Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hamlet's Universe - 6

Hamlet’s Universe     Part 6 of 9

Now we want to look at Bacon’s familiarity with the key players in astronomical studies. It’s not just the mentioning of the names that is important, but also showing the ideas that Bacon pondered, again showing his deep knowledge of contemporary astronomical research, and also the ideas that Prof. Usher may also have found in the Shakespeare works. You need to at least read Hamlet’s Universe to begin to appreciate some of these excerpts.

First,  we start with some excerpts from Bacon’s writings mentioning Ptolemy.

“Not however that there is any hope of gaining any truth of the purer kind from these or the like theories. For as the same phenomena, the same calculations, are compatible with the astronomical principles both of Ptolemy and Copernicus; so this common experience of which we are now in possession, and the ordinary face of things, may adapt itself to many different theories, whereas to find the real truth requires another manner of severity and attention.”

“…but that would be the best history of the celestial bodies which might be extracted and worked out from Ptolemaeus and Copernicus and the more learned writers on astronomy, taking the experiments detached from the art, and adding the observations of more modern writers.”

“For an apotheosis of Folly, like that of the Emperor Claudius, is a thing not to be endured; and most mischievous it is, and a very pest and destruction of the understanding, for vanity to be made an object of veneration. Then follow questions concerning the substance of heavenly bodies;” [Note—though this Claudius is different from Claudius Ptolemy, Bacon is thinking of this one other Claudius in the context of the cosmos, adding to the associative significance of the name].

Second, is Copernicus (in addition to the references above):

“…which old philosophers attribute to the planets; also to the starry sphere; but Copernicus and his followers to the earth as well;”

“So we may see that the opinion of Copernicus touching the rotation of the earth (which has now become prevalent) cannot be refuted by astronomical principles, because it is not repugnant to any of the phenomena;”

“Besides, the sun manifestly has Venus and Mercury as his satellites, and in the opinion of Tycho the other planets also; whence it is plain that the sun can sustain the nature of a centre, and perform its office in some things, and so has the better title to be constituted the centre of the universe; as was asserted by Copernicus.”

Third, is William Gilbert was another important figure on this topic that Bacon was familiar with, so I’m including him.

“But if the earth moves, the stars may either be stationary, as Copernicus thought, or, as is far more probable, and has been suggested by Gilbert, they may revolve each round its own centre in its own place, without any motion of its centre, as the earth itself does; if only you separate that diurnal motion of the earth from those two supposititious motions which Copernicus superadded. But either way, there is no reason why there should not be stars above stars till they go beyond our sight.”   [infinite space]

“But if Gilbert's opinion be received, that the earth's magnetic power of attracting heavy bodies does not extend beyond the orb of its virtue (which acts always to a certain distance and no more), and if this opinion be verified by a single instance…”

“Besides, it is now ascertained by telescopes that these spots [of the moon] also have their own inequalities, so that the moon is found to be clearly of manifold configuration, and that selenography, or map of the moon, which Gilbert conceived, seems now by the industry of Galileo and others to be nearly attained.”

Fourth is Tycho Brahe.
“There remains the last question, concerning the position of the parts of the system; that is, whether there be many different centres in the system, and as it were many dances; especially as not only the earth is set down as the centre of the primum mobile, and the sun (according to Tycho) of the secundum mobile; but Jupiter likewise is supposed by Galileo to be the centre of those smaller and recently discovered wanderers.”

Fifth is Galileo Galilei.

“Of the second kind are those other glasses discovered by the memorable efforts of Galileo, by the aid of which, as by boats or vessels, a nearer intercourse with the heavenly bodies can be opened and carried on. For these show us that the milky way is a group or cluster of small stars entirely separate and distinct; of which fact there was but a bare suspicion among the ancients.”

“…but the census now made by Galileo of the celestial population

Bacon also had his own direct correspondence with Galileo going on for some time, through the help of his close friend (and “alter ego”) Tobie Matthew:

One Baconian commentator wrote that: “In Arnold Matthew's "Life of Sir Tobie Matthew" we find Tobie Matthew served as an intermediary for Bacon in his communications with Galileo. A letter from Tobie Matthew to Bacon, dated October 1, 1615  described his conference with Galileo. Another dated April 21, 1616 transmitted part of a letter of Galileo's about the text in the book of Joshua, of the sun standing still.”

And then in 1919 Matthew wrote to Bacon:
Most honourable Lord :

It may please your Lordship, there was with me this day one Mr. Richard White, who hath spent some little time at Florence, and is now gone into England. He tells me, that Galileo had answered your discourse concerning the flux and reflux of the sea, and was sending it unto me; but that Mr. White hindered him, because his answer was grounded upon a false supposition, namely, that there was in the ocean a full sea but once in twenty-four hours. But now I will call upon Galileo again. This Mr. White is a discreet and understanding gentleman, though he seem a little soft, if not slow; and he hath in his hands all the works, as I take it, of Galileo, some printed, and some unprinted. He hath his discourse of the flux and reflux of the sea, which was never printed; as also a discourse of the mixture of metals. Those which are printed in his hand are these : the Nuncius sidereus [starry messenger]; the Macchie solaria [sunspots], and a third Delle Cose, che stanno su I'acqua  [Of Things which are of the water?], by occasion of a disputation that was amongst learned men in Florence about which Archimendes wrote de insidentibus humido [setting on of moisture].
I have conceived that your Lordship would not be sorry to see these discourses of that man, and therefore I have thought it belonging to my service to your Lordship to give him a letter of this date, though it will not be there as soon as this.......I most humbly do your Lordship reverence.
Your Lordship's most obliged servant,

Tobie Matthew
 Brussels, from my bed, the 4th of April, 1619

[Incidentally, Sir Tobie Matthew spent much time in Italy and is known to have  stayed in Florence, Naples, Venice, and Rome. So Matthew would be an additional source of information about Italy, it’s geography and customs, that Bacon could have used in writing the plays.]

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