Astronomy Helps To Define Social Order
Welcome To The New Age of Consensus Generated Reality
"Enlightenment philosophers chose a short history of scientific predecessors – Galileo, Boyle, and Newton principally – as the guides and guarantors of their applications of the singular concept of nature and natural law to every physical and social field of the day. In this respect, the lessons of history and the social structures built upon it could be discarded."
"It was Newton's conception of the universe based upon natural and rationally understandable laws that became one of the seeds for Enlightenment ideology."
"Locke and Voltaire applied concepts of natural law to political systems advocating intrinsic rights; the physiocrats and Adam Smith applied natural conceptions of psychology and self-interest to economic systems; and sociologists criticised the current social order for trying to fit history into natural models of progress. Monboddo and Samuel Clarke resisted elements of Newton's work, but eventually rationalised it to conform with their strong religious views of nature."
Isaac Newton: The Scientific Revolution source: PerniciousVision
"Elements of the Philosophy of Newton (French: Éléments de la philosophie de Newton) is a book written by the philosopher Voltaire in 1738 that helped to popularize the theories and thought of Isaac Newton. This book, coupled with Letters on the English, written in 1733, demonstrated that Voltaire had moved beyond the simple poetry and plays he had written previously."
"A new and definitive edition was published in 1745 that contained an initial section on Newton's metaphysics, originally published separately in 1740. By 1745, when the definitive edition of Voltaire's Éléments was published, the tides of thought were turning his way, and by 1750 the perception had become widespread that France had been converted from backward, erroneous Cartesianism to modern, Enlightened Newtonianism thanks to the heroic intellectual efforts of figures like Voltaire."
"Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population."
"Philosophies introduced the public to many scientific theories, most notably through the Encyclopédie and the popularization of Newtonianism by Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet."
"French historians traditionally place the Enlightenment between 1715, the year that Louis XIV died, and 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution. Some recent historians begin the period in the 1620s, with the start of the scientific revolution. Les philosophes (French for 'the philosophers') of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffee houses, and printed books and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and the Church, and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, trace their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment.
The Age of Enlightenment was preceded by and closely associated with the scientific revolution. Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Francis Bacon, René Descartes, John Locke and Baruch Spinoza. The major figures of the Enlightenment included Cesare Beccaria, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant. Some European rulers, including Catherine II of Russia, Joseph II of Austria and Frederick II of Prussia, tried to apply Enlightenment thought on religious and political tolerance, which became known as enlightened absolutism. Benjamin Franklin visited Europe repeatedly and contributed actively to the scientific and political debates there and brought the newest ideas back to Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson closely followed European ideas and later incorporated some of the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Declaration of Independence (1776). One of his peers, James Madison, incorporated these ideals into the United States Constitution during its framing in 1787.
The most influential publication of the Enlightenment was the Encyclopédie (Encyclopaedia). Published between 1751 and 1772 in thirty-five volumes, it was compiled by Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond d'Alembert (until 1759), and a team of 150 scientists and philosophers. It helped spread the ideas of the Enlightenment across Europe and beyond.
Other landmark publications were Voltaire's Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary; 1764) and Letters on the English (1733); Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality (1754) and The Social Contract(1762); Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776); and Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws (1748). The ideas of the Enlightenment played a major role in inspiring the French Revolution, which began in 1789. After the Revolution, the Enlightenment was followed by an opposing intellectual movement known as Romanticism."
"Broadly speaking, Enlightenment science greatly valued empiricism and rational thought, and was embedded with the Enlightenment ideal of advancement and progress. The study of science, under the heading of natural philosophy, was divided into physics and a conglomerate grouping of chemistry and natural history, which included anatomy, biology, geology, mineralogy, and zoology. As with most Enlightenment views, the benefits of science were not seen universally; Rousseau criticized the sciences for distancing man from nature and not operating to make people happier. Science during the Enlightenment was dominated by scientific societies and academies, which had largely replaced universities as centres of scientific research and development. Societies and academies were also the backbone of the maturation of the scientific profession. Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population. Philosophies introduced the public to many scientific theories, most notably through the Encyclopédie and the popularization of Newtonianism by Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet. Some historians have marked the 18th century as a drab period in the history of science; however, the century saw significant advancements in the practice of medicine, mathematics, and physics; the development of biological taxonomy; a new understanding of magnetism and electricity; and the maturation of chemistry as a discipline, which established the foundations of modern chemistry."
"Scientific academies and societies grew out of the Scientific Revolution as the creators of scientific knowledge in contrast to the scholasticism of the university. During the Enlightenment, some societies created or retained links to universities. However, contemporary sources distinguished universities from scientific societies by claiming that the university's utility was in the transmission of knowledge, while societies functioned to create knowledge. As the role of universities in institutionalized science began to diminish, learned societies became the cornerstone of organized science. Official scientific societies were chartered by the state in order to provide technical expertise. Most societies were granted permission to oversee their own publications, control the election of new members, and the administration of the society. After 1700, a tremendous number of official academies and societies were founded in Europe, and by 1789 there were over seventy official scientific societies. In reference to this growth, Bernard de Fontenelle coined the term "the Age of Academies" to describe the 18th century."
Science Defeats Religion: Or Does It?
"The history of science during the Age of Enlightenment traces developments in science and technology during the Age of Reason, when Enlightenment ideas and ideals were being disseminated across Europe and North America. Generally, the period spans from the final days of the 16th and 17th-century Scientific revolution until roughly the 19th century, after the French Revolution (1789) and the Napoleonic era (1799–1815). The scientific revolution saw the creation of the first scientific societies, the rise of Copernicanism, and the displacement of Aristotelian natural philosophy and Galen’s ancient medical doctrine. By the 18th century, scientific authority began to displace religious authority, and the disciplines of alchemy and astrology lost scientific credibility."
"While the Enlightenment cannot be pigeonholed into a specific doctrine or set of dogmas, science came to play a leading role in Enlightenment discourse and thought. Many Enlightenment writers and thinkers had backgrounds in the sciences and associated scientific advancement with the overthrow of religion and traditional authority in favour of the development of free speech and thought. Broadly speaking, Enlightenment science greatly valued empiricism and rational thought, and was embedded with the Enlightenment ideal of advancement and progress. As with most Enlightenment views, the benefits of science were not seen universally; Jean-Jacques Rousseau criticized the sciences for distancing man from nature and not operating to make people happier."
"Science during the Enlightenment was dominated by scientific societies and academies, which had largely replaced universities as centers of scientific research and development. Societies and academies were also the backbone of the maturation of the scientific profession. Another important development was the popularization of science among an increasingly literate population. Philosophes introduced the public to many scientific theories, most notably through the Encyclopédie and the popularization of Newtonianism by Voltaire as well as by Émilie du Châtelet, the French translator of Newton's Principia. Some historians have marked the 18th century as a drab period in the history of science; however, the century saw significant advancements in the practice of medicine, mathematics, and physics; the development of biological taxonomy; a new understanding of magnetism and electricity; and the maturation of chemistry as a discipline, which established the foundations of modern chemistry."
How science is used to shape human imagination and civilization.
The work of people like Sit Isaac Newton has had great influence on our shared global civilization. The scientific revolution would lead to the industrial revolution and the construction of the modern world of digitally enhanced social media and passenger jet travel.
Astronomy has always been used to support the current social order. The prior Ptolemaic system was one that reinforced the feudalistic system of the Divine Right of Kings. The system of men like Sir Isaac Newton would place the Sun at the center of the Universe, as the literate middle class began to take shape, replacing the Earth and setting up a new cosmology that would eventually become accepted as fact despite all the seemingly contradictory patchwork and apologetics. The modern model of the universe with its black matter, black holes and black energy is a far cry from Sir Isaac's Divinely crafted Sun centered Universe. The printing press as medium for scientific works, would lead to an age of enlightenment that would drastically alter social roles.
"The Social Context of the Scientific Revolution"
"The new science played a major role in the profound change that occurred in the thinking of literate Europeans between the early seventeenth century and the middle of the eighteenth century. Historians used to view the Scientific Revolution as the legacy of a few great scientists whose mathematical and experimental genius created a profoundly new understanding of nature. Now, however, the acceptance and use by educated elites of the new science is seen as perhaps the critical factor in causing the historical phenomenon described as the Scientific Revolution. The science of Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton would have remained the specialized knowledge of the few – or worse still, a suspect, even heretical, approach to nature – had it not been for other social and political factors that permitted its acceptance.
The great scientists and their immediate followers or propagandists were hardly naive about those factors. Galileo appealed to the literate classes for their support and argued that this new mechanical science was fit only for them and not for the larger populace. He pitted the new science against the old learning of the scholastic clergy and tied their understanding of nature to the simplistic assumptions of the masses. In so doing he aroused the wrath of the clerical authorities who eventually silenced him. Persecution and censorship meant that the new science made far less of an impact in Catholic than in Protestant Europe.
Access to the printing press was critical to the acceptance of the new mechanical understanding of nature. Descartes understood that fact when he left France, after the condemnation of Galileo, and chose to publish and live in the Netherlands, where his exposition of the new science stressed at every turn its advantages in promoting order and stability and diverting people to the search for mastery over nature rather than having them meddle in state affairs.
The other social factor that contributed to the acceptance of the new science lay in the dream of power that mechanical knowledge offered to governments as well as to the early promoters of industry. In the seventeenth century, such knowledge was no more than a dream, but it nevertheless enticed monarchs and statesmen to give their patronage to scientific academies and projects.
