Uraniborg and Greenwich
As late as in the 18th
century many actual scientific astronomic observatories
Astronomy for the Sake of Astrology
Astrologers - in Antiquity often called Chaldeans or Magicians - belonged to the clergy, but was also attached to the court as royal advisers. Such customs have followed the kings ever since - officially until only 250 years ago.
Calisthenes, who accompanied Alexander the Great when he conquered Babylon, had sent to his uncle - i.e. Aristotle the Philosopher, a former teacher of Alexander, back in Greece - a series of Babylonian observations, which he found stored in the Babylonian capital. The texts were inscribed in hard-burnt clay tablets.
These astronomic records appeared to reach back 1903 years prior to Alexander, i.e. till approx. 2250 BC, which are corresponding with some of the oldest clay tablets with astronomic observations so far excavated.
Later in Europe the astronomical science and boundaries were established in forms lined out on the basis of classical authorities like Aristotle, Apollonius, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy, who was an astronomer as well as astrologer.
Up till 17th and 18th century in many cases astronomy was in practice also an
aid for astrological computations. Copernicus (1473-1543) was among the
exceptions by primarily researching in the passed on astronomical data, and published
the new picture of the world with the Sun as the centre, but he is not known
for horoscopes or other examples of astrology.
In modern times after the introduction of the computerized telescope - which both opens up the roof of the observatory, adjusts the telescope, takes photos, writes out the observed lines of spectrum, wavelengths, etc, as well as closes everything down afterwards, or stops during a program in case of rain - allowing the astronomer to keep up with his normal bedtime and without having seen a single star.
Only a few observations are known in the
approx. 1450 years between Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe; even Copernicus made only
27 observations in 30 years. It was also detaining for the development that
observatories were very scarce in Europe until there was invented two
conclusive and important instruments, i.e. the telescope - by Galileo among
others in 1609 - and the pendulum clock - inspired by Galileo when invented in
1657 by Huygens. Another detaining factor was apparently the prohibition of the
Catholic Church on using numeral digits, i.e. “Arabic numerals”, as we do today
- which also holds the practically indispensable zero. For a long time the
church ordered the use of Roman numerals (which
were letter signs) - quite unwieldy for computation.
a well developed astronomy for use in
navigation was for a long time a priority desire and an absolute necessity. In Portugal in the 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator (or the Seafarer) established the
later so famous navigation school, which included a small observatory. The Portuguese name of this pioneer was Dom Henriques O Navigador,
1394-1460. In addition to his princely
rank he was also head of expeditions, and governor, as well as Grand Master of
the Order of the Knights Templar. The task of being Grand Master seems to have
been essential for his scientific initiatives.
Correspondingly, Rodrigo Faleiro, Astronomer and Astrologer, taught his friend, Magellan, also a great explorer, computation of degrees of longitude. However, Faleiro excused himself from following Magellan on the first circumnavigation of the globe: this because from the stars Faleiro had “learnt” that the astrologer on this voyage was likely to be killed en route - quite natural as the rate of death on such expeditions could be extremely high.
It was also in focus that Faleiro predicted that Magellan, the very leader, would die, but he did not tell this. The astrologer, who in stead had participated, was a high-ranking captain - both areas were thus within the reach of education. His name was Andreas de San Martin of Seville, and he was murdered en route after the island of Zebu. Although to pass away on long journeys was normal, to be killed was something else. Also Magellan died before their return.
Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), the French Queen, used councelling from Cosimo Ruggiero, the Italian Astrologer, and later the Michel Notredame we know as Nostradamus, Astrologer and Doctor. This talented clairvoyant personality had an observatory/terrace room on top of his house in the south of France in the mid 16th century.
As an aid Nostradamus used a deep vessel filled with water and placed on a bronze trivet for observations of the celestial stars passing zenith. This was based on the old method, i.e. the stars reflecting in the surface of the water in a well which at the same time protected from disturbing sidelight. Nostradamus also served King Charles IX, the son of Catherine de Medici, even as his physician-in-ordinary.
Henry IV, the king’s successor, had the astrologer Lariviere send for upon the birth of Louis XIII. Also when Anna of Austria, his queen, gave birth to Louis XIV, the “Roi Solei”, an astrologer was present in a hidden way, i.e. behind a screen, all for the purpose to be able to cast a horoscope as reliable as possible as time concerns.
The “hidden” astrologer was Jean Baptiste Morin de Villefrance - known as Morinus - who later became the protégé of the succeeding queen, Maria de Medici. But all this “running about” from observatory to childbed made counseling difficult for the various astrologers, who were often among the regent’s closest confidants.
Therefore, it was an early practice to establish a kind of “observatory” or the like in connection with royal residences allowing a more direct counseling for kings or princes. And in the centre of the complex of palaces framing the Place Vendôme in Paris, owned by Maria de Medici, she had in the 17th century Morin build the “column” - which partly became the model for Napoleon’s later Vendôme column at this place. It was just a “slim tower” equipped with an interior staircase up to the small observatory-room and -platform on top.
