Christoph Scheiner

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Christoph Scheiner

Christoph Scheiner SJ (born July 25, 1573 in Markt Wald near Mindelheim in Bavarian Swabia , then Margraviate Burgau, Upper Austria; † July 18, 1650 in Neisse ) was a member of the Society of Jesus , a physicist, optician and astronomer as well as an advisor to public figures Life. The inventor of several instruments also worked as a professor in Ingolstadt and Rome . Along with Galileo , Thomas Harriot and Johann Fabricius, he is considered to be the co-discoverer of sunspots .


Years of apprenticeship

From May 1591, Scheiner attended the Jesuit high school in Augsburg . After graduating, he entered the Jesuit order on October 26, 1595. Until 1597 he spent his novitiate in Landsberg am Lech (under novice master Rupert Reindl ) and made his first vows on October 26, 1597 in Augsburg at Melchior Stör. Between 1597 and 1598 Scheiner completed his juniorate in Augsburg and received the minor ordinations in Augsburg on September 19, 1598 by Bishop Sebastian Breuning (1552-1618).


Together with Petrus Frank (1574–1602) and Ferdinand Melchiorius , Scheiner studied mathematics, philosophy and physics at the University of Ingolstadt between 1598 and 1601 . He then worked as a teacher at the Ordenskolleg in Dillingen until 1605 . Years later, looking back on his studies at the Academy in Dillingen, Paulus Gay, the 25th abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Stams , reports in his diary about Scheiner's pedagogical skills: “In schola poeseos habui praeceptorem Christophorum Scheiner, commune dictum 'Vischkibl'. Mathematicus bonus erat, pro schola et discipulis non fui sat. Nisi discipulorum privata studia ipsius defectum supplessent. Homo mirabilis, natus in Judaea. ”(Translation: In the subject“ Poetry ”I had Christophorus Scheiner as a teacher, commonly called “ Vishkibl ” ; he was a good mathematician, he would not have been sufficiently qualified for school and pupils had it not been for self-study the pupil would have compensated for his imperfection; a miraculous person, born in Judea (!) - Stiftsarchiv Stams, Diary of Abbot Paulus Gay, MS E 51.) In 1605, Scheiner was awarded the title of Magister artium in Dillingen . In the same year, Duke Wilhelm V brought him to the court in Munich to have him explain the pantograph , invented in 1603, to him.

From autumn 1605 to June 30, 1609, Scheiner studied theology at the University of Ingolstadt and, after a disputation on Thomas von Aquin Theses Theolocicae, ex universis D. Thomae partibus as Dr. theol. from. 1609 was an important year for Scheiner by Bishop Marcus Lyresius († 1611), he was on 14 March to sub-deacon , and on April 4, the deacon ordained. Fourteen days later, on April 18, he received through Lyresius - also in Eichstätt Cathedral - the ordination .

Scheiner completed his third degree between October 6, 1609 and September 10, 1610 in Ebersberg under Father Johannes Pelecius .

Professor at the University of Ingolstadt 1610–1617

On October 15, 1610 Scheiner got a chair as mathematician (for physics and astronomy) and for Hebrew at the University of Ingolstadt; thus Scheiner became the successor of Johann Lantz (1564–1638). Scheiner made famous his lectures. Archduke Maximilian III. asked him several times to his court in Innsbruck to have various phenomena of astronomy explained to him.

On the basis of Kepler's work “ Dioptrice ” (1611), Scheiner built an astronomical telescope around 1613. It was a projection tube with two convex lenses, which Scheiner called heliotropium teliscopium . Scheiner was the first to build a Kepler telescope , long before the first multi-lens terrestrial telescope, which was built by Anton Maria Schyrleus de Rheita (1597–1660) around 1645 . Scheiner set up a small observatory in the tower of the Holy Cross Church in Ingolstadt. The first solar observations were made with the telescope and the naked eye. That was dangerous and only possible when fog covered the sun. The sunlight was then filtered with colored glasses. In the following years Scheiner developed a series of telescopes for observing the sun, which he called helioscopes . The sunlight was projected onto a surface so that one no longer had to look through the telescope with one's eyes. The projection directly onto a sheet of paper also had the great advantage that the sunspots could be more easily identified. Long-term observation of the sun posed a challenge because the telescope had to be pointed at the sun again and again. The first telescopes were simply dragged across the ground. A frame construction and rail guide brought improvements. Christoph Grienberger finally developed the equatorial mount for Scheiner . In this context, Scheiner also invented the Scheiner focus disk . Scheiner also used a camera obscura to determine the rough position of the spots.

