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name = Regiomontanus
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June 6, 1436
July 6, 1476
nationality = German
Georg von Peuerbach
Johannes Müller von Königsberg (
June 6, 1436– July 6, 1476), known by his Latin pseudonymRegiomontanus, was an important German mathematician, astronomerand astrologer.
He was born in the
Franconian village of Unfindennear Königsberg, Bavaria, not in the more famous Königsbergin East Prussia.
Thus, he is also called Johannes Müller, der Königsberger (Johannes Müller of Königsberg). His full
Latinname was "Joannes de Regio monte", which abbreviated to "Regiomontanus" (from the Latin for "Königsberg"—"King's Mountain").
At eleven years of age, he became a student at the university in
Leipzig, Saxony. Three years later he continued his studies at Alma Mater Rudolfina, the university in Vienna, Austria. There he became a pupil and friend of Georg von Peurbach. In 1457 he graduated with a degree of "magister artium" (Master of Arts) and held lectures in opticsand ancient literature. He built astrolabes for Matthias Corvinus of Hungaryand Cardinal Bessarion, and in 1465 a portable sundialfor Pope Paul II. His work with Peurbach brought him to the writings of Nicholas of Cusa(Cusanus), who held a heliocentricview. Regiomontanus, however, remained a geocentrist after Ptolemy. Following Peurbach's death, he continued the translation of Ptolemy's Almagestwhich Peurbach had begun at the initiative of Basilios Bessarion. From 1461 to 1465 Regiomontanus lived and worked at Cardinal Bessarion's house in Rome. He wrote "De Triangulis omnimodus" (1464) and "Epytoma in almagesti Ptolemei". "De Triangulis" (On Triangles) was one of the first textbooks presenting the current state of trigonometryand included lists of questions for review of individual chapters. In it he wrote:
:"You who wish to study great and wonderful things, who wonder about the movement of the stars, must read these theorems about triangles. Knowing these ideas will open the door to all of astronomy and to certain geometric problems."
In the "Epytoma" he critiqued the translation, pointing out inaccuracies. Later
Nicolaus Copernicuswould refer to this book as an influence on his own work. In 1467 Regiomontanus left Rome to work at the court of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. There he calculated extensive astronomical tables and built astronomical instruments.
In 1471 he moved to the Free City of
Nuremberg, in Franconia, then one of the Empire's important seats of learning, publication, commerce and art. He associated with the humanist and merchant Bernhard Waltherwho sponsored the observatory and the printing press. Regiomontanus remains famous for having built at Nuremberg the first astronomical observatory in Germany. In 1472 he published the first printed astronomical textbook, the " Theoricae novae Planetarum" of his teacher Georg von Peurbach. Peurbach worked at the Observatory of Großwardein(Oradea) in Transylvania, the first in Europe, and established in his " Tabula Varadiensis" this Transylvanian town's observatory as lying on the prime meridianof Earth.
In 1475 he went to Rome to work with
Pope Sixtus IVon calendar reform. On the way he could publish his "Ephemeris" in Venice. Regiomontanus died mysteriously in Rome, July 6 1476, a month after his fortieth birthday. Some say he died of plague, others by (more likely) assassination.
A prolific author, Regiomontanus was internationally famous already in his lifetime. Despite having completed only a quarter of what he had intended to write, he left a substantial body of work.
Domenico Maria Novara da Ferrara, the teacher of Nicolaus Copernicus, referred to Regiomontanus as having been his own teacher.
It is not true that he came to be called posthumously after the place of his birth, Königsberg/Bavaria (in Latin, "Regiomontanus"). In Regiomontanus' day it was common for scholars to Latinize their names when publishing.
He is known for having built one of the most famous
automata, the wooden eagleof Regiomontanus, which flew from the city of Königsbergto meet the emperor, saluted him, and returned. He also built an iron fly of which it is said it flew out of Regiomontanus's hands at a feast, and taking a round, returned to him.
Daniel Santbechcompiled a collected edition of the works of Regiomontanus, "De triangulis planis et sphaericis libri quinque" (first published in 1533) and "Compositio tabularum sinum recto", as well as Santbech's own "Problematum astronomicorum et geometricorum sectiones septem". It was published in Baselby Henrich Petriand Petrus Perna.
Regiomontanus crater, on the
Moon, is named after him.
