whole-Moon map of c.

Then there is the fascinating letter sent to Harriot by Lower from Traventi, dated 6 February Rigaud p42— Its date, however, is somewhat ambiguous. But what can be learned from internal evidence contained in the letter? The following points are significant. To have observed a whole lunation by 6 February, therefore, one is left to assume that the telescopes must have arrived in South Wales at the beginning of January if not before. Could Lower have been the first person to have had a telescope for a Christmas present?

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In the full she appears like a tarte that my cooke made me the last week. Here a vaine of bright stuffe, and there of darke, and so confusedlie al over. Lower does not give a title to Kepler's book, but it was probably Astronomia Nova , in which Kepler first discusses elliptical orbits. And very importantly, e Lower's 6 February letter makes no mention whatsoever of Galileo and his discoveries. This, I suspect, is because Lower's letter predates the publication and arrival in England either of Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius March or Kepler's own Dissertatio on Galileo's book, published in Prague in May So while, by February , both Harriot and Lower were discussing Kepler's elliptical orbits, published the previous year, neither seems to have been aware of Galileo's lunar work, and hence they appear to be talking about entirely original telescopic researches, conducted at Syon House and in South Wales.

Of course, this suggested sequence would fall down if one could demonstrate conclusively that the letter dated from what we would call , though if that were the case, one would expect to find references to Galileo's discoveries. But in our concern with early telescopic observations of the Moon, it is all too easy to overlook what was most likely the real contemporary interest of Harriot and Lower: celestial mechanics and the mathematical significance of Kepler's elliptical orbits. For both men were mathematicians at heart, and Kepler's elliptical orbits represented a radical departure from the pure circular orbits of Greek cosmology, and presupposed an abandonment of the classical crystalline spheres.

This is perhaps why Lower's letters to Harriot devote much more attention to discussing Kepler's orbits than they do to telescopic viewing Apt , especially p I had originally made this pair of telescopes many years before, partly to test their respective optical performances upon heavenly bodies, and partly for teaching. The first thing that strikes any observer using a Galilean optical system, as it had Stephen Ringwood in his study of Galilean telescopes, is the very tiny field of view, encompassing 20 arcmin at most. Indeed, the field of view is about as big, in the words of the late Prof.

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John D North, as that seen down the barrel of a Colt 45 revolver held at a distance of two feet North Now, not only does this make the finding and tracking of an object a feat in itself, but one can never see the whole, or whole crescent , Moon at any one time — which would have made it hard for Harriot and by December , Galileo to gain an integrated spatial comprehension of the Moon as a whole. And this could indicate why Galileo himself sometimes drew the very conspicuous crater Albategnius probably in slightly different positions on the terminator, and vastly exaggerated in size, in his depictions of the quadrature Moon in Sidereus Nuncius.

It was also interesting to see, when I compared the five-day Moon of 3 December with Harriot's drawing of 26 July , that there were few outstanding features to be seen other than the maria , which might go towards explaining why Harriot's first drawing is relatively devoid of detail. Indeed, in a low-power, aberrated Galilean optical system, much of the broad lunar crescent seemed a mixture of grey and white areas, with very few sharply defined details. By the 7th, 8th and 9th-night Moon, however, the terminator had become much more interesting and variegated, with craters such as Albategnius, then Clavius, appearing very distinctly: perhaps one reason why both Galileo and Harriot made them look so conspicuous.