Regiomontanus


Regiomontanus
/ree'jee oh mon tay"neuhs, -tah"-, rej'ee-/; Ger. /rdday'gee oh mohn tah"noos/, n.
See Müller, Johann.

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▪ German mathematician
Latin name of  Johannes Müller von Königsberg 
born June 6, 1436, Königsberg, archbishopric of Mainz [Germany]
died July 6, 1476, Rome, Papal States [Italy]

      the foremost mathematician and astronomer of 15th-century Europe, a sought-after astrologer, and one of the first printers.

      Königsberg means “King's Mountain,” which is what the Latinized version of his name, Joannes de Regio monte or Regiomontanus, also means. A miller's son, he entered the University of Leipzig (Leipzig, University of) at the age of 11 and in 1450 went to the University of Vienna (Vienna, University of). Regiomontanus was awarded a baccalaureate in 1452, but university regulations forced him to wait until he turned 21 to receive his master's degree. He eventually collaborated with his teacher, the mathematician-astronomer Georg von Peuerbach (Peuerbach, Georg von) (d. 1461), on various astronomical and astrological projects, including observations of eclipses and comets, the manufacture of astronomical instruments, and the casting of horoscopes for the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III.

 The papal legate to the Holy Roman Empire, Cardinal Bessarion (Bessarion), during a diplomatic visit to Vienna (1460–61), asked Peuerbach to write an epitome, or abridgment, of Ptolemy's Almagest to remedy the problems in George Of Trebizond's 1450 translation of and commentary on that great work. When Peuerbach died in 1461, Regiomontanus left for Rome as a member of Bessarion's extended household and completed Peuerbach's half-finished Epitome (c. 1462; first printed in 1496 as Epytoma…in Almagestum Ptolomei). His demonstration of an alternative to Ptolemy's models for the orbits of Mercury and Venus with respect to the Sun gave Nicolaus Copernicus (Copernicus, Nicolaus) (1473–1543) the geometric key to reorient planetary motions around the Sun. The Epitome is still one of the best critical introductions to Ptolemy's astronomy.

      Although he admired the Almagest, Regiomontanus was keenly aware that its geometric models led to inconsistencies (notably between predictions of planetary position and predictions of planetary size). To remedy these inconsistencies, he tried to eliminate the nonconcentric, two-dimensional eccentrics and epicycles that were the mainstays of Ptolemy's models. Three-dimensional models using concentric spheres would, he believed, yield good mathematical predictions of planetary positions without jeopardizing the physical principles of natural philosophy.

      In Italy (1461–c. 1465), Regiomontanus perfected his Greek, lectured at the University of Padua (Padua, University of), read widely in Bessarion's Greek library, and fought in the latter's long feud with George of Trebizond. The controversy prompted Regiomontanus to write his longest expository work, the “Defense of Theon Against George of Trebizond,” which later fueled rumours, entirely unsubstantiated, that George's sons had him poisoned.

      Regiomontanus thoroughly mastered Hellenistic and medieval mathematics. His own contributions to the subject range from the formalization of plane (trigonometry) and spherical trigonometry (trigonometry) in De triangulis omnimodis (1464; “On Triangles of All Kinds”) to his discovery of a Greek manuscript (incomplete) of Arithmetica, the great work of Diophantus of Alexandria (fl. c. AD 250). His writings also show his interest in perfect numbers (numbers equal to the sum of their proper divisors), the Platonic solids (Platonic solid), and the solution of quadratic, cubic, and higher-dimensional equations.

      From 1467 to 1471 Regiomontanus lived in Hungary as astrologer to King Matthias I of Hungary and Archbishop Janós Vitéz. In 1471 he moved to Nürnberg, Germany, where he established an instrument shop, set up a printing press, and continued his planetary observations in collaboration with the merchant Bernhard Walther. He announced plans to print 45 works, mostly in the classical, medieval, and contemporary mathematical sciences. However, only nine editions appeared, including Peuerbach's Theoricae novae planetarum (1454; “New Theories of the Planets”), his own attack (“Disputationes”) on the anonymous 13th-century Theorica planetarum communis (the common “Theory of the Planets”), his German and Latin calendars, and his 896-page Ephemerides (daily planetary positions for 32 years, which showcase his computational skills). His editions pioneered the printing of astronomical diagrams and numerical tables. Several of the works that he prepared and had hoped to print, including editions of Euclid and Archimedes, his own astronomical Tabulae directionum (1467; “Tables of Directions”), and a table of sines that he had computed to seven decimal places, proved influential when circulated in the 15th and 16th centuries in manuscript and in print.