Archduke Maximilian III. owned a telescope and was not only interested in astronomy but also in the landscape around Innsbruck. He complained that the picture was upside down. Scheiner built a convex lens onto it that corrected the image. With this he had built one of the first (according to Schyrle de Rheita) terrestrial telescopes. Scheiner also constructed a portable and a walk-in camera obscura.

In the tower of the Holy Cross Church in Ingolstadt, Scheiner and his student Johann Baptist Cysat could observe dark spots on the sun on the morning of March 21 and again in October 1611 . Scheiner was the first to recognize that spots near the equator rotate faster than at higher latitudes. His first (wrong) assumption was that the spots could not belong to the sun, since he assumed that the sun was a pure body.

Sheiner Viewing Sunspots 1625.jpg

Since these spots contradicted the purity of the sun, the Order Provincial Peter Busäus advised the two scientists to keep quiet. In the justification it was pointed out that Aristotle had not described any “pollution” of the sun. Other friars, including Adam Tanner , advised caution.

Scheiner exchanged letters with the learned councilor Markus Welser in Augsburg. In three letters, dated November 12, December 19 and December 26, 1611, Scheiner reported his discovery to the patrician . Welser published these three letters on January 5, 1612. They were printed as Tres epistolae de maculis solaribus and sparked Scheiner's priority dispute with Galileo Galilei . Scheiner chose the pseudonym Apelles latens post tabulam (Apelles hidden behind the painting). In this dispute it was ostensibly about the explanation of the sunspots, but in reality the fight for the world view of Copernicus had begun. Was Scheiner considering adopting the Copernican system? Scheiner had tried to observe a conjunction of Venus and the sun. In his letter of December 19, 1611, he wrote: “If all the other evidence were false, one of them would have to convince that the sun is orbited by Venus. I do not doubt the same thing about Mercury and do not want to neglect to explore it ”.

Welser sent a copy of this work to Galileo and Johannes Kepler . As early as May 4, 1612, Galileo replied in detail and pointed out that these sunspots had been observed since November 1610. He also thought the sunspots were clouds rather than moons, as Scheiner described them in his letters. The correspondence between Scheiner and Galileo continued. On September 13, 1612 three more letters appeared under "Apelles latens post tabulam". Even Thomas Harriot (1610) and Johannes Fabricius (9 March 1611) discovered at the same time this phenomenon. Johannes Fabricius' observations had been printed. Scheiner and Galileo had no knowledge of this.

It was recognized that the Ptolemaic system with its crystalline spheres - with which the planets move - had become untenable. In the Copernican system (and in the tychonic) the orbits of the planets interpenetrate. Therefore the sky cannot consist of solid crystalline spheres. Another physical condition of the heavenly matter had to be found: the liquid sky. Christoph Scheiner also tried to find a solution. The first mention of the liquid sky is in a letter (1614) to Fr Paul Guldin SJ. He asked how to talk about the sunspots, torches and other things when he couldn't write publicly that he considered the sky to be fluid. In the transcript of his lectures in Ingolstadt from 1614, he also addressed the liquid sky.

Together with his student Johann Georg Locher , Scheiner published the work Disquisitiones mathematicae in 1614 , in which he described the Copernican , Ptolemaic and Tychonic world system. This also included an engraving of the Copernican system. The admonition of Superior General Claudio Acquaviva followed immediately on December 13th, 1614: “This is the only thing I would like to recommend to your Reverend, to adhere to the solid teaching of the ancients and not to teach the opinions of some moderns. You can be sure that we don't like them and we won't let our people publish something like that. "

In 1615 Sol ellipticus was published , a work about the oval sun appearing as it rises and sets. In 1617, in Refractiones coelestes , he dealt again with the refraction of the sun's rays in the atmosphere.

In 1617, Scheiner and his student Georg Schönberger published Exegeses fundamentorum gnomonicorum , a detailed work on sundials . Scheiner made his final vows on July 31, 1617 under Rector Johannes Manhart in the minster of Ingolstadt .

