JESUITICA: Casting light on the sun

December 8, 2009 in General, News

scheiner_01Curious that one of the pioneers of the scientific study of the sun should be called Scheiner. The man in question, Christoph Scheiner (1579-1650), was a German Jesuit and an astronomer and mathematician. He seems to have beaten Galileo, by a number of months, to the discovery of sunspots. He himself was in no doubt that he got there first, and the question of priority caused a long and bitter dispute between the two men. In fact, however, both of them were beaten to it (one year earlier) by Frisian astronomers David and Johannes Fabricius. Unfortunately for Scheiner’s reputation, these other pioneers recognised that sunspots argued in favour of Copernicus’ heliocentric view of the cosmos, whereas Scheiner himself defended the geocentric model to the end.