From the 14th century on, an unprecedented confluence of ideas, people and tools led to an explosion of discoveries. Astronomy, which had remained unchanged for more than a millenium, was transformed. The Astronomy portion of the "Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World" exhibition features rare items that describe this journey of discovery, including those highlighted below.
Almagest (The greatest book), 1279, Claudius Ptolemy
Completed around 150, Ptolemy's description of an Earth-centered system remained unchallenged for more than 1,400 years. This copy of the Almagest, one of The Huntington's oldest science manuscripts, was written on parchment made from animal skins.
De revolutionibus orbis coelestum (On the revolution of heavenly bodies), 1566, Nicolas Copernicus (Edwin Hubble's copy)
Copernicus' De revolutionibus demoted Earth from its position in the center of the universe. The work was declared heretical by the Roman Catholic Church but Catholics were permitted to read it once censors marked out prohibited passages, as they did in this copy.
Sidereus nuncius (Starry messenger), 1610, Galileo Galilei
In this birth announcement of the telescope, Galilei made the startling claim that heavenly objects were not perfect spheres. The illustrations shown here are the first ever made of the Moon under magnification.
Philosophi naturalis principia mathematica (Mathematical principles of natural philosophy), 1687, Isaac Newton
The publication of this work revolutionized astronomy, providing mathematical models of the physical workings of the universe in more detail and with more accuracy than its predecessors. This is Newton's own copy of the book, with annotations in his hand.
Letter to George Ellery Hale, 1913, Albert Einstein
In this letter, Einstein asks George Ellery Hale, director of the Mount Wilson Observatory and a renowned solar astronomer, whether it would be possible to measure starlight bending around the sun during the day.
Follow along on the journey of discovery!
Astronomy interactive timeline. >>
"The calcium in our bones was created inside a star."
Chris Butler, Griffith Observatory
"Often explanations have a beauty in their simplicity."
Paul Nurse, Biochemist and President of Rockefeller University
"The laws that govern the things that you see are totally invisible."
Kenneth Phillips, California Science Center