When the telescope was new technology, a young man in Germany published a book filled with illustrations of the exciting new things being discovered telescopically:
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moons circling Jupiter, moon-like phases of Venus, spots on the Sun, the rough and cratered lunar surface. The young man was Johann Georg Locher, and his book was Mathematical Disquisitions Concerning Astronomical Controversies and Novelties.
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And while Locher heaped praise upon Galileo, he challenged ideas that Galileo championed – on scientific grounds.
You see, Locher was an anti-Copernican, a lover of the early astronomer Ptolemy, and a pupil within the Institution (his mentor was Christoph Scheiner, a notable Jesuit astronomer).
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Locher claimed that Copernicus was wrong about Earth like Ptolemy said, and that Earth was repaired in place, at the center of the Universe. But no spiritual argument was being made by Locher. Like Joshua telling the Sun to stand still, yes, he said, a transferring Earth messes with specific Biblical passages.
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But in addition, it messes with specific astronomic conditions, including sundown and dawn. Copernicans had workarounds for all that, Locher said, although they might be convoluted. What Copernicans couldn’t work around, though, were the scientific arguments against their theory.
Really, Locher even suggested a mechanism to describe how Earth could orbit the Sun (a kind of continuous falling – this decades before Isaac Newton would describe orbits by way of continuous falling), but he said it would not help the Copernicans, on account of the other issues with their theory.
What were those issues? A large one was the size of stars in the Copernican universe. Copernicus proposed that specific oddities found through the constellations in the movements of planets were due to the fact that World itself was going.
Stars reveal no such oddities, so Copernicus had to theorise that, rather than being simply beyond the planets as astronomers had supposed, stars were not very close that World’s movement was trivial by comparison.
But seen from Earth, stars appear as dots of magnitudes or specific sizes. The only method stars have such sizes was if they were very enormous, every last one and could not be so very close
Tycho Brahe, a favourite of the Organization and the most notable astronomer of the age, believed this was ludicrous, while a leading Polish mathematician, Peter Crüger, wondered how the Copernican system could endure in the face of the star-size issue.
Locher believed considerably right for study and was up in the air. In light of the star-size issue, he believed the Earth certainly didn’t go; it was circled by the Sun.
But the telescope made it clear that Venus circled the Sun, and that sunspots also went around the Sun. Brahe had theorised that all planets circled the Sun, while it circled Earth. Locher noted that Brahe might be appropriate, but what was clear was that Ptolemy was supported by the telescope.
Ptolemy had described those oddities in planetary movement by theorising that, as planets circled the World, additionally they rode on epicycle, or a smaller circle, creating an unusual motion like a ‘Scrambler’ ride at a carnival.
Locher wrote that, prior to the telescope, this was only a thought if epicycles actually existed no one understood. But the telescopically discovered moons of Jupiter were evidence of epicyclic movement: while those circles rode on its orbit with Jupiter, the moons rode in circles around Jupiter.
The telescope had proven Ptolemy right; it was just that Venus and sunspots (and perhaps all the planets) had their epicycles centred on the Sun. Locher believed the epicycle question could be probed farther through telescopic observation of Saturn, and in particular of the protrusions seen on Saturn (at the time, no one realized these to be rings).
Locher claimed that a long term study of those protrusions transform might reveal that Saturn rode on an epicycle.
But a study of Saturn wasn’t the only programme of research that is telescopic that Locher proposed. He was especially excited by Jupiter’s moons.
He clarified that by using a telescope to carefully collect data on when they were eclipsed by its shadow and when those moons passed in front of Jupiter, astronomers could compute angles and determine distances between Earth, the Sun and Jupiter in a completely new manner.
Sadly for Locher, he turned out to be incorrect about the Earth not going (the apparent sizes of stars would be revealed to be spurious, an effect of optics).
Worse, Galileo in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) made sport of a particular ‘pamphlet of theses’, specifically Locher’s Disquisitions, quoting from it without identifying its author or name. He caricatured Disquisitions, subsequently ridiculed the caricature, showing the ‘pamphlet’ as the work of a befuddled establishmentarian, hung up on the historical notion of an Earth that was immobile.
Galileo gave no hint the ‘pamphlet’s’ writer was excited about new telescopic discoveries, supporting additional telescopic research, complimentary to him, and wielding strong arguments against Earth’s movement.
While Galileo’s caricature became taken as history, and applied to the whole discussion over World’s movement Locher was forgotten.
That’s unlucky for science, because now the adversaries of science use that caricature. Those who insist the Apollo missions were faked, that vaccines are dangerous, or even the world is level whose voices are at present loud enough for the ‘War on Science’ to be a National Geographic cover story and for the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to address even their most outrageous claims don’t reject the scientific procedure per se. Instead, they wrap themselves in the mantle of Galileo, standing (allegedly) against a (purportedly) corrupted science created by the ‘Scientific Establishment’.
So Locher issues. History issues are ’sed by Science. Anti-Copernicans such as Brahe and Locher demonstrate that science was present in either side of the vigorous discussion over Earth’s movement, and that science has always functioned as a competition of ideas.