Friday, March 3, 2017

Maria Cunitz - 17th-Century Astronomer

Urania Propitia is a remarkable volume for many reasons. Published in 1650, this work of astronomy demonstrates a command of high-level mathematics and astronomical calculation. It also reveals a deep understanding of Keplerian astronomy; its author both simplified and corrected Kepler's math for locating planetary positions. Finally, the book was written in German as well as Latin, which helped to both establish German as a language of science and make the tables accessible outside of the university. But Urania Propitia lays claim to yet another impressive quality: It was written by a woman astronomer named Maria Cunitz.

Publication (paid for by Maria c.1650) of this work — the earliest high-level printed scientific book written by a woman — caused Cunitz (1610 - 1664) to be aclaimed as the most learned woman in astronomy since the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria.

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