Morin lived during a transition period, as he was the first who invented the construction of making the old astronomical quadrant instrument to be assembled with the telescope - and he was also the last State-employed royal astrologer in France with an astrological “counseling office” - and the observatory conveniently close to his royal employers.
The Vatican Star Observatory
Also the Vatican had an observatory - to be used by the papal astrologer. By turns the popes accepted or prohibited astrology, however, without the prohibition being valid for the popes themselves. Despite the fact that this “astrologer’s room” in he Vatican was gradually equipped as an actual observatory with telescopes etc, thus allowing the detailed exploration of “the celestial mechanism”, it was as late as in 1835 that the pope felt compelled to cancel the clerical ban on Copernicus’ “new” picture of the world from 1543, concerning the Sun and not the Earth being the centre of the planetary system.
In the meantime, in 1600, the church had Giordano Bruno burnt alive at the stake for his repeated denial of the Holy Spirit, a crime aggravated by his dissemination of his theories about the new system and about “other suns in space”. Later the church made Galileo a life prisoner in house arrest and he was being censored, “Imprimatur”. During the entire period up till 1822 the church also had Copernicus’ book, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium”, blacklisted on the Vatican’s list of Prohibited Books, the notorious “Index”.
So the papal astronomers have in turns had to
suppress or ignore what they could read and check up with Kepler from approx.
1610 as well as what they could observe with their own eyes as to the
correctness of the Copernicus theory, which now by use of the telescope could
confirm the so-called parallel axis phenomenon (arisen from the rotation of the
Earth around the Sun).
To astronomers it was not important whether
the Sun or the Earth was the centre, because it would change nothing in their
tables or computations. And when Copernicus’ numeral statements did not
correspond very well with the very exact observations of Tycho Brahe, this was
one main reasons for Tycho Brahe not to accept all points of the Copernicus
system. Because of the possibility of exact observations, it can still be preferred
to navigate ships with a consequent, simpler computation based on the old
celestial model with the earth as centre.
Astrology and Printing From Same Observatory
Small domestic observatories were by and large the only ones in existence both before and after Tycho Brahe, until the “Round Tower” in Copenhagen was constructed and brought in play in 1642. This became Europe’s first State observatory.
In Denmark State-subsidized domestic observatories were in operation from 1610 and further on - among others especially by Longomontanus, student of Tycho Brahe’s. He was also an astrologer and teacher of this subject among others at the University of Copenhagen. His successor was Erik Olufsen Torm - and later famous Ole Roemer, who preferred to observe from his apartment in Store Kannikestraede (and then built his own observatory in Taastrup outside Copenhagen) - although he was in charge of the observatory at the “Round Tower”.
From approx. 1820 it was also done this
way at H.C. Schumacher’s. He was the famous founder and editor of the
international magazine, the “Astronomische Nachrichten”, still in existence
(now in Germany). For this, he right from the start - like Tycho Brahe and
others - had his own printing office in his well equipped domestic observatory
in Altona (at that time Danish territory) close to Hamburg.
By means of three fingers it is possible to count European sites deserving the designation observatory - until the building of the “Round Tower” in Copenhagen in 1637 - and the purpose of all three of them was also astrological, indeed. Wilhelm of Hesse, Landgrave and learned in astronomy and astrology, had established an observatory in his castle in Cassel ,and it was managed by his assistant, Christoffer Rothmann.
They were both corresponding animatedly with Tycho Brahe, the Danish nobleman and first modern research scientist, whose small palace, the Uraniborg, on the then Danish island of Hven, was primarily equipped as an observatory and an alchemist shop rather than a palace.
The Uraniborg, having a double capacity construction due to the attached underground observatory complex, the “Stjerneborg”, was - despite its relatively short existence - to become one of the most famous observatories ever. And in principle it also became a model for all later scientific observatories.
Up till then, Europe had never mastered anything like it, and we shall have to go back till the giant installations of Al Ma’nun, Caliph of Baghdad in the 9th century, and to Cairo in the 11th century, and possibly to the Persian observatory installations, the Maragha, in the 13th century to find something comparable to this. And at these very big observatories also astrology was performed for the benefit of the rulers of the countries in question.
The third of the mentioned regular European observatories was in Nuremberg. Here resided Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436-1476), Astrologer and Astronomer, especially known as Regiomontanus, the Latin form of his name. Together with Bernhard Walther, his wealthy student, he set up a very fine observatory in Walther’s home.
In this, the second oldest regular observatory (although set up in a home), Regiomontanus had also installed his printing office, where he as the first reprinted Ancient scientific works. And around 1540 in Ingolstad, Petrus Apianus, another astronomer, had also set up his own printing office for publishing of for instance his works on astronomy.
By knowing these “models”, Tycho Brahe established - besides setting op a shop of mechanics - not only his own printing office, the “typographia”, but he also built his own paper mill that he independently could publish his own works from the island of Hven.
Tycho Brahe met the combination of astronomy
knowledge and printing also in another way: at Lorentz Benedict’s, the Printer
and Xylograph of Copenhagen. In 1573, Benedict printed Tycho Brahe’s first
book, “De nova stella”, and for several years he also published the
oldest Danish “planet books” on “what human beings will meet of happiness and
unhappiness”, with the title, “En Astronomische bescriffuelse” (semi-German
for ‘An Astronomical Description’).