The new mechanical learning—not that found in Newton's Principia, which was far too technical for most people, but the mechanical information in handbooks and lectures—gained application first in Britain and Scotland during the second half of the eighteenth century. The applied mechanics that produced the steam engine and improved coal mining and water engineering in general had its origin in the Newtonian lectures and books that proliferated in Britain during the eighteenth century. "
"The road from the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial Revolution is more direct than has often been realized."
source document link: The Social Context of the Scientific Revolution
The printing press would bring science to the (growing) literate, middle class.
"The Scientific Revolution ultimately weakened traditional Christianity. God's role in a mechanical universe was not clear. Newton had argued that God not only set the universe in motion but still intervened in its operations, thus leaving room for miracles."
"Gradually the science of Newton became the science of western Europe: nature mechanized, analyzed, regulated, and mathematicized. As a result of the Scientific Revolution, learned Westerners came to believe more strongly than ever that nature could be mastered. Mechanical science – applied to canals, engines, pumps, and levers – became the science of industry. Thus the Scientific Revolution, operating on both intellectual and commercial levels, laid the groundwork for two major developments of the modern West - the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution."
source document link: The Social Context of the Scientific Revolution
Sir Isaac Newton's Conception of God Was That Of A Lord Who Made Laws
"He rules all things, not as the world soul but as the lord of all. And because of his dominion he is called Lord God Pantokrator. For 'god' is a relative word and has reference to servants, and godhood is the lordship of God, not over his own body as is supposed by those for whom God i~ the world soul, but over servants. The supreme God is an eternal, infinite, and absolutely perfect being; but a being, however perfect, without dominion is not the Lord God. "
— Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton Believed In God
"He wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies and religious tractsdealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible."
"Newton's conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world. Newton saw a monotheistic God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation."
"Newton's conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world."
"In addition to stepping in to re-form the solar system, Newton invoked God's active intervention to prevent the stars falling in on each other, and perhaps in preventing the amount of motion in the universe from decaying due to viscosity and friction. In private correspondence Newton sometimes hinted that the force of Gravity was due to an immaterial influence:"
"Tis inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should (without the mediation of something else which is not material) operate upon & affect other matter without mutual contact."
"Leibniz jibed that such an immaterial influence would be a continual miracle; this was another strand of his debate with Clarke.
Newton's view has been considered to be close to deism and several biographers and scholars labeled him as a deist who is strongly influenced by Christianity. However, he differed from strict adherents of deism in that he invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits. He warned against using the law of gravity to view the universe as a mere machine, like a great clock. He said:
"This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. [...] This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called "Lord God" παντοκρατωρ [pantokratōr], or "Universal Ruler". [...] The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, [and] absolutely perfect. Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors."
"On the other hand, latitudinarian and Newtonian ideas taken too far resulted in the millenarians, a religious faction dedicated to the concept of a mechanical universe, but finding in it the same enthusiasm and mysticism that the Enlightenment had fought so hard to extinguish. Newton himself may have had some interest in millenarianism as he wrote about both the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation in his Observations Upon the Prophecies.
Newton's conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world."
Bible or Babel?
What Does The Word Cosmos Mean?
"c. 1200 (but not popular until 1848, as a translation of Humboldt's Kosmos), from Latinized form of Greek kosmos "order, good order, orderly arrangement," a word with several main senses rooted in those notions: The verb kosmein meant generally "to dispose, prepare," but especially "to order and arrange (troops for battle), to set (an army) in array;" also "to establish (a government or regime);" "to deck, adorn, equip, dress" (especially of women). Thus kosmos had an important secondary sense of "ornaments of a woman's dress, decoration" (compare kosmokomes "dressing the hair") as well as "the universe, the world."
Pythagoras is said to have been the first to apply this word to "the universe," perhaps originally meaning "the starry firmament," but later it was extended to the whole physical world, including the earth. For specific reference to "the world of people," the classical phrase was he oikoumene (ge) "the inhabited (earth)." Septuagint uses both kosmos and oikoumene. Kosmos also was used in Christian religious writing with a sense of "worldly life, this world (as opposed to the afterlife)," but the more frequent word for this was aion, literally "lifetime, age.""
Sir Isaac Newton: "However, he differed from strict adherents of deism in that he invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits."
Neil deGrasse Tyson - Bible and Science cannot be reconciled source: Tantan Taligatos
Sir Isaac Newton:
"In a manuscript he wrote in 1704 in which he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible, he estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
Sir Isaac & Alchemy
"In the character of Morton Opperly in "Poor Superman" (1951), speculative fiction author Fritz Leiber says of Newton, "Everyone knows Newton as the great scientist. Few remember that he spent half his life muddling with alchemy, looking for the philosopher's stone. That was the pebble by the seashore he really wanted to find."
Of an estimated ten million words of writing in Newton's papers, about one million deal with alchemy. Many of Newton's writings on alchemy are copies of other manuscripts, with his own annotations. Alchemical texts mix artisanal knowledge with philosophical speculation, often hidden behind layers of wordplay, allegory, and imagery to protect craft secrets. Some of the content contained in Newton's papers could have been considered heretical by the church.
In 1888, after spending sixteen years cataloging Newton's papers, Cambridge University kept a small number and returned the rest to the Earl of Portsmouth. In 1936, a descendant offered the papers for sale at Sotheby's. The collection was broken up and sold for a total of about £9,000. John Maynard Keynes was one of about three dozen bidders who obtained part of the collection at auction. Keynes went on to reassemble an estimated half of Newton's collection of papers on alchemy before donating his collection to Cambridge University in 1946."
Sir Isaac Newton Thought The Bible Was The Literal Truth
"Isaac Newton (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) was, as considered by others within his own lifetime, an insightful and erudite theologian. He wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies and religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. "
"Newton's conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world. Newton saw a monotheistic God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation. Although born into an Anglican family, by his thirties Newton held a Christian faith that, had it been made public, would not have been considered orthodox by mainstream Christianity; in recent times he has been described as a heretic."
"In addition to stepping in to re-form the solar system, Newton invoked God's active intervention to prevent the stars falling in on each other, and perhaps in preventing the amount of motion in the universe from decaying due to viscosity and friction. In private correspondence Newton sometimes hinted that the force of Gravity was due to an immaterial influence:"
https://youtu.be/D6_UVBAfdHA source: alotan2acs
Neil deGrasse Tyson: Apologist & Propagandist
"Anyway, if you watched Cosmos or followed our coverage of it, you’ll know that Tyson already had made clear his attitude on Newton and religion. In the third episode, he acknowledged that Newton believed in God, but claimed that Newton’s religious belief “never led anywhere” and served as “the closing of a door.” According to Tyson, Newton’s religion was generally useless because it “doesn’t lead to other questions.”
According to Tyson, it was only when Newton wasn’t doing religion, and was doing science, that he contributed anything positive. When that Cosmos episode aired, I reviewed some of the relevant historical evidence showing that the religious faith of Newton and other scientists contributed greatly to sparking the scientific revolution.
Now Tyson insists that if he sounds anti-religious to you, it’s all a misunderstanding — on your part. All this reconfirms something else I wrote in reviewing Cosmos:
We live in interesting times. On the one hand, we’re constantly assured that science and religion don’t conflict. At the same time, we’re told — sometimes by the same people — that religion hinders science. Perhaps this is to be expected. Materialists want to project a religion-friendly image because popular culture expects it, while at the same time they make arguments that they hope will ultimately erode religious belief.
That’s exactly what’s going on here. Celebrity atheists like Tyson want to remake the world without religion, even as they claim that that’s the furthest thing from their intent. But hey, a little taradiddle never stopped Tyson before, so why should it now?"
A Social Order Defined: The Royal Society Was Founded To Create Atlantis
"The Royal Society started from groups of physicians and natural philosophers, meeting at a variety of locations, including Gresham College in London. They were influenced by the "new science", as promoted by Francis Bacon in his New Atlantis, from approximately 1645 onwards. A group known as "The Philosophical Society of Oxford" was run under a set of rules still retained by the Bodleian Library. After the English Restoration, there were regular meetings at Gresham College. It is widely held that these groups were the inspiration for the foundation of the Royal Society."
New Atlantis = The New World
Sir Isaac Was The Head of The Royal Society From 1703 - 1727, the year he died.
"New Atlantis and other writings of Bacon inspired the formation of the Royal Society. Jonathan Swift parodied them both in book III of Gulliver's Travels."
"This novel may have been Bacon's vision for a Utopian New World in North America. In it he depicted a land where there would be freedom of religion – showing a Jew treated fairly and equally in an island of Christians, but it has been debated whether this work had influenced others reforms, such as greater rights for women, the abolition of slavery, elimination of debtors' prisons, separation of church and state, and freedom of political expression, although there is no hint of these reforms in The New Atlantis itself. His propositions of legal reform (which were not established in his lifetime), though, are considered to have been one of the influences behind the Napoleonic Code, and therefore could show some resemblance with or influence in the drafting of other liberal constitutions that came in the centuries after Bacon's lifetime, such as the American Constitution."
"New Atlantis is an incomplete utopian novel by Sir Francis Bacon, published in 1627. In this work, Bacon portrayed a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge, expressing his aspirations and ideals for humankind. The novel depicts the creation of a utopian land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit" are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants of the mythical Bensalem. The plan and organisation of his ideal college, Salomon's House (or Solomon's House), envisioned the modern research university in both applied and pure sciences."
Newton Made His Money As The Warden & Master of The Royal Mint (1694–1727)
"Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and the second Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He was a devout but unorthodox Christian, who privately rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and who, unusually for a member of the Cambridge faculty of the day, refused to take holy orders in the Church of England. Beyond his work on the mathematical sciences, Newton dedicated much of his time to the study of alchemy and biblical chronology, but most of his work in those areas remained unpublished until long after his death. Politically and personally tied to the Whig party, Newton served two brief terms as Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge, in 1689–90 and 1701–02. He was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705 and he spent the last three decades of his life in London, serving as Warden (1696–1700) and Master(1700–1727) of the Royal Mint, as well as president of the Royal Society (1703–1727)."
