Reference Work Entry

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

pp 1278-1279

Date:

Lansbergen, Philip

Alternate Name

Van Lansbergen, Philip

Born Ghent, (Belgium), 25 August 1561

Died Middelburg, The Netherlands, 8 December 1632
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Lansbergen, Philip. Courtesy of History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Philip Lansbergen was an early advocate of a moving Earth and Sun-centered system.

Born of Protestant parents who left the Netherlands for religious reasons in 1566, young Philip Lansbergen grew up in France and England, where he was educated in mathematics and theology. Upon his return to the Netherlands without a degree in 1579, he accepted employment as a minister in Antwerp, but when this city was conquered by the Spanish in 1585, Lansbergen went to Leiden to apply himself to theology. Shortly after he married Sara Lievaerts in 1586, Lansbergen moved to Goes to be a minister again. Here, alongside his religious acts, he developed his liberal views on astronomy, was engaged in politics, and practiced medicine.

In 1613, after a series of minor incidents, Lansbergen ran into serious problems. The death of one of his patients caused a protracted medical controversy, and his opposition to the appointment of a new mayor ended in his dismissal. Thereupon, he moved to Middelburg and, provided with an annuity of “the Staten van Zeeland,” Lansbergen addressed himself mainly to astronomy, mathematics, and medicine until his death in 1632. His wife died in 1625; he left six sons and four daughters.

A follower of Nicolaus Copernicus , Lansbergen spoke out for a moving Earth in his writings. Especially his De motus solis (1619) and Bedenckinghen op den daghelijckschen ende jaerlijckschen loop vanden aerdt-cloot (1629) presented further proof supporting Copernicus’s system. However, although being modern-minded on astronomy, he refused to accept Johannes Kepler ’s theory on the elliptical motion of the planets. Sharp attacks and fierce criticism of Kepler by Lansbergen culminated in the publication of his own astronomical tables based on circular planetary motion instead. Lansbergen thought these Tabulae motuum coelestium perpetuae (1632) could rival Kepler’s Tabulae Rudolphinae (1627). Initially these tables found a ready market, but interest soon waned when their accuracy proved to be not comparable to those of Kepler.

Lansbergen’s further works on astronomy and mathematics comprised studies on the use of the astronomical quadrant and astrolabe, the sizes and distances of celestial bodies, the design of planar sundials, and problems in spherical trigonometry. In the Netherlands Lansbergen was one of the first to defend openly Copernicus’s theory, and for a long time he was the sole Dutch theologian holding his notion of a moving Earth.

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