Domenico Maria Novara

Domenico Maria Novara, an Italian astronomer/astrologer, was born July 29, 1454.  Novara taught astronomy at the University of Bologna, and as was required of nearly all academic astronomers, he issued annual astrological prognostications about the good and bad things...

Johann Schoner

Johann Schöner, a German mathematician and astronomer, was born Jan. 16, 1477.  We celebrated his birthday four years ago, when we discussed his connections with Georg Rheticus, Nicholas Copernicus, and Johannes Petreius (publisher of Copernicus’ milestone book), as...

Differentiating Astronomy and Astrology in Early Modern Europe

If today there is a sharp distinction between astronomy, the science of stars, and astrology, using horoscopes to make prediction, that has not always been the case. Before the seventeenth century, the words astronomy and astrology were often used interchangeably, and most astronomers (for example, Ptolemy and Kepler) were also astrologers. In this talk, we will examine how the distinction between astronomy and astrology had been puzzling scholars for centuries, and how a consensus was finally found in the early modern period. Behind this question of terminology lies the problem of distinguishing good and bad knowledge, and judging  the heritage of the past. It is a question about the bases and norms of scientific knowledge. It is a question about building boundaries in the intellectual world.

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Jacques Gaffarel

Jacques Gaffarel, a French classical scholar and orientalist, died Dec. 1, 1681. Historians of science sometimes highlight individuals who do not really fit their times and seem to have appeared just to show that the evolution of ideas is in no way linear and...

Andrea Argoli

Andrea Argoli, an Italian astronomer, was born Mar. 15, 1570 (or perhaps 1568).  All of the available biographies pretty much agree on the skimpy details of Argoli’s life – he was an avid astrologer, teaching at the Sapienza in Rome until 1627, when he ran...