"As a result of a report written by Newton on 21 September 1717 to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury the bimetallic relationship between gold coins and silver coins was changed by Royal proclamation on 22 December 1717, forbidding the exchange of gold guineas for more than 21 silver shillings. This inadvertently resulted in a silver shortage as silver coins were used to pay for imports, while exports were paid for in gold, effectively moving Britain from the silver standard to its first gold standard. It is a matter of debate as whether he intended to do this or not. It has been argued that Newton conceived of his work at the Mint as a continuation of his alchemical work.
Newton was made President of the Royal Society in 1703 and an associate of the French Académie des Sciences. In his position at the Royal Society, Newton made an enemy of John Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal, by prematurely publishing Flamsteed's Historia Coelestis Britannica, which Newton had used in his studies."
"In April 1705, Queen Anne knighted Newton during a royal visit to Trinity College, Cambridge. The knighthood is likely to have been motivated by political considerations connected with the Parliamentary election in May 1705, rather than any recognition of Newton's scientific work or services as Master of the Mint. Newton was the second scientist to be knighted, after Sir Francis Bacon "
"Newton was one of many people who lost heavily when the South Sea Company collapsed. Their most significant trade was slaves, and according to his niece, he lost around £20,000."
Newton's Dark Secrets
Sir Isaac Was An Unconquered Sun Worshipper
"During the Roman Empire, a festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) was celebrated on the winter solstice—the "rebirth" of the sun—which occurred on December 25 of the Julian calendar. In late antiquity, the theological centrality of the sun in some Imperial religious systems suggest a form of a "solar monotheism". The religious commemorations on December 25 were replaced under Christian domination of the Empire with the birthday of Christ."
Full Docmentary - Secret Life of Isaac Newton - Full Documentaries Films source: Full Documentaries
"Benefits to the Nation from Astronomy"
"Astronomical discoveries of the past decade—images of the hot universe at an epoch before the first galaxies and stars emerged, of other solar systems beginning to take form, of planetary systems beyond our own—have captured the imagination of scientists and citizens alike."
article source: https://www.nap.edu/read/9839/chapter/6
"These startling advances are the result not only of the collective creative efforts of scientists and engineers throughout the United States and around the world, but also of the generous investments in astronomy over much of the past 50 years by federal and state governments, foundations, and individuals."
"In the decades ahead, the pace of discovery—remarkable as it has been over the past—will accelerate. Astronomers stand poised to examine the epoch when galaxies similar to our Milky Way first took form, to image Earth-like planets beyond our solar system, and to learn whether some show evidence of life. To take these next steps will require significant investments of both imagination and public resources."
"Because the magnitude of these investments will be large, it is fair to ask why astronomical research should merit such support. Perhaps the most persuasive, but least quantifiable, justifications lie in the importance American society has always attached to exploring new frontiers, and in the deep human desire to understand how we came to be, the kind of universe we live in, whether we are alone, and what our ultimate fate will be. Exploring frontiers of unimaginable mystery and beauty, astronomy speaks compellingly to these fundamental questions."
"As researchers, astronomers experience the excitement of discovery most vividly and are the first to glimpse new answers to ancient questions."
"As a community of citizens fortunate to live in a society that supports them generously, astronomers believe strongly that “from those to whom much is given, much is asked.” It is in that spirit that the committee offers below an accounting of astronomy’s more tangible contributions to broader societal goals."
article source: https://www.nap.edu/read/9839/chapter/6
"THE ROLE OF ASTRONOMY IN PUBLIC SCIENCE EDUCATION"
"Astronomers’ most significant contribution to society lies in the area of science education, broadly conceived to include (1) raising public awareness of science, (2) conveying scientific concepts to students at all levels and to their teachers, and (3) contributing to educating a technically capable and aware citizenry. Astronomy is relevant to each of these goals, and it can act as a pathfinder in stimulating people’s interest in all of science."
"THE RELEVANCE OF ASTRONOMY"
"Astronomy excites the imagination. The beauty of the night sky and its rhythms are at once stunning and compelling. The boldness of our collective efforts to comprehend the universe inspires us, while the dimensions of space and time humble us. Astronomy encompasses the full range of natural phenomena—from the physics of invisible elementary particles, to the nature of space and time, to biology—thus providing a powerful framework for illustrating the unity of natural phenomena and the evolution of scientific paradigms to explain them. In combination, these qualities make astronomy a valuable tool for raising pubic awareness of science, and for introducing scientific concepts and the process of scientific thinking to students at all levels. A few reminders serve to illustrate the potential of astronomy to advance public science education goals."
"Astronomy is all around us. Just look up! Who has not looked at the night sky and wondered at the panoply of stars there? We are all aware of the motion of the Sun through the sky during the day and the changing phases of the Moon at night. The motions of astronomical objects determine the day-night cycle, the seasons of the year, the tides, the timing of eclipses, and the visibility of comets and meteor showers. Easily observed astronomical events have formed the basis for time keeping, navigation, and myths or sagas in cultures around the world.
Much of astronomy is visual and can be appreciated for its aesthetic appeal as well as its illustrative power. Images of deep-sky objects convey the beauty of the universe, even to those who are too young to understand their context or implications.
Astronomy is a participatory science. Many nonscientists have astronomy as a lifelong avocation. Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs by the tens of thousands have formed active organizations (e.g., the Planetary Society, with membership exceeding 130,000), and many amateurs make significant scientific contributions to such fields as the monitoring of variable stars and measuring positions of moving objects. Telescope and magazine sales suggest that nearly 300,000 citizens take some active interest in amateur astronomy. The American Astronomical Society has formed a working group to foster partnering between professional and amateur astronomers. Many amateurs freely share their excitement about science with local teachers and students through such programs as Project ASTRO, which links astronomers with 4th through 9th grade teachers and classes in 10 sites around the country.
Astronomy offers the possibility of discovery. The chance to find a never-before-seen supernova, nova, comet, or asteroid is very exciting, especially to nonprofessionals. Both the distribution of astronomical data and software via the Internet and the ready availability of sophisticated imaging devices on moderate-cost small telescopes enable amateur astronomers to play an active and growing role in discovering new objects, searching for transient and variable objects, and monitoring them."
"Astronomy inspires work in the arts. From poetry and music to science fiction books and films, the ideas and discoveries of modern astronomy serve as inspiration for artists, for youngsters, and for the public at large. In the process, the works inspired by astronomy can serve as goodwill ambassadors for the value and excitement of physical science to many in society who do not otherwise come into contact with the sciences."
article source: https://www.nap.edu/read/9839/chapter/6
"CONVEYING ASTRONOMY TO THE PUBLIC"
"Statistics confirm the widespread interest in astronomy."
"Planetariums and observatories are popular visitor destinations. There are approximately 1,100 planetariums in North America. About 30 percent of these serve school groups only, while about 70 percent do both school and public shows. Approximately 28 million visits are made to the planetariums in the United States each year. For many school children from urban areas, such a visit may be their only introduction to a dark night sky and to the wonders of the universe.
Observatory visitor centers are similarly popular. They provide a place where families learn about science together. For example, the seven observatories that belong to the Southwestern Consortium of Observatories for Public Education (McDonald, the National Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, Kitt Peak National Observatory, the Very Large Array (VLA), Lowell Observatory, Whipple Observatory, and Apache Point), collectively host more than 500,000 visitors annually and reach more than 4,000 teachers through workshops. The new Visitor Center at Arecibo in Puerto Rico hosts an average of 120,000 visitors each year. Most science museums have sections on astronomy and hold weekend, evening, and summer programs on astronomical sciences.
Astronomy serves as an introduction to science for nearly 10 percent of all college students—more than 200,000 each year, nationwide. For many, astronomy will be the only science course they will ever take. To examine and improve the effectiveness of teaching science via introductory astronomy courses—many of which are offered at community colleges and small colleges without extensive research programs—the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the American Astronomical Society are jointly sponsoring a series of symposia and discussions at their meetings. The first such symposium was held in Albuquerque in 1998, and another one entitled “The Cosmos in the Classroom” was held in Pasadena in July 2000.
Discoveries in astronomy are well covered by the media. For example, staff of the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News, two of the leading papers in terms of science coverage, each develop on average more than one astronomy story per week. News conferences of the American Astronomical Society are heavily attended, covered by many news media and often held up as a model by other sciences and scientific organizations. Dozens of astronomy columns now run in newspapers and magazines. Many focus on sky phenomena, while others report on recent developments. Perhaps the best known of these is the regular series of science articles published in Parade, the national Sunday supplement—a series begun by the late Carl Sagan and now continued by David Levy.
Magazines devoted exclusively to astronomy enjoy wide circulation—nearly 300,000 combined for Sky and Telescope and Astronomy. Many other national magazines, such as Popular Science, National Geographic, Discover,and Scientific American, cover astronomy regularly and report that their astronomical stories or issues are among the most popular. It is no coincidence that when Scientific American began a new quarterly magazine devoted to single-topic issues, the first was entitled “The Magnificent Cosmos.”
Astronomy reaches an extraordinary audience of radio listeners. The program “Earth and Sky” is carried by about 900 radio stations in the United States, and the program is heard about 280 million times each year. “StarDate/Universo” reaches an audience of about 8.7 million listeners weekly. Surveys in Michigan and Florida showed that 51 percent and 36 percent, respectively, of the listeners discussed what they had heard on the “Earth and Sky” program with other adults or children. Eighty percent of the listeners felt the program “expanded their knowledge of science.” Gender, ethnicity, and occupational status did not correlate with whether or not a person listened to the series. These statistics show that well-presented astronomy stories have an extremely large and diverse audience.
