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Bust of Regiomontanus in the Walhalla
Johannes Regiomontanus, woodcut

Johann ( es ) Müller , later called Regiomontanus in Latin (d. I. "The Königsberger"), also Johannes Regiomontanus (born  June 6, 1436 in Königsberg in Bavaria ; †  July 6, 1476 in Rome ), was an important mathematician, astronomer and publisher of Late Middle Ages . His name was Hans Müller for short, Latinized as Johannes Molitor , and mostly used the name Joannes de Monteregio (or separately written de Monte Regio ), derived from the place of origin . The Latinized name Regiomontanus was not yet used by himself or his contemporaries, but is said to have been used for the first time in 1531 by Philipp Melanchthon .

Along with his teacher Georg von Peuerbach, Regiomontanus was the most important representative of the Vienna astronomical school and a pioneer of Copernicus. His ephemeris were highly valued among seafarers.



After the portrayal of Johann Werner Krauss II., Who was a deacon in Königsberg from 1677 to 1732 and in turn was able to rely on older tradition from Johann Wolfrum (1550–1621), Regiomontanus was anno 1436, June 6th hor. 4 min. 40 a [e] quatis á meridie zu Königsberg (in the year 1436, on June 6th at 4 o'clock and 40 minutes in the afternoon). The accuracy of this date can be traced back to an astrological rectification for the natal chart and not to a documentary tradition. The place of birth Königsberg, where today the house at Salzmarkt 6 is considered to be the house where he was born, is also supported by several statements from the 16th century ( Philipp Melanchthon , 1547; Erasmus Reinhold , 1549; Jakob Curio , 1557; secondarily attested by Krauss also Paul Melissus , 1577).

Krauss calls his father Johan , referring to Wolfrum . Molitor. Senior in Unfind . As his son's education suggests, and as Erasmus Reinhold expressly notes through his parents, he had some wealth. Judging by its name, it probably owed this to the operation of one of the mills that were given as a council fief in Königsberg . He is considered to be identical to a Johannes Mollner (i.e. Müller), who is attested as a member of the Königsberg city council and, together with another councilor, was entrusted with the supervision of the construction of the St. Burkhardt Church (construction started in 1428). The fact that his daughter Catharina († 1490), the sister of Regiomontanus, married the mayor of Königsberg Johannes Schirling for the second time also speaks for the father's high position in the Königsberg society. The fact that Wolfrum added “in Unfind” to his father's name in the rendering of Krauss has occasionally given rise to the assumption in older literature that Regiomontanus was not born in Königsberg, but in the nearby village of Unfind , where a Hans was born in 1476 Moller is attested. After evaluating all the received evidence and evidence, it is now mostly assumed that the father lived in Königsberg at the time the son was born and only moved to Unfind later, not before the beginning of the 1470s.

Since Krauss lists the son as Camillus, Johann Müller or Molitor, dictus Regiomontany, a distinguished mathematician , Camillus has been partly interpreted as one of the given names, but sometimes also as a contrast to the father's name as Johan. Molitor. Senior in Unfind the son should only be identified as the 'young' Johann Müller. However, contemporary sources and all prints only mention the first name Johann (es).


Regiomontanus must have acquired astronomical knowledge very early, since he calculated an astronomical yearbook for 1448, when he was 12 years old, as was required for the creation of horoscopes . Research even assumes that he could be identical to a Johannes Molitoris who enrolled at the University of Leipzig a year earlier (1447) . 1450 enrolled him at the Vienna University , the faculty of arts was one of the most important mathematical and astronomical schools at this time. In 1452 he became a baccalaureus , in 1457 a master’s degree and taught mathematics and philology within the framework of the Viennese teaching program of Artes .

A composite manuscript Regiomontan, begun in the 1450s, which is known as the “Wiener Rechenbuch ” and which contains copies and excerpts of other works as well as his own notes and drafts, provides an insight into his Viennese studies . These include the Algorism demonstratus , written in the 13th century by a Magister Gernardus (at times attributed to Jordanus de Nemore ) for acquiring basic knowledge of numerical arithmetic and arithmetic , notes and excerpts on geometry from or after Euclid , Archimedes , Apollonios von Perge and the The Banu Musa brothers , on the music that was also part of the Artes studies in the context of the Quadrivium , the Musica speculativa by Johannes de Muris , as well as writings on mechanics by Thabit ibn Qurra and Jordanus de Nemore.