“Today the Planets Stood Still”
Books of that kind, for instance “hour-books”, had already been known in Italy, France, and Germany for several hundred years. They developed into calendars, where for each day it was possible to read the different aspects of celestial bodies, i.e. about the angular relations of their changing mutual positions, and about eclipses, etc. The users of such almanacs could be inspired, for instance Thomas Kingo, a Danish Hymn Writer, who wrote in his diary on a certain day in January in the 17th century, “… today the planets stood still!”
Literature researchers have been unable to understand what this means. This might either be because the planets known at that time all were positioned in a track turning point, which seen from Earth may look like a stand-still (“stationary”) - or it may be a day when no celestial bodies made mutual aspects. Both situations are rather rare.
As late as in 1849 such planet books of the original type were published in Denmark. This publishing tradition is still maintained especially in England and Germany, and from the early 1980ties they have reappeared in Danish and versions, likewise for instance in Germany.
At a certain time Tycho Brahe made his
own astrological calendars especially containing weather forecasts - this was
part of his duties as a royal astrologer. He also cast a horoscope in order to
find out the most favourable time to start his printing office (also concerning
the Basiliskos star). On 27th November, 1584 (Julian calendar) in his
observatory diary he writes that
First and last it was on an astrological
basis that Tycho Brahe was extremely dissatisfied with the at that time existing
inaccurate tables of stars and planets, and other poor material passed on,
which made the computation work difficult and reduced the possibilities for
reaching fairly exact predictions. This meant that first he had to work
extraordinarily within this neglected area.
Also the observatory wells of this underground, branch observatory he provided with another of his inventions, the revolving observatory roof domes. During his life of only 54 years he yielded so much which in other cases might have required several lives or generations - i.e. to revolutionize the astronomy, which by and large had not changed since Antiquity: Tycho Brahe founded modern astronomy.
The superiority of the ancient Babylonians within ancient astronomy was in particular due to the regularity of their celestial observations through centuries. This lead to their giant star book-keeping, from where they could extract all necessary data on the patterns of positional changes and cycles of celestial bodies - with impressive accuracy. All of which with two important purposes: calendars and astrological forecast, often combined.
Serial observations had previously (shortly by the Arabs)been known, but Tycho Brahe was the first in history, who carried out a concentrated, targeted, and regular observation programme - through 21 years - and several hundred years were to pass, before such a systematic research was carried out again. To this he also invented the research objectivity criteria, “the scientific method”, i.e. to repeat an observation several times, made out independently by many different persons and with different instruments, so that it can be checked how close they are to the same result - followed by presenting an extraction with a so far unseen exact average value.
In 1580 and together with Poul Wittich,
a guest assistant, Tycho Brahe invented logarithmic computation prior to the
invention done by Scottish Baron John Napier of Merchistoun, in 1617, of the
present form of this computation method. Napier used the method in particular
in connection with astrology, which, according to contemporary sources, he was
Tycho Brahe’s courageous effort was that he refused to accept the numeral material passed on, until he had been able to control the measuring and test the calculations with a so far unknown accuracy. However, everything took place on the basis of his original starting point which in reality was - maintained all his life, cf. his autobiography (published four years prior to his death) - that he most of all wished to improve astronomy in order to improve astrology.
The Brahe Horoscope for Uraniborg - and Flamsteed’s for Greenwich
When Tycho Brahe founded the Uraniborg, he had made horoscope computations in order to find the most favourable time. The carved porphyry stone was previously delivered to him by his friend, Charles Dancay, the French Ambassador, who had the date “1st of August” carved into the stone. No horoscope in writing has been passed on, but Tycho Brahe must have found a more appropriate time than the carved date, because in his book’s description of the Uraniborg he says that it only took place on 8th August (old calendar style) 1576 by sunrise.
A little earlier on that day Dancay
together with other noblemen and learned friends arrived already at the island of Hven. They poured out drinking sacrifices of various wines, and they said a
prayer for care from the providence, followed by the founding of the stone - as
Tycho Brahe says,
One of the first office deeds of John Flamsteed, England’s first Astronomer Royal, was to cast a horoscope for the most favourable moment for founding of the Greenwich Observatory. The still existing horoscope shows the time 10th August (old calendar style) 3:14 pm 1675. Flamsteed has not indicated fixed stars in the Greenwich Observatory horoscope, but in important features he has evidently copied the almost 100 year older horoscope made for the most famous observatory of the past, the Uraniborg.
In this way Flamsteed choose this exact
time of the year, where both the Sun - like in the Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg
horoscope - passes the royal star, Basislikos/Regulus, and forms a conjunction
with this, in addition to the fact that Jupiter also in the same way was
positioned at the ascendant (note the “odd” time). And it was tried to avoid
Saturn in the 4th house and instead have it reach the 5th house. Mutual for
both horoscopes are also to have Venus positioned in Leo and Mercury in Virgo.
Ove von Spaeth