Tag Archives: Torquetum

The Collegius Maius of the Jagiellonian University

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Copernicus studied in the Collegius maius between 1491 and 1495. On the list of 69 students matriculated in 1491 at the Cracok Academy were “Nicolaus Nicolai de Thuronia” and aslso his brother “Andreas Nicolai”. The Jagiellonian University consisted offour faculties at the time (the Theological Faculty, the Canonical La Faculty, the Medical Faculty and the Liberal Arts Faculty). Copernicus began his studies learning the grammar of Latin, poetry and rhetoric but he early started to attend lectures on Euclidean geometry and astronomy. During the 15th and early 16th centuries, the University gained importance in Central Europe as a scientific center due to the high level of astronomical and mathematical sciences: the distinguished professors of the time included Marcin Hrol (c.1422-c.1453), Wojciech of Brudzewo (1445-1495), Jan of Glogow (c.1445-1507) and Maciej of Miechow (1453-1523). In the second semester of 1493 he attended lectures of Jerzy Peürbach, with the comments of Wojciech of Brudzewo, and the lectures about Aristotle’s De Caelo. It’s unknown when Copernicus brothers finished their studies n Cracow but they surely didn’t receive their degrees. Perhaps their mother’s death in 1495 caused their return to Prussia.

Thus one of the required mathematical visits that must be done in Cracow is this College:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The building hosts an interesting museum with a lot of old objects which are not directly related to the College but I must recognize that it’s possible to imagine how the academical life was in the 15th century. The first room is a big hall full of shelves with books, statutes, quadrants, portraits, maps and spheres:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Everything takes you back to a ‘kitsch’ Renaissance:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There is space for our Copernicus, of course,…:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

…and also for Galileo:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

There is a special small room dedicated exclusively to Copernicus with astrolabes, charts, books and copies of some interesting documents:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

For example, look at this interesting torquetum made by Hans Dorn in 1480 (the astrolabe was also made by Dorn in 1486)…:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

…or this portrait of Kepler from the 18th century:

Portrait of Johannes Kepler

Portrait of Johannes Kepler

Furthermore, a bust of Isaac Newton…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

… is on the top of the door through which you enter a room full of astronomical and mathematical instruments:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Can you see this little Aechimedes screw?

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Before ending the visit, Newton (again!) says goodgye to the visitors in a very modern picture:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

And Kepler too!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

One thing more… Go to the ticket office and you will see some mathematical objects more like these English Napier Rods from the 17th century:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Location: Collegius Maius (map)

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The National Technical Museum in Prague

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

This is one of the Top 10 Museums in Prague! The museum was founded in 1908 and has been in its current location since 1941. It’s a very big building and the collection exhibited is so big although the exhibition about transports is its main attraction:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

But for me, the exhibition about Astronomy has been the interesting part of the museum and I have been able to visit it on my own meanwhile my children were playing in another room with some technical toys. The astronomical rooms are very dark so it has been very difficult to take good pictures although I’ve tried to do my best. The collections has sundials, armilar spheres, quadrants, astrolabes,… and a lot of other astronomical instruments:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

For example, the polyhedrical sundials are so beautiful like this constructed on a cube by German David Beringer around 1750:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Or… what about this other constructed by Mathias Karl Krausler in 1691?

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The oldest exhibited astrolabe is this unsigned one from around 1450:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

And there also is an unsigned torquetum from the late 16th century:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

One of the instruments which have surprised me has been Joost Bürgi’s sextant for measuring the angles of celestial bodies (I knew that Bürgi, one of the inventor of logarithms, had constructed a lot of clocks and astronomical instruments but I didn’t expect to find one here!). Kepler used it to measure two consecutive oppositions of the planet Mars in 1602 and 1604.

There also is Habermel’s sextant, built by Erasmus Habermel (1538 – 15th of November of 1606 in Prag) who was  mechanic at the court of Emperor Rudolph II:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The prevailing opinion for a long time was that the instrument belonged to Brahe and so it was called the “Tychonian sextant”.

Habermel was specialised in small devices and portable sundials and one example is this sundial in the form of a book (c.1600)…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

… and another is this equinoctial sundial (1585):

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Finally, look at this armilar sphere from the second half of the 16th century! It’s a piece of art!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

LocationNational Technical Museum in Prague (map)