Next for SWEMN: Fleck on Falling Stars

The next meeting of the South West Early Modernist Network is on Wednesday 29th April, at Bath Spa, starting at 6.30pm.

Dr Andy Fleck of San Jose State University will be giving a paper entitled:

“Stars May Fall”: John Bainbridge and the Anglo-Dutch Moment of 1618

Abstract: In 1618 three comets streaked across the skies within just a few months of each other. The unusual conjunction of comets in such quick succession<occurring as efforts to forestall a confessional war strained and eventually ruptured over the Bohemian crisis<ignited controversy among European stargazers who argued over their significance. Did these comets foretell the conflagration that would engulf the Continent? Or, on the other hand, did these rare stellar occurrences carry no special meaning beyond their novelty as unusual natural phenomena? Did these comets signal divine displeasure, or were they merely symptomatic of unexplained natural occurrences? The question drew Kepler and Galileo, among others, into commenting on the situation.

In England, a precocious astronomer, John Bainbridge, entered into the controversy as well. Bainbridge had published his careful measurements of the third comet’s path, bringing him to the attention of early modern London’s scientific community and earning him an appointment as the inaugural Savilian Chair in Astronomy at Oxford. At the same time, his pamphlet included a small appendix in which he attempted some tepid ‘morall prognosticks’ on the ‘celestiall signe’ to be observed in the comet’s bisecting the constellation Libra’s scales of justice. Straddling the divide between empirical observation and astrological prognostication, Bainbridge’s pamphlet enters into the debate over the spectacular trio of 1618 comets, linked at the time to the demise of both Walter Ralegh and the Dutch politician Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, as well as to the events shaping Anglo-Dutch relations of the middle Jacobean period.

Wine will be served after Andy’s paper, followed by dinner in a Bath pub. Directions and a map of the campus are here. We will meet in the Castle, room CE.G01 on the ground floor (yes, a real castle!). The nearest car park is next to Newton building (see map); directions to Newton Park by public transport are also on the BSU website.

The next SWEMN paper will be in May (date t.b.c) and will be given by Dr Rebecca Bailey of the University of Gloucestershire – further details to follow.

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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