Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th Century

By Michael Windelspecht | Go to book overview

T

Telescope (1608–1672): Well before the time of the ancient Greeks, early civilizations devoted considerable time to the construction of temples to help predict and explain the patterns in the night sky. Archeological investigations in our century have gathered considerable evidence that Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids, as well as Indian and Mayan temples not only may have served as religious centers for their times, but also may have been designed as astronomical observatories. While these structures appear to have had some accuracy in the prediction of events such as eclipses and the passage of seasons, they were limited to observations that could be made only with the naked eye.

Even the ancient Greeks, with their philosophical interest in explaining the laws of the world around them, would so be confined in their observations. While notable Greek astronomers such as Hipparchus made significant contributions to calculations on the distance to the moon, the inability of the Greeks to visualize the true complexity of the universe would result in an oversimplification of the structure of the universe. Claudius Ptolemy, in part using data derived by Hipparchus, constructed a model of the universe in which the Earth was the central object. A series of transparent spheres surrounded the Earth, on which the planets, moon, and stars rode. This spherical nature of the heavens, called the Ptolemaic System, would inaccurately guide both scientific investigations and religious beliefs until the invention of the telescope some sixteen centuries later (see HELIOCENTRISM).

To this day there remains considerable uncertainty on the early history of the telescope. While the use of the term telescope did not occur until the 17th century, investigations on the properties of light, specif-

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Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Experiments, Inventions and Discoveries 1
  • A 3
  • B 15
  • C 34
  • E 54
  • F 64
  • G 70
  • H 81
  • J 109
  • K 115
  • L 121
  • M 148
  • N 173
  • O 177
  • P 187
  • S 201
  • T 224
  • V 241
  • Appendix 245
  • Glossary of Technical Terms 247
  • Selected Bibliography 257
  • Subject Index 261
  • Name Index 267
  • About the Author 271
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