Innsbruck 1617-1620

Scheiner was in Innsbruck several times from 1614 to meet Archduke Maximilian III. to advise on astronomical questions. At the end of 1617, Maximilian III asked. Scheiner - with the consent of the Provincial - to Innsbruck. There Scheiner dealt with the anatomy and optics of the eye. He published his findings in Oculus . In this work he was able to compare the refractive indices in parts of the eye such as the lens and vitreous without knowing the underlying law of light refraction in media . He recognized the retina as the seat of the sense of light. Other focal points of his work were: determining the radius of curvature of the cornea, discovering the nasal origin of the optic nerves, increasing the curvature of the lens during accommodation , light reaction of the pupil, pupil constriction during accommodation (see Scheiner's optometer ), ray crossing , stenopean effect , detection of ray crossing in the eye and the inverted retinal image on the retina, comparison of the optics of the eye with the camera obscura.

Initial attempts to measure ametropia also go back to Scheiner, z. B. the Scheiner experiment (double images in ametropia ). He also described the cataract and its surgical treatment. He developed a glass eye model and dealt with the angle of the face and the point of rotation of the eye.

He was also entrusted with the construction of the Jesuit Church in Innsbruck. He also took care of the financial side of the project. The church collapsed in 1626 due to weak foundations.

Freiburg, Vienna and Neisse 1620–1624

This was followed by a short professorship in mathematics from autumn 1620 to spring 1621 in Freiburg . Because of the Thirty Years' War Scheiner remained for the time being with Archduke Karl in Vienna , in 1621 they were able to Nysa travel. Scheiner became the Archduke's confessor. In 1623 a Jesuit college was opened in Neisse with him as superior.

Rome (1624–1633) and the conflict with Galileo

Observation of the sunspots

In 1624 Scheiner went to Rome to arrange the re-establishment of the Jesuit college in Neisse. It was supposed to be a short stay, but it turned out to be nine years.

Scheiner found Galileo's work “Il saggiatore”, printed in 1623 in Rome, in which he was accused of plagiarism (research into sunspots ). Scheiner was asked by friends to write about the sunspots, and he also wanted to defend himself against the allegation of plagiarism. He recorded the results of his long-term diligent observations in the work Rosa Ursina sive Sol (The Rose of Orsini or the Sun). He described the orbit of the sunspots over the course of a year, calculated the rotation time of the sun and found its axis inclination to be 7 degrees. In the last part of the book he writes about spots and torches , the fiery and liquid nature of heaven and quotes from St. Scripture and from the Church Fathers to prove his view of the geocentric system.

Ironically, shortly thereafter - between 1645 and 1715 - a period of greatly reduced solar activity followed , also known as the Maunder minimum . As a result, Scheiner's observations could not be reconstructed at first, which is why his findings could only prevail in the 18th century.
On March 20, 1629 and again in 1630, Scheiner observed a halo phenomenon (secondary suns). His notes on it were later evaluated by Christiaan Huygens .

In 1632 Galileo's "Dialog" appeared, in which he - quite undiplomatically - named the representative of geocentrism Simplicius and portrayed it as stupid-conservative. As a result, he brought other representatives of the professors and the church against him. The trial against Galileo began in early 1633 , and on June 22, 1633 he had to renounce his worldview. Scheiner was still in Rome at the time of the trial. Even if he is only mentioned briefly in the trial files, one suspects (without evidence) that he exerted influence to the disadvantage of Galileo.

Letters from contemporaries give a lively insight into what is happening.

There were also attempts to mediate between the opponents Galileo and Scheiner: on May 10, 1633, the astronomer Pierre Gassendi , a friend of Scheiner, suggested Father Tommaso Campanella , a philosopher and friend of Galileo: “How good would it be if you knew your human nature and yours Would be careful to settle the argument between the two men! Both are good, seek truth, are equally honest and righteous. Both insulted each other. I can only deplore the fate of scholars when I see great men get into such quarrels. Because little ghosts who strive for fame, who hangs by a thread, who like to quarrel. But it is very strange that such outstanding men, moved by a love of truth, let themselves be carried away by passion. "

René Descartes wrote to Marin Mersenne in Paris in February 1634 : “I was told that the Jesuits contributed to the condemnation of Galileo and Father Scheiner's book shows sufficiently that they are not among his friends. Incidentally, the observations of Father Scheiner's book “Rosa Ursina” bring so much evidence to deny the movement ascribed to the sun [around the earth] that I believe that Father Scheiner himself believes in the opinion of Copernicus in his heart. "

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc wrote that Scheiner was only "forced to defend the geocentric system out of obedience."