Astronomical sites are among the most popular science destinations on the Web. The American Astronomical Society has found that news stories carried on Web sites often stimulate stories on affiliated television networks. Web sites offer the additional advantage of coverage in depth since they are not limited in terms of space in the same way as newspapers and television broadcasts. Web sites of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are enormously popular and provide the public with a sense of shared participation in the startling discoveries of planetary probes and the Hubble Space Telescope. For example, the Web provided real-time access for millions to view spectacular events such as the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy on Jupiter and the adventures of Pathfinder and Sojourner on Mars. The JPL and the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a planetary photojournal Web site that is accessed by 100,000 users who download 700,000 files every month. These Web sites, as well as those run by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the American Astronomical Society, provide resources used by thousands of teachers throughout the nation—and bring the excitement of science from the frontiers of research directly into the classroom.
Public interest in astronomy has fueled a number of successful small businesses. Several hundred million dollars are spent each year by hobbyists, small telescopes users, and travelers journeying to witness astronomical events. The catalog of educational materials in astronomy from the nonprofit Astronomical Society of the Pacific reaches about 300,000 people each year."
article source: https://www.nap.edu/read/9839/chapter/6
"ASTRONOMY IN PRECOLLEGE SCIENCE EDUCATION"
"The national science education standards developed by the National Research Council (NRC, 1996) specify age-appropriate content goals for the teaching of science in grades K-12. However, content goals alone are not enough. Although students may be able to give the correct answers to traditional problems and questions, these correct answers often mask fundamental misconceptions. Largely to address this problem, the national science education standards suggest an emphasis on the teaching of science as inquiry. Engaging students in the active process of inquiry can help them to develop a deeper understanding of both scientific concepts and the nature of science. Through inquiry, students can gain an appreciation of how we know what we know about science.
Astronomy lends itself extraordinarily well to inquiry-based teaching and allows teachers to take advantage of the natural fascination students have with the field. Many astronomical phenomena can be observed by students directly with no special equipment, and astronomy-based investigations (focusing on topics like light and color, for example; see Figure 4.1) can naturally lead students to explore concepts that inform other scientific fields.
Consequently, astronomers and astronomy educators have invested significantly in developing hands-on activities to support science curricula at all levels. The best of these are collected in The Universe at Your Fingertips: An Astronomy Activity and Resource Notebook (edited by A. Fraknoi et al., Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 1995), a resource and activity notebook that is now in use in almost 15,000 schools around the country.
Over the past decade, astronomers also began to work closely with educators to bring data from spacecraft and observatories directly into the classroom and museums (an example is shown in Chapter 5 in Figure 5.2). Programs such as Hands-on Universe (sponsored by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), Hands-on Astrophysics (sponsored by the American Association of Variable Star Observers), Telescopes in Education (sponsored by NASA), and Research-Based Science Education (sponsored by NSF/NOAO) allow students to explore and use newly acquired astronomical data. Simple image analysis tools are now widely available and, when used in connection with images from planetary exploration and telescopic observations, can be powerful tools in engaging the imaginations of students. Programs like these have already led to well-publicized examples of students discovering a supernova and a new Kuiper Belt object. An increasing number of schools are able to connect to the Internet, thereby making access to astronomical data and images widely available."
article source: https://www.nap.edu/read/9839/chapter/6
Making Predictions: Astronomy Is Astrology
"c. 1200, "astronomy, astrology, scientific or occult study of heavenly bodies," from Old French astrenomie "astronomy, astrology," from Latin astronomia, from Greek astronomia, abstract noun from astronomos, literally "star-regulating," from astron "star" (from PIE root *ster- (2) "star") + nomos "arranging, regulating; rule, law," from PIE root *nem- "assign, allot; take." Perhaps originally with reference to mapping the constellations or movements of planets.
Þer wes moni god clarc to lokien in þan leofte, to lokien i þan steorren nehʒe and feorren. þe craft is ihate Astronomie. [Layamon, "The Brut," c. 1200]
In English, it is earlier than astrology and originally included the senses now distributed over both words; the gradual differentiation happened 16c.-17c. In Latin and later Greek, astronomia tended to be more scientific than astrologia."
Astronomy & Astronomy Are Tools For Social Management:
Used To Define Social Roles For a Long, Long, Long, Time
"Astrology in Medieval Europe"
"The early Middle Ages, while it produced a fair amount of argument about astrology, and saw a diminution of its influence on monarchs, did not mark as complete a collapse as some historians have suggested. Even where there was some doubt about its use on a personal level, it was still generally admitted to be useful in meteorology and agriculture. And most scholars took the view that it was an important element of general knowledge. Boethius, the 6th-century consul in Rome, some of whose writings were translated by King Alfred the Great, was one of them, and his book The Consolation of Philosophy must have been influential in reinforcing whatever knowledge of astrology there was in Britain in the 10th century. He argued that the movements of the planets derived from the immortal will of Providence, and that 'the celestial movement of the stars' translated that will into earthly events, 'constraining human forces in an indissoluble chain of causes which, since it starts from the decree of immovable Providence, must needs itself also be immutable.'
Nevertheless, he was not a fatalist, for even divine Providence imposed no fatal necessity on the human will, which was always free, while nature was not, but was constrained by the planets. As Canute found, you cannot argue with the tides. Boethius also, by the way, agreed with Plato that each planet has its own musical chord, contributing to the heavenly harmony of the music of the spheres.
An attraction of the astrological theory, in the early Middle Ages as now, was that it could be applied to absolutely every facet of human life.
But there were some areas into which it soaked with persuasive power, and among these was medicine. The 'astrological man' appears again and again in manuscripts of the period, though sometimes to denigrate astrology. There is for instance a splendid 11th-century drawing of the twelve signs grouped around the figure of Christ, hand raised to bless. The names of the parts of the body 'ruled' by the various signs appear - but the caption reads: 'According to the ravings of the philosophers the signs are thus denoted'!
Astrology was by now so integral a part of medicine that it was not to be possible to disentangle the two for many centuries. Until the 18th century it was still impossible to qualify as a doctor at some universities unless you had passed an examination in astrology, and the use of the planetary positions in diagnosis and treatment was a commonplace.
Like other theories, this was used to a greater or lesser degree according to the temperament of the physician. Constantinus Africanus, for instance, who lived between 1015 and 1087, was enormously important in the history of medicine mainly because of his translation and presentation of earlier medical textbooks. He had studied with Chaldeans, Arabs, Persians and Saracens as well as in Tunis (where he was born) and Baghdad. But in his Be humana natura, apart from tracing the formation of the embryo in the womb and relating this to the positions of the planets, and including a certain amount of mildly eccentric material (someone who consistently wets the bed, for instance, should eat the bladder of a river fish for eight days while the Moon waxes and wanes), he makes relatively little of astrological medicine, though there can be no doubt he studied it.
It is not surprising that Constantinus studied in the East, for collaboration between Jewish and Arabian scholars had resulted in a correlation of astrological knowledge at such centres as Cairo, Baghdad, Alexandria and Kairwan in Tunis, which produced at least one remarkable scholar in Isaac ben Solomon Israeli, or Isaac Judaeus, who worked there in the 900s, and wrote books on medical astrology which survived for centuries (Robert Burton quotes from him in The Anatomy of Melancholy).
To trace the various contributions to what might be called 'Arabian' astrology is an almost impossibly complex task, for pieces of theory drifted towards the Arabian centres from as far away as China and India, as well as from Rome, Greece, Egypt and Persia. This was collected together in the great library founded in Baghdad by Harun al-Rashid and al-Mamun, caliphs of the Abbasside dynasty, and completed in about 850, where apart from the lesser works there were Greek copies of the Tetrabiblos translated for general use.
There are hints of the importance of the work done in Baghdad in the writings, six or eight hundred years later, of some Englishmen. Chaucer, for instance, wrote a Treatise on the Astrolabe in the 14th century in which he made use of Messahala's Commentary on Ptolemy, written in the early 800s; William Lilly quotes from the same source in the 1640s; Dr Dee, in Elizabethan England, owned several manuscripts of Isaac Judaeus' works.
In other countries too the Arabian interest in astrology took hold; in Spain, for instance, where the Western Caliph founded in 948 an academy at Cordova at which Moors and Jews alike built up a body of knowledge which in its turn was disseminated through academies founded at Toledo and Granada. There, Hasdai ibn-Shaprut, a Jew, taught at the end of the 10th century, among other things rationalizing the assignation of all known herbs to separate planets which influenced their growth and virtue. Gerbert of Auvergne probably studied under him before being made Archbishop of Ravenna in 998, and later Pope, as Sylvester II. So there is evidence that Christians as well as Moors and Jews studied under Arabian auspices. Sylvester II was admittedly later accused of having had dealings with the Devil because of his studies at Cordova, and some Christians attempted to attach dark satanic inferences to anyone who had studied astrology; but progress was not, at this stage, to be denied.
Despite the vicissitudes of history - the capture of the Moorish cities of Spain by the Christians in the 11th century, for instance, and the driving out of the Jews - the 'universities' at such cities as Toledo continued to function for centuries, with a continual stream of scholars benefiting from their libraries and their tradition of scholarship, all of which unhesitatingly supported astrology as a serious study.
From the 9th and 10th centuries, visual reminders have survived that help demonstrate the subject's fascination - sometimes illustrating slight differences between eastern and western astrology. In Islamic countries, human beings could not be represented by artists, and so the 'human' zodiac signs were altered: in place of the Geminian twins, Muslim artists showed two peacocks; a wheatsheaf replaced the girl in Virgo, and Aquarius became a mule carrying two baskets.
