“The invention of the Dutch telescope. Its origin and impact on science, culture and society, 1550-1650”
Symposium held at the Roosevelt Academy Middelburg, (International Honors College of Utrecht University), Thursday 25 – Saturday 27 September 2008 in Middelburg, The Netherlands (The cradle of the Dutch telescope)
Organized in cooperation with the Huygens Institute for the History of Literature, Science and Scholarship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Hague
————————————————————————— In September 2008 it will be exactly 400 years ago that the Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lipperhey travelled from Middelburg, the capital of the Province of Zeeland, to The Hague, the seat of the States General, then the governing body of the Dutch Republic, to apply for a patent for ‘a certain instrument for seeing far’. Lipperhey’s application is the oldest known record anywhere in the world of an actual and usable telescope, an instrument that has changed the world in many respects: both the telescope and the microscope (an instrument developed directly from the telescope) have been of vital importance for military, navigational and scientific use.
During his stay in The Hague the spectacle maker demonstrated the telescope to the Stadholder, Prince Maurits of Orange, and several other court officials and diplomats, who had gathered in this city for a peace conference. In this diplomatic context the vital importance of the telescope was grasped immediately. The news of the new strategic ‘spyglass’ spread throughout Europe like wildfire. As a result, Lipperhey was ordered to produce several telescopes. A patent was, however, not granted, as Lipperhey’s invention was disputed, for instance by his fellow-citizen Sacharias Jansen and by Jacob Metius of Alkmaar. However, within less than six months after Lipperhey’s demonstration in The Hague, the telescope was in the possession of the most important European authorities: at least one telescope was owned by the States General; another was held by their commander-in-chief; a third and a fourth had been sent to the French King and his prime minister; another instrument was in the hands of the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, and even the Pope in Rome had received a telescope, a gift from one of the Vatican diplomats. The significance of the instrument increased further when, starting in 1609, Galileo Galilei used more powerful telescopes of ‘Dutch design’ in Italy for his astronomical discoveries. Of these the satellites of Jupiter are the most famous. Now the telescope also had become a major tool for astronomy.
In 2008 The Netherlands will celebrate this landmark in the history of Western culture with a number of activities, one of these will be the symposium held in Middelburg, the cradle of the Dutch telescope: an instrument with a convex objective lens and a concave eyeglass.
In the Middelburg symposium several internationally renowned historians of science, cultural and intellectual historians, historians of literature, archaeologists and other scholars in the field of historic scientific instruments will reflect on the historic importance of the instrument in the first years of its existence. Recent insights in the prehistory of the telescope and the production and distribution of glass technology will allow this interdisciplinary group of scholars to shed new light on the cultural, technical, and scientific circumstances that led to the construction of the instrument. Speakers will place the invention of the telescope within the economic, political, and religious contexts of the emerging Dutch Republic, Middelburg and the Province of Zeeland to respond to the question of why it took place in Middelburg in September 1608. Recent finds of early 17th-century telescopes will contribute to our understanding of the enormous impact of the Dutch telescope in science, culture and society, from its use for navigational purposes on VOC ships, its attractiveness as an object worthy of mercantile and princely collections, its metaphorical use in early modern literature to its revolutionary impact in optics, astronomy and cosmology.
Invited speakers · Klaas van Berkel (Groningen University) · Mario Biagioli (Harvard University) · Marvin Bolt (Adler Planetarium, Chicago) · Daniëlle Caluwé (Free University Brussels) · Floris Cohen (Utrecht University) · Sven Dupré (Ghent University) · Rob van Gent (Utrecht University) · Albert van Helden (Emeritus Utrecht University & Rice University) · Vincent Ilardi (University of Massachusetts) · Michael Korey (Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon Salon, Dresden) · Antoni Malet (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) · Jan Parmentier (Ghent University) · Eileen Reeves (Princeton University) · Mark Smith (University of Missouri) · Katrien Vanagt (Twente University) · Rienk Vermij (University of Oklahoma). · Rolf Willach (Independent Scholar, Switzerland)
Organizing Committee · Albert van Helden, Albert Clement, Sven Dupré, Peter Louwman, Rob van Gent, Huib Zuidervaart
Potential participants can subscribe to the conference through the website www.roac.nl of the Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg, Zeeland. Lange Noordstraat 1 4331 CB Middelburg The Netherlands
or by sending an e-mail to:
Dr. Huib J. Zuidervaart Huygens Institute (KNAW) P.O. Box 90.754 2509 LT The Hague The Netherlands E-mail: [email protected]
For hotel information in Middelburg, see: www.hotels.nl/nl/Middelburg