Seminar of the History of Astronomical Sciences (next session 15th November)

The next session of the History of Astronomical Sciences Seminar will take place on Tuesday 15 November 2022, from 2 to 4 pm (Paris time).

We will have the pleasure to hear from:

(2 pm) : Ivana Gambaro (Università degli Studi di Genova) on Jesuit astronomers and the cosmological controversies of the XVIIth Century 

*Abstract*: The nature and extent of Jesuit contributions to scientific knowledge during the 17th century have been the object of in-depth historical analyses, in fact the Society of Jesus was one of the religious Order most engaged in pedagogical and scientific activities. Focusing on the post-Galilean period, I will analyze the research developed by some Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians through books, letters and other sources, highlighting the lack of a monolithic and rigid uniformity of scientific and epistemological views. There was in fact a constant tension between philosophers, theologians and mathematicians belonging to the Order, the latter torn between the need to adhere to the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition and a deep interest in innovative ideas developed in mechanics and cosmology. Moreover, the internal supervision carried out by the “Revisori Generali” often compelled individual researchers to find a complex balance between personal interests and innovative research on one hand, and true doctrine on the other. A demanding balance which often resulted in first-rate scientific activity in many Colleges, thus allowing the discovery of all sorts of natural effects, and the publication of those magnificent treatises, which, however, often present rather ambiguous considerations about cosmological models and the way in which the laws of nature operate. Here I focus on cosmological hypotheses, both geocentric and heliocentric, accepted or rejected using a palette of sophisticated arguments. My analysis will be limited to some well-known mathematicians and astronomers (G. B. Riccioli, H. Fabri, A. Tacquet, C.F. Millet Dechales), trying to understand how so many talented scholars invested all their time and energy, became masters of experimental practices, made important discoveries, published widely circulated treatises and yet played a rather minor role in the fundamental developments of the Scientific Revolution.

(3 pm) : Luís Miguel Carolino (ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa) on Geo-heliocentric controversies: The Jesuit network and the reception of Tycho Brahe in early Modern Portugal.

*Abstract*: This paper explores the reception of Tycho Brahe’s astronomical and cosmological theories in early Modern Portugal through focusing on a specific community of Jesuit scholars, a group of foreign mathematicians trained in different academic traditions from across Europe, who taught astronomy at the College of Saint Antão, Lisbon, during the first half of the seventeenth century. Recent scholarship has emphasized the role that the Jesuit polyvalent information network played in the circulation of knowledge in the early modern period. Analysis of the appropriation of Tycho Brahe’s astronomical theories by the international community of Jesuit mathematicians active in Lisbon may also offer an appropriate occasion to analyze how the Jesuit network affected the production of knowledge process itself. I argue that, despite supporting the Tychonic geo-heliocentric system, which they explicitly conceived of as a ‘compromise’ between the ancient Ptolemy and the modern Copernicus and making recourse to some of the cosmological ideas produced in Tycho’s Protestant milieu, the Jesuits active in Lisbon strove to confine the authority of the Lutheran astronomer to the domain of mathematics. Philosophy was expected to remain the realm of Catholic ortodoxy. Accordingly, although accepting cosmological ideas put forward by Tycho Brahe and his associate Christoph Rothmann, the professors of the College of Santo Antão explicitly avoided recognizing the authorship of those ideas. This case shows that the cultural politics of the Counter-Reformation, embodied here in this network of international Jesuits, curbed the reception of Tycho Brahe within a Catholic environment, such as Portugal.

Please note: this session will take place in hybrid mode:

1) By videoconference with required registration here (you will automatically receive the connection link):

2) In presence, at the Observatoire de Paris, with required registration before 10 November 2022 writing to Matthieu Husson (

More information about the seminar:


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