There is at Florence a splendid example of another work of art, this time with a practical purpose: an astrolabe for the latitude of Rome, said to have belonged to Sylvester II. An equally early one is at Oxford, made in 984 by Ahmad and Malmud, sons of Ibrahim, of Ispahan. The development of the astrolabe began, it is believed, in the 1st century BC - there are claims for it as the oldest scientific instrument. Used for measuring the altitude of the stars, it was essential to the astronomer-astrologer, and there are many fine examples of astrolabes in museums. It was often magnificently decorated, a pleasure to look at as well as to use.
The spread of astrology across Europe, the extent to which it was practised in any western country before the growth of the Roman Empire, is a subject that must be treated with the utmost delicacy. It depends to some extent, of course, on what kind of astrology one is talking about. It seems fairly clear that natal astrology, the setting up of a map of the sky for the moment of a birth, the construction and interpretation of a horoscope, was not possible in, say, Germany, France or Britain until well into the time of Imperial Rome; and that if it was possible then, the means were only known to a very few people, and those probably attached to Roman armies as Balbillus had been attached to Claudius' entourage during his journey to Britain.
However, if we accept that an interest in astrology often arose from a preoccupation with the simple observation of planetary movements, then the most primitive civilizations showed it, and it may be said that Stonehenge - for instance - betrays such a preoccupation, if we are to accept that that monument (and others like it) was erected to fulfil some astronomical purpose.
The many theories about the planning and erection of Stonehenge are too complex to investigate here; but the theory that it was some kind of astronomical computer, while suspect in some quarters, is quite sufficiently well argued to remain a possibility. Whatever its purpose, there certainly seems to be an astronomical connection; and the influence on an ignorant community (we are speaking of something like 2900 BC) of a priestly aristocracy that could forecast even the most basic solar and lunar events would have been very considerable. It is even suggested that the people of Neolithic Britain were ruled by such an aristocracy, the leaders of which possessed at least some of the knowledge of the early Babylonian astronomers. Much of their power as leaders of society may have been derived from their knowledge of astronomy, used 'magically' to invoke the aid of those heavenly gods, the planets, in hunting: a sort of astrology, although at that stage invoking the occult as intensely as - if much more vaguely than - the Babylonians or Egyptians did.
Three thousand years later we glimpse a more sophisticated astrology in the British Isles: although still much too dimly to draw detailed conclusions. The Druids remain sufficiently mysterious to enable the inventive to saddle them with all sorts of preoccupations of which they may have known nothing. Caesar recorded that the Druids in Gaul were men of dignity, lawgivers and priests, learned in astrology and the natural sciences. Britain seemed to be the headquarters of the Druid cult, if that is what it was, and there was an annual meeting in Gaul from which the most promising novices travelled to Britain for training, where they seem to have studied not only astrology but the same systems of divination as the Babylonians - using patterns of bird flight, for instance, and the convulsions of dying men.
Early Christian literature provides examples of the Druids predicting a child's future from the date of its birth, and the word for cloud divination (neladoracht) is also freely used to mean astrology and divination in general. There are several references to astrology itself; for instance, it is related how an astrologer calculated the planets' positions in order to tell the foster-father of St Columkille, better known as St Columba of Ireland, when it was a propitious time for the boy to begin lessons. It is clear too that the Druids operated a system of lucky and unlucky days: the thirteenth day of a lunar cycle was considered a bad one on which to begin anything; a boy born on that day would be 'courageous, bold, rapacious, arrogant, self-pleasing', and a girl 'saucy, spirited, and daring of her body with many men'.
Little is known about the patterns of international travel in ancient times; however, it is by no means impossible that, as some scholars have suggested, astronomical knowledge of all sorts reached Britain and western Europe in the earliest years of Babylon; it does not seem very likely that men should otherwise spontaneously have started building stone circles and similar monuments in various parts of the western world at the same time. Such legends as those that support the coming of Mediterranean traders to Britain many centuries before Christ may be far from nonsense; and while it does not seem at all likely that men with the knowledge to design and build such a sophisticated monument as Stonehenge would be travelling on a trader's boat, there is nothing inherently absurd in the idea: scholars have often also been adventurers.
We begin to see our way rather more clearly round about the time of the Roman occupation, when Mithraism brought knowledge of the existence of astrology to Gaul, Germany and Britain, and temples to the Roman gods were built - often on the sites of Druidic temples, it seems, for Caesar says that the Gauls worshipped Mercury, Apollo, Mars and Minerva (and can only have meant that they worshipped local gods like those Roman ones).
With the departure of the Roman legions, and the Dark Ages, astrology like so much else vanishes from our view, except for some hints that the knowledge brought by the Romans was treasured by some scholars, especially in the north and west of the province - at the limits of Roman power, whence, eventually, came so many early scholars - Alcuin and Bede, Adelard and Roger Bacon among them. Did the British who had learned to read continue to treasure Roman books after AD 410? A few relics suggest the answer books in Greek or Latin with scribbled comments and notes in a Scottish or Welsh dialect.
Geoffrey of Monmouth (c 1100-1154), that early romancer and historian, claims that in King Arthur's reign, whenever that may have been, there subsisted at Carleon in Glamorganshire a college of two hundred philosophers, who studied astronomy and other sciences; and who were particularly employed in watching the course of the stars, and predicting events to the king from these observations.
By the time Geoffrey was writing, Christianity had long been established in Britain; but as we have seen, this may well have meant increased knowledge and approval of astrology rather than the reverse.
Can Geoffrey's word be accepted, though? Well, he tells us that his Historia regum Britanniae is a translation of 'a certain very ancient book written in the British language' (that is, Welsh) by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford. This may have been a simple, individual manuscript; in any event, it has completely vanished. Geoffrey may have invented some of his history, but he would not have invented it all - indeed his often garbled records of some events match with those of which we have knowledge, and he (or his original source) refers often to Cicero, Juvenal, Lucan, Apuleius and others. So the evidence that astrology was in use 'at the time of King Arthur' is worth something, if perhaps not a great deal.
Strands of astrological belief must have been preserved not only by the faint and fading tenets of whatever 'religion' had been supported by the Druids, but in the fading memories of Mithraism, if these communicated themselves to the British, and in the heritage of knowledge left by Rome; and Christianity contributed, too. In The Panegyric of Lludd the Great, a poem written in the 6th century by Taliesin, the 'mythical' British bard, there is a passage, among many dealing with prophesies, which reads
To Britain shall come an exaltation,
Britons of the stock of Rome,
May I be judged by the merciful God.
Astronomers are predicting
Misfortune in the land.
Druids are prophesying
Beyond the sea, beyond Britain,
That the summer shall not be fair ...
Of little value except as evidence, again, that some knowledge of astrology persevered. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle agrees. This was written at various centres up to the mid-12th century; the earlier parts probably originated with King Alfred (871-900). It records various eclipses, and other planetary phenomena. (It also, incidentally, records the travels of the 'three astrologers' - rather than kings or wise men - to Christ's birthplace.) The Chronicle mostly interprets eclipses and comets as symbols of foreboding. In 664, we are told, an eclipse on 10 May brought not only the death of the King of Kent, but a plague; fourteen years later, a comet in August presaged Bishop Wilfrid's expulsion from his bishopric. The comet of 729 brought a clutch of disasters: St Egbert died, and the Atheling Osward, and Osric, King of Northumbria.
Among the astronomical reports appear records of more astonishing incidents: a number of fiery dragons flew over Northumbria in 793 (possibly the Leonide meteors); in 979 'was seen a bloody welkin oft times in likeness of a fire'. But for the most part the authors concentrate on comets and eclipses - including the most famous comet of all, Halley's, which appeared in 1066, and is shown in the Bayeux Tapestry above the head of the crowned King William the Conqueror.
By the beginning of the 8th century, the names of individual astrologers begin to appear: such men as Aldhelm, who was taught at the school in Kent started by Abbot Hadrian and his friend Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury - the latter came from Tarsus in Asia Minor, and the two men certainly taught in Greek as well as Latin. Aldhelm left treatises on astrology, as well as on logic and arithmetic, meant as textbooks for future students. Alcuin, or Ealhwine, was educated at York, at a school with a long history (it has been suggested that its tradition went back to the Roman occupation), and went on to become a friend and adviser of the Emperor Charlemagne. He learned, he said, among other things, 'the harmony of the sky', the laws governing the rising and setting of the stars and the seven planets.
Some of the art and architecture of Britain before the 11th century has astrological references - sometimes at a distance, as when we hear for instance that the old Abbey of Glastonbury had a zodiac in its floor. There is zodiacal ornamentation in a number of pre-Conquest churches in Kent, and the new Canterbury Cathedral had some zodiac figures in it simply because the old one, burned down in 1067, had had them. There are 8th-century zodiacal drawings among the Harleian manuscripts in the British Library, and when the Abbey of Croyland was burned in 1091, according to a history compiled from ancient manuscripts that survived the fire, we lost a most beautiful and precious table, fabricated of different kinds of metals, according to the variety of the stars and heavenly signs. Saturn was of copper, Jupiter of gold, Mars of iron, the Sun of lattern [a yellow metal like brass], Mercury of amber, Venus of tin, and the Moon of silver. The eyes were charmed, as well as the mind instructed, by beholding the coloured circles, with the Zodiac and all its signs formed with wonderful art of metals and precious stones, according to their several natures, forms, figures and colours.
After the Norman conquest a new flow of astrological material reached England with Jewish scholars from France and elsewhere who settled not only in London, Oxford and Cambridge, but in other large towns, bringing with them books which contained astrological lore, particularly from Arabic and Moorish sources. There is a tradition that William the Conqueror had his own astrologer, who set the time for his coronation (midday on Christmas Day, 1066) - and astrologers claim that this was a particularly auspicious moment, unlikely to have been chosen at random, and take it as the moment for which to set up a general 'horoscope' for England.