Regiomontanus was related to the imperial court in Vienna, where he worked for Friedrich III. a chart on his bride Eleanor of Portugal , and later for this even a horoscope on the throne I. Maximilian created. Regiomontanus in Vienna was particularly influenced by the influence of humanism , especially the relationship with Georg von Peuerbach , who had become a Baccalaureus in Vienna in 1448 and a master's degree in 1453, and his lecture from 1454 on planetary theory Regiomontanus later under the title Nova theorica planetarum (1472) published in print. The meeting with Cardinal Bessarion , who was in Vienna in 1461 to solicit support in the fight against the Turks at the imperial court on behalf of the Pope , also became decisive . Bessarion had brought a collection of Greek manuscripts from Constantinople to Italy and owned, among other things, a Greek manuscript by the Almagest of Ptolemy , of which he himself had begun a Latin translation, which he wanted to continue with the help of Peuerbach.


De triangulis planis et sphaericis libri

When Bessarion invited Peuerbach and Regiomontanus to Rome, but Peuerbach died unexpectedly that year, Regiomontanus went to Rome alone with the cardinal in 1461, where he continued work on the Almagest and completed it in 1463. Later printed under the title Epytoma in almagestum Ptolomei (Venice 1496), as an annotated excerpt from the Almagest, it became one of the fundamental works for astronomy of the Renaissance, which was also used by Copernicus and Galileo , among others . This was followed by stays in Ferrara , in Venice (1463), where he discovered a manuscript of Diophant's Arithmetika , and in Padua , where he gave a lecture on Alfraganus in 1464 (printed in 1537). During the time in Italy he also wrote the font De triangulis omnimodis (1462–1464, printed 1533), with which he founded modern trigonometry .

In 1467 he went to Ofen (Buda) ( Hungary ), where the Archbishop of Gran commissioned him to create astronomical tables. Here he constructed his own observation instruments and, with the support of the Pole Marcin Bylica (1433–1493), court astronomer of the Hungarian King Matthias , created sine and tangent tables (up to seven digits accuracy). Regiomontanus was also active as an astrologer during this time .

Around 1470 he further developed the Jacob's staff .

Nuremberg and Rome

In 1471 he moved to Nuremberg on behalf of King Matthias in order to improve the tables of planetary motions there. Because of the flourishing instrument making and the good location, he initially remained as the king's ambassador, but later it was his own decision. He now opened his own printing house, in which he wanted to produce his tables in the best quality. In 1474 he published his publishing program as a single-sheet print; He was able to complete 11 prints, his early death thwarted further publications. In 1472 he published Peuerbach's Theoricae novae Planetarum and the didactic poem Astronomica by Manilius . The ephemeris ( Ephemerides quas vulgo vocant almanac , a forecast of the daily movements of the heavenly bodies, the conjunctions and eclipses for the following 32 years) for the years 1475 to 1506 were almost completely printed in 1474 ("... iam prope absoluta sunt"), as his publishing program announced in 1474. This printed table work (GW M37486) was used by Christopher Columbus on expeditions overseas. In Nuremberg he carried out systematic observations of the sky with self-made instruments. After he had been invited by Pope Sixtus IV to work on the upcoming calendar reform , he went to Rome in 1475. On the way he was able to publish his Calendariums (s. U.) In the Offizin of Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in the ways of conduct (published in 1476).


Just one year later (1476) he died (probably of an epidemic) at the age of only 40. According to Hartmann Schedel , he was buried on the Ager dei , which is likely to mean the Campo Santo Teutonico . According to legend, however, he was buried in the Pantheon . In 1976, at the suggestion of the Mayor of Königsberg, Rudolf Mett, a memorial plaque was placed on Campo Santo.

His astronomical observations were continued for many years by his student Bernhard Walther . Walther had acquired Regiomontan's estate, but did not allow anyone to see it. Some of the manuscripts were later published by Johannes Schöner .


The canons LXIII of Regiomontanus in a manuscript of the 15th century (before 1469) from the library of King Matthias Corvinus , to whom the author dedicated this work on the movement of the fixed stars. Font: Humanistic Rotunda . Budapest, National Széchényi Library, Cod. Lat. 412, fol. 1r
Memorial plaque for Regiomontanus in the birthplace of Königsberg (attached to the successor house)
Memorial plaque for Regiomontanus on the Campo Santo Teutonico in Rome

Regiomontanus is considered to be the most important mathematician (including the founder of modern trigonometry ) of his time and an early reformer of the Julian calendar .