One biographer has claimed to have detected a decline in Regiomontanus' interest in
astrologyover his life, and came close to asserting that Regiomontanus had rejected it altogether. But more recent commentators have suggested that the occasional expression of skepticismabout astrologicalprognostication reflected a disquiet about the procedural rigour of the art, not about its underlying principles. It seems plausible that, like some other astronomers, Regiomontanus concentrated his efforts on mathematical astronomybecause he felt that astrologycould not be placed on a sound footing until the celestial motions had been modeled accurately.
In his youth, Regiomontanus had cast
horoscopes( natal charts) for famous patrons. His "Tabulae directionum", completed in Hungary, were designed for astrologicaluse and contained a discussion of different ways of determining astrological houses. The calendars for 1475-1531 which he printed at Nurembergcontained only limited astrological information—a method of finding times for bloodlettingaccording to the position of the moon; subsequent editors added material.
But perhaps the works most indicative of Regiomontanus' hopes for an
empirically sound astrology were his almanacs or ephemerides, produced first in Viennafor his own benefit, and printed in Nurembergfor the years 1475-1506. Weather predictions and observations were juxtaposed by Regiomontanus in his manuscript almanacs, and the form of the printed text enabled scholars to enter their own weather observations in order to likewise check astrologicalpredictions; extant copies reveal that several did so. Regiomontanus' "Ephemeris" would be used in 1504, by a Christopher Columbusstranded on Jamaica, to intimidate the natives into continuing to provision him and his crew from their scanty food stocks, when he successfully predicted a lunar eclipsefor February 29, 1504. [ Samuel Eliot Morison, "Christopher Columbus, Mariner", 1955, pp. 184–92.]
Regiomontanus did not live to produce the special commentary to the ephemerides that he had promised would reveal the advantages the almanacs held for the multifarious activities of
physicians, for human births and the telling of the future, for weather forecasting, for the inauguration of employment, and for a host of other activities, although this lack was again made good by subsequent editors. Nevertheless Regiomontanus' promise suggests that he either was as convinced of the validity and utility of astrologyas his contemporaries, or was willing to set aside his misgivings for the sake of commercial success.
Gerolamo Cardanonoted that much of the material of Regiomontanuson spherical trigonometry was plagiarised from the twelfth-century work of the Jabir ibn Aflah[ [http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i8583.html Victor J. Katz-Princeton University Press] ]
* Irmela Bues, "Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476)". In: "Fränkische Lebensbilder" 11. Neustadt/Aisch 1984, S. 28 - 43
* Rudolf Mett: "Regiomontanus. Wegbereiter des neuen Weltbildes". Teubner / Vieweg, Stuttgart / Leipzig 1996, ISBN 3-8154-2510-7
* Helmuth Gericke: "Mathematik im Abendland: Von den römischen Feldmessern bis zu Descartes". Springer Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-540-51206-3
* Günther Harmann (Hrsg.): "Regiomontanus-Studien". (= Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte, Bd. 364; Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Geschichte der Mathematik, Naturwissenschaften und Medizin, Heft 28-30), Wien 1980. ISBN 3-7001-0339-5
Samuel Eliot Morison, "Christopher Columbus, Mariner", Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1955.
*Adam Mosley, [http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/starry/regiomontanus.html Regiomontanus Biography] , web site at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Cambridge (1999).
* [http://www.univie.ac.at/hwastro Electronic facsimile-editions of the rare book collection at the Vienna Institute of Astronomy]
* [http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/starry/regiocalen.html Regiomontanus and Calendar Reform]
* [http://www.polybiblio.com/marta/165.html Polybiblio: Regiomontanus, Johannes/Santbech, Daniel, ed. De Triangulis Planis et Sphaericis libri quinque. Basel Henrich Petri & Petrus Perna 1561]
* [http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Regiomontanus.html Engl. Biographie bei MacTutor]
* [http://www.jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/books/html/bk1262728.htm Joannes Regiomontanus: "Calendarium"] , Venedig 1485, Digitalisat
* [http://naa.net/ain/personen/regiomontanus.asp Beitrag bei „Astronomie in Nürnberg“]
* [http://num-scd-ulp.u-strasbg.fr:8080/view/authors/Regiomontanus,_Johannes.html Digitalisierte Werke von Regiomontanus] - SICD der Universitäten von Strasbourg
NAME = Regiomontanus
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Johannes Müller von Königsberg or Joannes de Regio monte (Latin)
SHORT DESCRIPTION = German astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician
DATE OF BIRTH =
June 6, 1436
PLACE OF BIRTH =
DATE OF DEATH =
July 6, 1476
PLACE OF DEATH =
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