It was during William's reign that perhaps the most notable of 11th century English scholars was born, at Bath. Much of the life of Adelard, or Aethelhard, is dark to us, although he certainly travelled extensively in Europe, and perhaps further afield, for in one of his books he says with authority that 'what the schools of Gaul do not know, those beyond the Alps reveal; what you do not learn among the Latins, well-informed Greece will teach you.' He is fond, too, of quoting from Arabic texts, and does so, often, as though he is using verbal rather than literary sources.
Among his works are many on mathematics, astronomy and alchemy. He seems to have been somewhat strait-laced, or at least to have found the atmosphere of England uncongenial after his travels to more refined lands, for on his return he finds the country under Henry I filled with villainous fellows:
Princes are violent, prelates wine-bibbers, judges mercenary, patrons inconstant, the common men flatterers, promise-makers false, friends envious, and everyone in general ambitious.
He intends, he says, to settle down to serious work, and certainly did so. He translated several Arabic astrological works, including some (the tables of al-Khowarizmi, for instance) which were directed at teaching the reader to set up a horoscope. He would scarcely have done this had he not been interested in the subject, or indeed had been unable himself to set up a chart. His view was that the planets were 'superior and divine animals' which were 'the causers and principle of inferior natures'. One who studied then could understand the present and the past and predict the future. His charming view of the stars as celestial pets extends to a consideration of their food, which he believed consisted of the humidities of earth and water, refined by a long journey through the upper air, and which by the time they reached the planets were sufficiently light and ethereal not to dull their wits or make them put on weight.
Another treatise which was probably written by Adelard quotes from Hermes Trismegistus, Ptolemy, Apollonius and other ancient authorities, and argues for the use of astrology in medicine, for its study makes for better doctors than 'the narrow medical man who thinks of no effects except those of inferior nature merely'. He also deals with the planets' effects on animals and plants, and ascribes to them certain metals and colours - and indeed religions: the Jews are ruled by Saturn, the Arabs by Mars and Venus, Christianity by the Sun and Jupiter (for the Sun stands for honesty, liberality and victory, and Jupiter for peace, equity and humanity). The continual battles between the Jews, the Muslims and the Chrktians are explained by the fact that neither Mars nor Saturn is ever in friendly relation with Jupiter.
More or less contemporary with Adelard was William of Conches. He also travelled extensively before becoming associated with the court of Geoffrey Plantagenet as tutor of his son, the future King Henry II of England, between 1146 and 1149. Interestingly, William is one of the first scholars to attempt a definition of the difference between astronomy and astrology. Authorities, he says, speak of the planets in three ways: the fabulous, the astrological and the astronomical. Those interested in fables interpret the Greek myths as if they were astronomical. The astrologers treat phenomena as they appear to be, whether accurately or no. Astronomers deal with things as they are, whether they seem to be so or not.
He takes the argument no further, but does not seem to be intending to denigrate astrology, for he goes on to misquote Plato in support of the theory that the planets control nature and the human body. The heavenly bodies, he argues, heat the atmosphere, which in turn heats water - which forms a fundamental part of all animal bodies - and so must affect every living thing. He lists the planets and their qualities and humours, and puts forward some theories about how the principles were discovered, not only suggesting practical but symbolic reasons. The ancients, he suggests, discovered that Saturn was a 'cold' planet because when the Sun was cooler than usual it was in Cancer and in conjunction with Saturn in the same sign. But he also pointed out that Saturn was said to carry a scythe because a man who did so 'did more execution when receding than advancing'. Venus was said to have committed adultery with Mars because when those two planets were close together, Mars took away some of Venus' good influences.
It has been suggested that Henry II's interest in astrology, fostered by his tutor William of Conches and by his father Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, was sufficient to make him the patron of Abenezra (1092-1167), a Jew from Toledo, who came to England in 1158 to lecture in London and Oxford. He was also a poet:
The planets and stars in their courses
Made way when I first saw the light;
If I were a seller of candles
The Sun it would shine all the night.
I try to succeed, but I cannot,
For the heavenly spheres oppose;
If I took to winding-sheet sewing,
Then no-one would die, I suppose.
Abenezra seems to have had a pleasant sense of humour as well as considerable fame as an astrologer-writer (his De nativitatibus was reprinted in the 15th and 16th centuries). He lectured not only in England but all over Europe, and may briefly have occupied the chair of astrology at the university of Bologna.
Both Adelard and William of Conches were important in bringing to France and England more Arabic works, some of which they translated, and some of which they used as source material for their own books. There were of course other translators, many of whose names have been lost, though we know others - Bartholomew of Messina, Burgundio of Pisa and Eugenius, Admiral of Sicily, who translated from the Greek; Egidius de Trebaldis of Parma, Arnold of Barcelona and Blasius Armegandus of Montpellier, who translated from the Arabic, and so on. Through their work a great stream of astrological knowledge from Arabia made its way westward - some translators, like Pedro Alfonso, claimed to be intent on bringing knowledge westward to save greater scholars than he the labour of travelling so far to acquire the basis on which they could construct their philosophies.
Most translators and scholars believed in observation and experiment as well as the acquisition of knowledge from books. Pedro believed strongly in experience as a good master: 'It has been proved by experimental argument', he says, 'that we can truly affirm that the Sun and Moon and other planets exert their influences in earthly affairs... And indeed many other innumerable things happen on earth in accordance with the courses of the stars, and pass unnoticed by the senses of most men, but are discovered and understood by the subtle acumen of learned men who are skilled in this art.' He was, incidentally, physician to King Henry I of England, and left notes on astrological medicine. Twenty years after his death, Walcher, Prior of Malvern, made translations of all Pedro's books into English.
It was during the 12th century that a great acceleration occurred in the translation of astrological texts into Latin. By 1150, most major texts were available in that language - Plato of Tivoli had translated the Tetrabiblos (as the Quadripartitum); John of Seville made a version of the Centiloquium, a series of astrological aphorisms attributed (wrongly) to Ptolemy, and translated Albumasar, Alchabitius and Messahala. And Gerard of Cromona (1114-87) made over seventy translations from the Arabic into the Latin, among them Ptolemy's Almagest (Syntaxis), and two previously unknown works of Aristotle, the Meteorologica and the Generatione et corruptione.
By the end of the first decade of the 13th century, the complete works of Aristotle were for the first time available in Western Europe in a language that every scholar could read, and by 1255, despite the misgivings of some churchmen, they were accepted in the universities. This was a great step forward for astrology, for it meant that no serious theologian would now contest the fact that the processes of change and growth on earth depended on the activities of the heavenly bodies; read the medieval scholars on Aristotle, and we find them all - from Albertus Magnus to Thomas Aquinas and Dante - accepting the astrological theory which had become a part of the philosopher's arguments; if they held strongly to free will as a cornerstone of Christian teaching, they could not now deny Aristotle's (or, for that matter, Augustine's) admission that the planets influenced human affairs. The Church was forced to see astrology as a science, and recognized it while at the same time condemning magic. Thomas Aquinas is explicit in his Summa theologiae:
The majority of men ... are governed by their passions, which are dependent upon bodily appetites; in these the influence of the stars is clearly felt. Few indeed are the wise who are capable of resisting their animal instincts. Astrologers, consequently, are able to foretell the truth in the majority of cases, especially when they undertake general predictions. In particular predictions, they do not attain certainty, for nothing prevents a man from resisting the dictates of his lower faculties. Wherefore the astrologers themselves are wont to say that 'the wise man rules the stars' forasmuch, namely, as he rules his own passions.
The spate of translations from the Arabic introduced a new element into western astrology. Ptolemy in the Tetrabiblos had concerned himself almost entirely with judicial astrology - using the positions of the planets at the time of someone's birth to look at the child's future. He ignored two aspects of astrology more important to the Arabs: interrogationes and electiones. The first concerned itself with setting up a chart in order to discover the answer to a question - the identity of a thief, perhaps, or the nature of a proposed marriage. The second was a way of discovering the propitious moment for a certain action - the sailing of a vessel, the starting of a business, the consummation of a marriage.
The election of a particular moment of time was much used by doctors to discover the proper moment at which to apply medicine, perform an operation, raise a patient from bed; in a sense it is still used in the 20th century when at least some doctors choose to operate at phases of the moon when a patient is likely to bleed less freely, or a blood donor chooses to give his blood at full moon, when he bleeds more freely.
At least one Arabic work played an important part in determining the philosophical attitude to astrology held by the English church: this was the Introductorium in astronomiam of Albumasar, translated by Herman of Dalmatia who, with Robert the Englishman (Robert of Retines), travelled in Europe in the 1140s discovering astrological works.
Albumasar's work was particularly important to those concerned about astrology's relationship to free will. He claimed that while it was certainly true that some things were unarguable - fire was hot, always had been hot, and would continue to be hot - and there was no point in contention, other elements in life were mutable: he was setting pen to paper today, but might or might not continue to write tomorrow. The planets were susceptible to reason, and their powers, divinely governed, could influence both arguable and unarguable fact.