As early as 1514 Georg Tannstetter compiled a list of Regiomontan's works, namely in his History of Viennese Mathematicians and Astronomers: Viri mathematici . First, Tannstetter listed more than 20 works by other authors that Regiomontan edited, then more than 20 books by Regiomontan himself.

In 1468 his tables for the sun declination (Tabula primi mobilis) appeared . His Calendarium for the period from 1475 to 1531 with recalculated position information for the sun and moon, including precise time tables, as well as the Ephemerides astronomicae from 1475–1506 were indispensable tools for the navigators of his time - also because of the reliability of his calculations and the print quality. His ephemeris (star tables) have made the voyages of discovery by seafarers like Christopher Columbus or Vasco da Gama much easier thanks to the improved navigation options.

Since 1451 he has been observing comets, conjunctions of planets (including the moon) and eclipses with Georg von Peuerbach in order to check the accuracy of the astronomical tables. In January and February 1472 he observed comet C / 1471 (Regiomontanus) . His only posthumously in 1532 by Johannes Schoner published treatise Problemata XVI de cometae (1472) magnitudine longitudineque ac de loco ejus vero according to Edmund Halley , the first scientific description of a comet (at least in Europe). It should be noted that many websites claim that Regiomontanus observed Halley's Comet in 1456 . A report by Peuerbach has been preserved in which Regiomontan's participation is not mentioned. Peuerbach also tried to estimate the distance. Halley's Comet and C / 1471 (Regiomontanus) were also observed by Toscanelli , whose description, however, was not known to Halley.

Regiomontanus was a typical representative of Renaissance humanism: His own observation and comparison with the results of ancient science ( Aristotle ) should, in his opinion, renew astronomy and help to find “the truth”. With this attitude he became, along with Nikolaus von Kues, the essential pioneer of the Copernican worldview .

The accuracy of his astronomical observations was only surpassed by Tycho de Brahe . His contributions to geometry and trigonometry were groundbreaking.

The Gregorian calendar reform with the one-time omission of ten calendar days and the modification of the leap year rule only took place more than 100 years after his death. Regiomontanus' estate of scientific instruments is now kept in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg on loan from the local library.

The lunar crater Regiomontanus bears his name, as does the asteroid (9307) Regiomontanus . The Nuremberg public observatory is named after him, as is the Regiomontanus grammar school in Haßfurt and the technical college / vocational school in Coburg (Regiomontanus school) . The astronomical journal Regiomontanusbote also bears his name.

Editions and translations

15th century
  • Johannes Regiomontanus: Calendar. Nuremberg 1474.
16th Century
  • Felix Schmeidler (Ed.): Joannis Regiomontani Opera collectanea . Zeller, Osnabrück 1972, ISBN 3-535-00816-6 .
  • Barnabas Hughes (Ed.): Regiomontanus on Triangles. De triangulis omnimodis by Johann Müller, otherwise known as Regiomontanus. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 1967 (Latin text of the 1533 edition and English translation).
  • Wilhelm Blaschke , Günther Schoppe (translator): Regiomontanus: Commensurator. Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden 1956 (translation and commentary).


Web links

Commons : Regiomontanus  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. For example on his publisher's prospectus from around 1474. See Hamann: Regiomontanus Studies , Plate XXIX (next to p. 280).
  2. Hamann: Regiomontanus Studies , p. 15: "only common practice since Melanchthon (1531) - Regiomontanus" (without more precise evidence).
  3. Ralf Kern: Scientific instruments in their time . Volume 1. Cologne 2010, p. 111.
  4. ^ Ferdinand Geldner: Die Deutschen Inkunabeldrucker, a manual of the German book printers of the 15th century according to places of printing ; Verlag Anton Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1968–1970, 2 volumes, ISBN 3-7772-6825-9 , volume 1 p. 170, with an illustration of the publisher's program p. 171.
  5. Martin Germann: Book cover location: a Zurich calendar for the year 1482, with an overview of the Zurich shop and its prints from 1479 to around 1481 ; in: Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 1993, pp. 66–87, esp. p. 70, note 17.
  6. Images and information on the new edition organized by Ratdolt in 1482 at the library of the University of Glasgow
  7. ^ Albrecht Weiland: The Campo Santo Teutonico in Rome and its grave monuments. Volume I , Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1988, ISBN 3-451-20882-2 , p. 375 f.
  8. Ed. And translated in Franz Graf-Stuhlhofer : Humanism between court and university. Georg Tannstetter (Collimitius) and his scientific environment in Vienna in the early 16th century . Vienna 1996, pp. 156-171 (about Regiomontan pp. 159-163).