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Mathematical Treasure: Astronomy of Hevelius and Hevelius

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) was a Polish born astronomer and instrument maker who functioned within the German Empire. Well respected for his work, he discovered new comets and constellations. The astronomer published some of his findings in Cometographia (1668). In this work, Hevelius theorized that comets orbit past the sun in parabolic paths. Here are images, courtesy of the University of Oklahoma Library, of this book’s title page and frontispiece:

Title page of Cometographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1668

Frontispiece of Cometographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1668

Hevelius studied astronomy under Peter Crüger (1580-1639). Crüger began the construction of a large azimuthal quadrant. He did not finish the project; the quadrant was completed by his student, Hevelius. A print showing the quadrant was included as Figure H in the first volume of Machina coelestis, published by Hevelius in 1673.

Figure H from Machina coelestis by Johannes Hevelius, volume 1, 1673                              

Hevelius’s wife, Catherina Elisabetha Koopman Hevelius (1647-1693), was also an astronomer. The print below, which appears as Figure O in Machina coelestis, shows Elisabetha and Johannes working together.

 Figure O from Machina coelestis by Johannes Hevelius, volume 1, 1673                                          

Both of the images from Machina coelestis above were presented courtesy of the Smithsonian Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Astronomy of Hevelius and Hevelius," Convergence (October 2018)

Dummy View - NOT TO BE DELETED