Translations of astrological books made during the 12th century were extremely influential and widely read. Some of them became profoundly popular. Bernard Silvester, who wrote in the middle of the 12th century, produced for instance three books, each dealing with astrology, which were very widely read indeed. Silvester's Experimentarius was a verse translation of a work on astrological geomancy (a means of prediction by which a number of points were dashed down at random, and then joined together by lines, creating a number of shapes then used as a key to certain constellations or sets of tables; the resident astrologer of an hotel in Agra, India, was using it still in 1982). His Mathematicus was a narrative poem based on an astrological prediction, and De mundi universitate, was about the stars themselves and their effect on the whole of creation. The latter was, in the terms of its day, a runaway bestseller, almost immediately accepted in the major schools of Europe, where interestingly there is no record of even the slightest reaction against Silvester's calling the planets 'gods' - 'gods who serve God in person' - near enough to the Creator to receive from him the secrets of the future, which they impose upon 'the lower species of the universe, by inevitable necessity'. The whole of nature derived its life from the skies, and could not move without instructions from on high - although at the same time Silvester speaks of 'what is free in the will and what is of necessity'; somewhat confusing.
The Mathematicus is perhaps the earliest work of fiction to depend entirely on astrology for its plot, which tells of a Roman knight and his lady whose marriage is childless. The wife consults an astrologer, who predicts that she will bear a son who will become a great genius and the ruler of Rome, but will one day kill his father. The wife tells the husband, who makes her promise to kill the child in infancy. Of course, when she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, she cannot bear to have him killed, and sends him away, assuring the husband that he is dead. The child, Patricida (so named to ensure that he will hate the crime of patricide) is intellectually brilliant, learning 'the orbits of the stars and how human fate is under the stars' and 'clasping divine Aristotle to his breast'. He grows up to be a brilliant soldier, too, rescuing Rome from the attacking Carthaginians, after which the king abdicates in his favour. His mother, understandably, is both pleased for her son and anxious for his father. She tells all to her husband, who to her dismay goes to Patricida and confesses how he had once ordered him to be killed, but had been overruled by the planets, which would no doubt one day order the king to kill his father. Patricida decides to commit suicide to save them both from fate; he summons the Romans together, induces them to promise him anything, and then announces that he wishes to die ... And here, alas, the intensely operatic poem breaks off, leaving us to construct our own version of what may have happened.
The story was written, and taken, extremely seriously; critics who suggested that it was a satire were for the most part Christian clerics intent on producing anti-astrological polemics. There is no sign in the text itself to suggest that it was anything other than a straightforward tale, and its many readers took it as such.
England produced no astrologers to compete in reputation with some of those on the Continent, although the universities taught the subject (not with as determined a conviction as that displayed at, say, the universities of Bologna or Padua). English travelling scholars brought news of the latest developments of the study into the country - among them Alexander Neckham (1157-1215), who was a foster-brother of Richard I, born on the same night as the king, and sharing his mother's breasts with his future sovereign. He grew up to be a distinguished scholar and Abbot of Cirencester, and in his book De naturis rerum wrote about astrology, astronomy and natural science in general. Richard is said to have written 'something on astrology', but the manuscript has not survived.
That the peoples of Britain as a whole were affected by astrological prognostications cannot be doubted: together with most other Europeans they were thrown into a panic, for instance, by the conjunction of planets in Libra announced for 1186. Most astrologers predicted disastrous storms (Libra is an 'air' sign), with the result that many of their more credulous listeners dug underground shelters in which to pass the crisis, and services were held in many churches in an attempt to persuade the Creator to overrule the planets.
Two English writers, Roger of Hoveden and Benedict of Peterborough, attempted to comfort their hearers by recalling that an ancient astrologer, one Corumphira, had predicted that only cities in sandy regions of the earth would be affected; but Hoveden also pointed out that an English astrologer, William, clerk to John, Constable of Chester, argued that England would be included in the area of devastation as it were by divine intervention, and that 'princes should be on their guard, to serve God and flee the devil, so the Lord may avert their imminent punishments'.
As September 1186 approached, panic spread. A tract by a Saracen astrologer, Pharamella, criticizing his western colleagues' calculations, and arguing that the positions of Mars and Venus were such as to mitigate the effects of the conjunction, was too late to comfort the superstitious. As it happened, September was a rather mild and unexceptional month, and the astrologers were forced to admit that they had been mistaken: the conjunction did not provoke storms at all - instead, it instigated the victories of Saladin in the Holy Land in the following year!
As the 12th century wore on, English astrological writers continued to consolidate ancient knowledge into accepted texts. Daniel of Morley did so under the aegis of John, Bishop of Norwich; Roger of Hereford a contemporary, under that of Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of Hereford and later of London under Henry II. Daniel wrote a book dealing very thoroughly with astrology as it affected the weather, famine or plenty, events and the history of the state, with the horoscope as it revealed the life of an individual, then with its capacity for answering particular questions, and finally with 'elections', or the choosing of a moment for a particular task. The last, of course, was of use for instance when a ship's master wanted to know an auspicious moment at which to set sail on an important voyage - astrologers had already been used for centuries to predict such moments, and would continue to be used so (even by hard-headed insurers) for centuries to come.
With the 13th century came the first really notable court astrologer since Roman times of whom we have a clear record - Michael Scot, who when he died in the 1230s was astrologer to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. There is a good anecdote about Frederick II, incidentally, who during his lifetime seems to have employed a number of astrologers. When one presented himself, he decided to set him a test, and asked, 'By what gate shall I leave the castle today?' The astrologer wrote his reply, sealed it, and told the Emperor not to open it until he was outside the castle. Frederick thereupon ordered a new exit to be made in the walls, and left through the roughly cut hole. Opening the sealed message, he read: 'The king will leave today by a new way.' The astrologer was engaged.
Scot was referred to by one contemporary as 'a scrutinizer of the stars, an augur, a soothsayer, a second Apollo'. Very little is known of the life of this Scottish scholar and astrologer, but there is extensive evidence of the way in which his mind worked - a mind crammed with curious knowledge and odd theories (that, for instance, since there are fourteen joints in the fingers of the hand - and the reasons for that conclusion are not given! - man's natural lifespan should be 140 years). He discusses in a voluminous Introduction to Astrology the theory and practice of making use of the planets to discover God's purpose for man, addressing himself to all the old quesions - how the stars are signs, not causes, and how they can be used to discover 'something of the truth concerning every body produced in this corruptible world'. He castigates 'superstitious astrologers' (those who used numerology or geomancy), though he rather enjoys describing such occult means of divination as the shapes of clouds or the appearance of the surface of liquids.
Much of Michael Scot's work is muddled and derivative, but he seems to have done some original research - on, for instance, menstruation and the phases of the Moon - and to have had a strongly felt belief that the moment of conception was, if anything, more important than the moment of birth.. A woman should always, he says, note the exact time of coitus, when she may conceive, and goes into some detail about how different positions in copulation can, with the aid of the positions of the planets, have certain results at conception.
Charming magical and superstitious omens are liberally introduced into more serious astrological theories. To discover the sex of an unborn child, ask the pregnarit woman to give you her hand. If she offers the right, the child will be a boy; if the left, a girl. If a man sneezes two or four times while engaged in business, and rises and walks about immediately, he will prosper in the undertaking; but sneeze twice in the night for three successive nights, and you forecast death or disaster.
Many stories of wizardry and magic grew up around the figure of Scot. A rhyme told of his peculiar powers:
When he stampeth his foot in Spain
The bells do ring in Notre Dame.
And people whispered of his going about by riding a demon in shape of a black horse. He is said to have foretold that he would die as the result of a blow on the head, and to avoid this always wore a steel helmet. One day, at church with the emperor, he was forced to remove it, whereupon a small stone fell on his head and killed him instantly.
Some more prominent 13th-century figures had a merely peripheral interest in astrology. But all had an interest. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280, for instance, one of the greatest scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages, the teacher of St Thomas Aquinas, wrote little directly about astrology - yet his views on the subject come into most of his writings. Clearly, he shared the common belief that all earthly events were governed by the motions of the planets; it is asserted again and again, both obliquely and overtly. He defends free will, of course, but nevertheless asserts that a properly trained astrologer can, after studying the positions of the planets within the zodiac at the moment of birth, make predictions for the whole life of the infant - within the circumscription of what God allows. He asserts too that if an astrologer suggests a career for a boy, it will be as well to place him in it, for because of the planetary influence a special aptitude will be shown for it, as against another occupation which parents might prefer but the planets do not support. (This illustrates how astrological theory was coagulating: astrological advice about careers for children had been given before - by contemporaries of Aristotle, for instance - but was only now appearing in commentaries and textbooks.)
St Thomas Aquinas (c 1226-74), Albertus Magnus' pupil, was far less of a scientist and more of a theologian, held in high esteem by the Popes Urban IV and Clement III and canonized in 1323, less than half a century after his death, by John XXII. He took an attitude not unlike that of Albertus, denying that the stars were living beings, but claiming that no intelligent man could doubt that all natural motions of inferior bodies are caused by the movements of the planets and stars. He agreed too that many astrologers had made true predictions, if with the caveat that many others had made false ones!
Roger Bacon (1214-94), an Englishman born in in Somerset and educated at Oxford, had a troublesome relationship with the Church, being twice imprisoned for heresy. He mounted a violent attack on magic and on those who pretended to practise it; but he saw that some 'magicians' were in fact scientists seriously concerned to unravel the mysteries of existence; 'scientific magic' was permissible. But he entirely accepted astrology as explained by Albertus and Aquinas, and took much their view of it, going somewhat further than them in arguing that the planets can incline men to good or bad conduct, even if both might be modified by free will.
He spent quite a lot of time considering the planets and their connection with Christianity: the connection between Mercury and Christianity, for instance - the fact that that planet is dominant in Virgo, suggesting the Virgin, and the likeness between Mercury's eccentric orbit (then so difficult to trace) and the mysterious course of the Christian Creed. This theory was clearly expressed, and the Popes knew of it. Bacon was, in fact, a great believer in what we can only call astrological magic: he believed in the efficacy of verbal and real charms, for instance, if made under the proper planetary auspices, for they then stored up in them the strange energy of the stars and of the human spirit. He quotes a story of Moses escaping from a compromising amour with an Ethiopian princess by using a ring which caused her to forget him. And he claims that many of the miracles of the saints were performed by means of magic invocations spoken at the proper astrological moment.