After Galileo's conviction in 1633, Scheiner was one of the “victors”. In the end Galileo won. His dialogue is one of the major works in the history of natural science; Scheiner's Prodromus is hardly known.

Neisse from 1637

After a four-year stay in Vienna, Scheiner returns - apparently rather reluctantly - to the Jesuit college in Neisse . His position as rector had already found a successor. He worked very little on his research. His last work Prodromus pro sole mobili (begun in Rome in 1632) appears posthumously in 1651. Christoph Scheiner died on July 18, 1650 in Neisse, where he is buried.

Bust in Munich Hall of Fame
Memorial plaque in Nysa ( Neisse )


The diversity of Scheiner's scientific work is remarkable, which - similar to Galileo's - extends from optics, physics and geophysics, astronomy and technology to philosophy. However, his unsolved conflict with Galileo casts a shadow over both men.

Scheiner's scientific breadth and his priesthood make it possible to see him as a modern representative of the ancient guild of priest astronomers - similar to his fellow orderly Angelo Secchi , who lived 300 years later .



Pantographice , 1631
  • Theses theologicae, ex universis D. Thomae partibus, in Academia Ingolstadiensi ad disputationem publicam, anno MDCIX. Pridie Kal. Julij propositae. Respondents. Christophoro Scheiner, Societatis Iesu, SS. Theologiae studioso. Ingolstadii, excudebat Andreas Angermarius, Ingolstadt 1609. University Library Munich, Sign. 4 Philos. 309 # 28. Disputatio Christoph Scheiners, chaired by Fr. Stephanus Vitus SJ, on the Summa theologica of Thomas Aquinas .
  • Tres epistolae de maculis solaribus (Augsburg, 1612) IMSS Digital Library
  • De Maculis solaribus et stellis circa Iovis errantibus accuratior Disquisitio (Augsburg 1612) IMSS Digital Library
  • Disquisitiones mathematicae (Ingolstadt 1614, together with Stefan Locher) IMSS Digital Library
  • Sol ellipticus (Augsburg 1615) IMSS Digital Library
  • Exegeses fundamentorum gnomonicorum (Ingolstadt 1617)
  • Refractiones coelestes sive solis elliptici phaenomenon illustratum (Ingolstadt 1617) IMSS Digital Library
  • Oculus, hoc est: Fundamentum opticum (Innsbruck 1620) Gallica
  • Rosa Ursina sive Sol . (Bracciano 1626-30) IMSS Digital Library
  • Pantographice seu ars delineandi (Rome 1631) IMSS Digital Library
  • Prodromus pro sole mobili et terra stabili contra… Galilaeum a Galileis (Prague 1651) IMSS Digital Library
  • Apelles Post tabulam observans maculas In Sole Sine Veste . Cölln 1684, online edition of the Saxon State Library - Dresden State and University Library


Archives of the Jesuit College, Innsbruck, Historia Domus; No. X, 1. Archives of the Jesuits in Neisse, City of Opole, Opole, Poland, State Archives, handwriting Sign. 6. Archivum Monacense Societatis Jesu, Dept. 0 XI 43, MI 29; Mscr XVI 19/11; Mscr VI 16; C XV 23; C XV 21/2; C XII 2; Mscr XI 21. Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, Rome, Epist. Gener., Annual catalog Boh. 91. Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Città del Vaticano, Miscellanea, Armadio X. Archive of the South Polish Province of the Society of Jesus, Krakow, obituaries, manuscript 2551. Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Munich, Jesuits 92, 498, Catalogus personarum 1601, PS 11082. Bavarian State Library, Munich, Codex latinus Monacensis 1609, 1610, 9264, 11877, 12425. Library of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma OSB, Hungary, Catalogi manuscriptorum…, Jesuitica, 118. J. 1. Princely and Gräfliches Fugger Family and Foundation Archives, Dillingen, Urbare Irmatshofen 1568– 1624. National Library Prague, Clementinum, Catalogus personarum, Sign. Fb4. Austrian National Library, Manuscript Department, Codices 11961, 14214. Pontificia Università Gregoriana di Roma, Biblioteca, Kircher, Misc. Epist. XIII, 567, 33r; XIV, 568, fol. 198r-199v. Tyrolean Provincial Archives, Ehz Office. Maximilian (court registry); Alphabetical Leopoldinum, series II / 51; Leopoldinum; Art objects; Manuscripts 3481, 3484; Autographs G. Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum Innsbruck, Dip. 596 / I; FB 2705, FB 51838. Munich University Library, Sign. 4 Philos. 309 # 28. Graz University Library, Ms. 159, 1, 2.

