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Kepler's Temple of Urania in the light of Hebenstreit's Idyll

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The frontispiece of Kepler’s Tabulae rudolphinae (1627) shows a temple of Urania (the muse of astronomy), liberally equipped with astronomers ancient and modern, goddesses, diagrams, inscriptions, and coins scattered from the beak of the Imperial eagle hovering above. It is accompanied by a 458 hexameter explanatory Idyllion by Johann Baptist Hebenstreit (Rector of the Ulm gymnasium). The frontispiece has attracted extensive attention in the secondary literature, the poem much less, perhaps because it is difficult and elaborate. After saying a little about what is known of the circumstances of production of the image and poem, I shall consider the ways in which Hebenstreit handles the main themes of the image: the progress of astronomy through the ages, the roles of instruments and observations, the battle of the world systems, and the production of the Tabulae rudolphinae under Imperial patronage. I shall also speculate on the significances of certain notable omissions and apparent misrepresentations. This talk is based on the work of a team including also Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Christopher Lewis and Isla Fay.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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