Astronomical Images : List of eclipses with diagrams

Conradus Dasypodius

Astronomical Images

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Conradus Dasypodius (c. 1530-1600) was educated at the universities of Louvain and Paris. He became Professor of Mathematics at the Strasbourg Academy (promoted to a university in 1566), and his publications reflect his pedagogical interests, such as his edition of Euclid's <i>Elements</i>, his dictionary of Greek mathematical terms, and his <i>Institutionum mathematicarum erotemata</i>, a question-and-answer manual of mathematical definitions. As a humanist, he was also interested in translating (from Greek into Latin) the works of Hero of Alexandria, Theodosius of Bithynia, and Autolycus of Pitane. This work, <i>Heron mechanicus</i>, is a short book extolling the virtues of the discipline of mechanics, and is well-known for its title-page, which shows the astronomical clock in Strasbourg Cathedral, designed by Dasypodius and built by the clock-makers Isaac and Josias Habrecht. The artist Tobias Stimmer was commissioned to paint the decorative elements. The title of the work, 'Heron the mechanic', refers not to Hero of Alexandria but to the tenth-century 'Hero the Younger' of Byzantium, who wrote on surveying. In the first part of the book, Dasypodius, in typical humanist fashion, stresses how the Ancients had cultivated and esteemed the mechanical arts, which were also supported and practised by kings and princes. Influenced by Vitruvius, Dasypodius divided mechanical knowledge (<i>scientia machinalis</i>), the knowledge of making machines, into 'logical' and 'chirugical'. The former requires mastery of the learned books of the Ancients on mathematical and natural philosophical topics, ingenuity and cleverness, before applying one's hands to making machines. The latter involves skilful deployment of manual labour, without any understanding of the mathematical principles involved. Dasypodius praises ancient authors, such as Archimedes and Hero of Alexandria, who had advanced 'logical' mechanical knowledge. This neatly reflects Dasypodius' view of himself as it comes through in the second part of the work, which describes the astronomical clock. There he explains the design of the clock and defends the value of mechanical knowledge, pointing out how he 'sweated much in instructing untutored craftsmen and illiterate workers' to build the clock. The figures seen here accompany a list of various solar and lunar eclipses. Similar eclipse diagrams were also depicted on the lower part of the Strasbourg clock, visible in the elaborate woodcut illustration featured on the title-page of this volume.</p>


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