Individual evidence

  1. Ralf Kern: Scientific instruments in their time . Volume 2. Cologne, 2010. p. 275.
  2. Revealed Through Reason: The Phases of the Jovian Moons - The Catholic Astronomer . In: The Catholic Astronomer . June 7, 2017 ( [accessed October 18, 2017]).


  • Anton von Braunmühl : Christoph Scheiner as a mathematician, physicist and astronomer (= Bavarian Library. Vol. 24, ZDB -ID 990901-1 ). Buchner, Bamberg 1891.
  • Franz Daxecker : Letters from the natural scientist Christoph Scheiner SJ to Archduke Leopold V of Austria-Tyrol 1620–1632 (= publications of the University of Innsbruck. Vol. 207). Publication point of the University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck 1996, ISBN 3-901249-21-4 .
  • Franz Daxecker:  Scheiner, Christoph. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 21, Bautz, Nordhausen 2003, ISBN 3-88309-110-3 , Sp. 1307-1312.
  • Franz Daxecker : The disputatio of the astronomer Christoph Scheiner . In: Acta Historica Astronomiae 23, Contributions to the History of Astronomy 7, pp. 99–114, 2004.
  • Franz Daxecker: Archduke Maximilian III., Archduke Leopold V and the astronomers Christoph Scheiner and Galileo Galilei. In: Tyrolean homeland . Vol. 69, 2005, ISSN  1013-8919 , pp. 7-16.
  • Franz Daxecker:  Scheiner, Christoph. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , pp. 638-640 ( digitized version ).
  • Franz Daxecker: The physicist and astronomer Christoph Scheiner. Universitäts-Verlag Wagner, Innsbruck 2006, ISBN 3-7030-0424-X .
  • Franz Daxecker: Christoph Scheiner and the liquid sky. In: Contributions to the history of astronomy (= Acta historica astronomiae. Vol. 36). Volume 9. German, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-8171-1831-1 , pp. 26-36.
  • Siegmund GüntherScheiner, Christoph . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 30, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1890, pp. 718-720.
  • Luigi Ingaliso: Filosofia e Cosmologia in Christoph Scheiner. Rubbettino, Soveria Manelli 2005, ISBN 88-498-1258-2 .
  • Eckart Roloff : Christoph Scheiner: Galileo's opponent under the spell of the sun and its impossible spots. In: Eckart Roloff: Divine flashes of inspiration. Pastors and priests as inventors and discoverers. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-527-32578-8 , pp. 79-92 (revised and updated edition. Ibid 2012, ISBN 978-3-527-32864-2 ), (with references to memorial sites, Museums, streets and the like to Scheiner).
  • Franz Daxecker: Sunspot Cycles with Christoph Scheiner - A retrospective chronobiological investigation. In: Collective sheet of the Historisches Verein Ingolstadt, 121st vol., 105-109, 2012
  • Franz Daxecker : Christoph Scheiner and the physiological optics of the eye. In: Klin Mbl Augenheilk 1034-1036, 2014
  • Franz Daxecker : Christopher Scheiner - Physicist and Astronomer. In: Historia Ophthalmologica Internationalis, Tom. I, Fasc. 1, 90-118, 2015
  • Franz Daxecker , “Magnitudine, claritate & amplitudine incredibili” . The construction of the Kepler telescope by Christoph Scheiner. In: Acta Historica Astronomiae, Vol 66, Contributions to the history of astronomy, Vol. 14, 65–72, 2019


  • Martin Pfeil: Pater Glasgucker, Intv-Media Production, Hermann Käbisch, 2000 (55 min.)

Web links

Commons : Christoph Scheiner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files