The fact that astrology needed defending not against the Church but against some critics who put the word about that was anti-Christian, is underlined by the publication of a work attributed to Albertus, the Speculum astronomiae, a lengthy defence of astrology and astronony which seems to have been published round about 1277, at a time when Stephen, Bishop of Paris, and a number of clerical advisers published a condemnation of various opinions (219 of them, to be precise) attributed to 'Signor de Brabant, Boetius of Denmark, and others'. Many of these 'opinions' had to do with astrology - that (an old suggestion) the world would begin again when all the planets returned to their original positions at the time of the Creation; that 'the will and intellect are not moved in acts by themselves but by an eternal cause, namely, the heavenly bodies'; 'that by certain signs men's intentions and changes of mind are known, and whether their intentions will be achieved; and that by such figures are known the outcome of journeys, the captivity of men, their freedom from captivity, and whether they will become sages or scoundrels'; and 'that Christianity hinders science'. Whether by intention or coincidence, the Speculum astronomiae answers most of them.
There are other less important and far less talented astrological writers of the period whose names survive and whose books were read for centuries, despite often considerable inaccuracies and mistakes. John Holywood of Halifax is a case in point. He was born at Halifax, studied at Oxford, and settled in Paris in about 1230; his name was latinized as Johannes de Sacro Bosco. His fame rested on a short book, Tractatus de sphaera, which was copied and reprinted innumerable times, and printed and reprinted in several translations from the original Latin right up until 1647 - at least forty editions within a century - even after the many astronomical errors had been pointed out. It was used by Chaucer as source material for his Treatise on the astrolabe, and many distinguished scholars wrote commentaries on it.
But the most important astrological book published in Latin in the 13th century was the Liber astronomicus of Guido Bonatti, the astrologer Dante described as one of the sufferers in the fourth division of the eighth circle of the Inferno, among those spirits who in life had spent too much time trying to predict the future, and were now condemed to pace about with their heads on backwards.
Bonatti, perhaps the most famous astrologer of the 13th century, made his living by advising princes, and was for some time employed by Guido de Montefeltro. When that prince was involved in a dispute that led to military action, Bonatti would climb to the top of the campanile of his castle, and at the auspicious moment strike the bell once for the count and his men to don their armour, again for them to mount their horses, and a third time for them to ride forth to battle. Filippo Villani, a contemporary historian, claims that Montefeltro won many a battle by following his astrologer's advice.
Bonatti was absolutely forthright in his claims for his art:
All things [he said] are known to the astrologer. All that has taken place in the past, all that will happen in the future - everything is revealed to him, since he knows the effects of the heavenly motions which have been, those which are, and those which will be, and since he knows at what time they will act, and what effects they ought to produce.
His Liber astronomicus expresses the same modesty. He begins by stating that his book will be 'long and prolix', and indeed it is. He produced it after a lifetime's practical work as an astrologer - as a professor at the University of Bologna. His defence was opinionated, firm and pert - particularly where the opposition of some churchmen was concerned. Astrologers, he claimed, knew a great deal more about the stars than theologians knew about God, who preached about Him every day. Abraham had taught astrology to the Egyptians, Christ had used (or at least approved of using) astrology to choose propitious moments for certain tasks ('Are there not twelve hours in a day?' he had asked the disciples [John XI.9], obviously meaning that one could choose a fortunate time within them); and churchmen who said that astrology was neither an art nor a science were 'silly fools'.
Despite this, his book had some useful tips for ambitious clergymen; he lists various questions astrology can answer, and among them is whether an enquirer will ever attain the rank of bishop, abbot, cardinal - or even pope. This may have been a joke, although he goes on, very straight-faced, to say that while it may not be proper for a clergyman to ask such a question, many did, and an astrologer should be prepared to give an honest answer. Astrology could and should be used, too, to choose the propitious moment for starting to build a church, just as it would be when building a house or castle or city.
There remain two important European astrologers to be mentioned before the end of the century. The first, Peter of Albano, who was born in 1250, had a quiet but distinguished career. He travelled somewhat in his youth (to Sardinia and Constantinople, and allegedly to Spain, England and Scotland), spent some time at the University of Paris, where he was admired by Savanarola, then returned to Italy; was among those who met and talked to the great adventurer Marco Polo on his return from the Orient, and returned to Padua to die there in 1316, a highly paid professor.
Apart from his astrological writings, he was between 1285 and 1287 physician to Pope Honorius IV (he charged a hundred florins a day for his services, a very considerable sum), although this did not prevent him from getting into trouble with the Inquisition, which punished him after his death by disinterring him and publicly burning his bones - not because of his practice of astrology, however, but because of some unwise speculations about the raising of Lazarus (after only three days, he concluded, rather than four) and for questioning whether certain people raised from the dead by Christ and the saints might not in fact merely have been in a state of trance.
His reputation as a physician was very great, and supported by such authorities as Regiomontanus as well as by the popularity of his books on medicine. In his best-known book, the Conciliator, he lists over 200 questions which he has investigated, and after recalling the opinions of others, gives his own conclusions on medical matters. But elsewhere in the book he states a number of objections to astrology, and answers them with similar forthrightness, taking the standard view of the subject, underlining the fact that it is a science. Certainly, some astrologers might come to mistaken conclusions, sometimes because they were incompetent; but a good astrologer would speak the truth in most cases, and very rarely fail to be accurate in his prognostications.
As to medicine, which was his chief preoccupation, those who pursued it 'as they should, and who industriously study the writings of their predecessors, these grant that this science of astronomy is not only useful but absolutely essential to medicine.' All potions should be administered after a study of the planets' positions, and Peter goes into great detail about the theory of 'critical days' and their relation, especially, to the phases of the Moon. He discusses at some length whether blood-letting should take place at the first or some other quarter of the Moon. He certainly goes some way towards ascribing intelligence to the planets, describing one of them, on one occasion, as 'leading through all eternity a life most sufficient unto itself, nor ever growing old', and repeating a theory that associated certain angels with certain planets - Michael with the Sun, Raphael with Mercury, Gabriel with the Moon, and so on. However, he did not go far enough down the road to heresy to forgo the approval of the Pope, or during his lifetime to have any real difficulty with the Inquisition.
Cecco d'Ascoli, on the other hand, was to become famous as the only astrologer to be burned by the Inquisition. Practically nothing is known of his life and career; only that the two books which caused his execution were a poem, L'Acerba, and a commentary on the Sphere of Sacro Bosco. L'Ascerba is really hardly here or there - a sort of parody of Dante's Inferno; the Sphere commentary seems not in itself to be heretical. D'Ascoli affirms man's possession of free will, and offers no new or extreme astrological theories to upset the authorities. But there are one or two doubtful passages, in one of which he gives directions how the reader can make an image through which he can receive the messages of spirits (though he condemns magic).
He did from time to time refer bitingly to living people, and may well have made enemies. At all events, he was found guilty by the Inquisition at Bologna in 1324 of improper utterances, and given a fifteen day penance of confession, a daily recital of thirty paternosters and thirty Ave Marias, occasional fasting, and regular attendance at a sermon every Sunday. All his astrological books were taken from him, and he was forbidden to teach astrology, deprived permanently of his professor's chair and doctor's degree, and heavily fined.
Three years later he was again summoned before the Inquisitor - this time at Florence found to be a relapsed heretic who had violated the terms of his sentence (how, we do not know), handed over to the secular arm, and burned with his books by Lord Jacob of Brescia. Anyone found in possession either of the poem or the commentary was automatically excommunicated.
We would probably never have heard of Cecco d'Ascoli if he had not been burned; or, perhaps, he would have survived as a mere footnote in astrological history. Ironically, he does not really seem to have perished as a result of his astrological teaching or opinions, which were in no way outrageous - nor did he make such outrageous claims as that the earth was not the centre of the universe, which would have upset the Church. Perhaps most people at the time suspected that personal enemies were responsible for his fate; it was fairly obvious that it had nothing to do with astrology. After all, his astrology was that of Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, and the first had been canonized four years before d'Ascoli's pyre was lit, while the second was shortly to be beatified.
Moreover, during the 14th century astrology was all too often commemorated by ecclesiastical and lay authorities in permanent and respectable form to be anything but a recognizable part of the fabric of intellectual life. Look, for instance, at the capital of the eighteenth of the thirty-six great pillars supporting the lower storey of the Doge's palace in Venice, built in 1301. Ruskin described it as 'the most interesting and beautiful' capital he knew, 'on the whole, the finest in Europe'. The capitals are octagonal, and decorated by sixteen leaves; on the eighteenth capital are represented the planets in their houses, probably at the time when the cornerstone of the palace was laid.
Mars in Aries and Scorpio is particularly effective, showing a very ugly knight in chain mail with a scorpion in his hand, seated on a ram. Venus sits on a bull, with a mirror in her right hand and scales in her left (she rules Taurus and Libra); the Moon appears as a woman in a boat on the ocean, a crescent in her right hand, and drawing a crab (Cancer) out of the waves with her left. On the eighth side, God is represented creating man, his hand on the head of a naked youth.
I imagine the whole of this capital, the principal one of the old palace [Ruskin writes in The stones of Venice], to have been intended to signify first, the formation of the planets for the service of man upon earth; secondly, the entire subjugation of the fates and fortunes of man to the will of God, as determined from the time when the earth and stars were made, and, in fact, written in the volume of the stars themselves.
He summarized the 14th-century attitude to astrology, which was to remain constant for the next three hundred years."