      In 1475 Regiomontanus traveled to Rome to advise Pope Sixtus IV about calendar reform (calendar). He died there the following year, probably from the plague precipitated by the Tiber River overflowing its banks.

Michael Shank

Additional Reading
The fundamental biography remains Ernst Zinner, Leben und Wirken des Joh. Müller von Königsberg genannt Regiomontanus (2nd rev. and enlarged ed., 1968); a not always exact English translation is Ezra Brown (trans.), Regiomontanus: His Life and Work (1990). A still useful bibliography is found in Edward Rosen, “Regiomontanus, Johannes,” in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 11 (1975), pp. 348–352.Bessarion's patronage of Regiomontanus is discussed in Michael H. Shank, “The Classical Scientific Tradition in Fifteenth-Century Vienna,” in F. Jamil Ragep, Sally P. Ragep, and Steven Livesey (eds.), Tradition, Transmission, Transformation: Proceedings of Two Conferences on Pre-Modern Science Held at the University of Oklahoma (1996), pp. 115–136.The most accessible, concise discussion of Regiomontanus's astronomical work and its impact on Copernicus appears in N.M. Swerdlow, “Astronomy in the Renaissance,” in Christopher Walker (ed.), Astronomy Before the Telescope (1996), pp. 187–230.Regiomontanus's mathematical contributions are discussed in Menso Folkerts, “Regiomontanus's Role in the Transmission and Transformation of Greek Mathematics,” in F. Jamil Ragep, Sally P. Ragep, and Steven Livesey (eds.), Tradition, Transmission, Transformation (1996), pp. 89–113.Michael Shank

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Regiomontanus —   [lateinisch »Königsberger«], eigentlich Johannes Mụ̈ller, Mathematiker und Astronom, * Unfinden (heute zu Königsberg i. Bayern) 6. 6. 1436, ✝ Rom 8. 7. 1476. Regiomontanus war Schüler G. Peurbachs in Wien, 1457 wurde er dort Mitglied der… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Regiomontānus — Regiomontānus, Johann (eigentlich Müller, auch Molitor od. Kungsperg, Johannes Germanus u. Joh. Francus), geb. 6. Juni 1456 zu Königsberg in Franken, studirte seit 1448 in Leipzig, seit 1451 in Wien unter G. Peurbach Mathematik u. zog 1461 mit… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Regiomontānus — Regiomontānus, eigentlich Johannes Müller, Mathematiker und Astronom, geb. 6. Juni 1436 in Unsind bei Königsberg in Franken (daher sein Name: R. oder »Königisberger«, Meister Johannes Künigsberger), gest. 6. Juli 1476 in Rom, studierte unter… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Regiomontanus — Regiomontānus, eigentlich Joh. Müller, Mathematiker, geb. 6. Juni 1436 zu Königsberg in Franken, lehrte in Wien, ward 1475 Bischof von Regensburg und von Papst Sixtus IV. wegen der Kalenderreform nach Rom berufen, gest. das. 6. Juli 1476;… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Regiomontanus — d.h. der Königsberger, nannte sich der um Mathematik u. Astronomie hochverdiente Joh. Müller, geb. 1436 zu Unsind bei Königsberg in Sachsen Meiningen, welcher zu Leipzig und dann zu Wien bei dem berühmten Peurbach neben der Theologie Mathematik… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Regiomontanus — (Johann Müller, connu sous le nom lat. de) (1436 1476) astronome allemand. Il détermina le parcours des comètes …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • REGIOMONTANUS — celebris Astronomus, (cuius nomen Iohannes Mullerus fuit,) Regiomonte oriundus, in Franconia. Philosophiam Lipsiae didicit, dein Viennae, sub Georgio Purbachio, Mathematicis studiisincubuit, tanto cum successu, ut illi mortuo Professor… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Regiomontanus — Infobox Scientist box width = 300px name = Regiomontanus image width = 150px caption = Regiomontanus birth date = June 6, 1436 birth place = Unfinden death date = July 6, 1476 death place = residence = citizenship = nationality = German ethnicity …   Wikipedia

  • Regiomontanus — Johannes Regiomontanus Camillus Johann(es) Müller aus Königsberg (* 6. Juni 1436 im unterfränkischen Königsberg; † 6. Juli 1476 in Rom), kurz Hans Müller, latinisiert Johannes Molitor(is), später Regiomontanus (Königsberger), war ein… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Regiomontanus — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Müller. Regiomontanus Naissance 6 juin 1436 Unfinden, près de Kö …   Wikipédia en Français


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