Open Educational Resources

Johann Schreck: Galileo's Friend in China

Johann Schreck Learning Leaflet

How did knowledge spread in Galileo’s world? 

Johann Schreck joined the Jesuit order in 1611, the same year that he used Galileo's telescope to observe the satellites of Jupiter. Upon becoming a Jesuit, Schreck joined the Jesuit mission in China, taking with him a scientific library of approximately 7,000 volumes as well as a Galilean telescope. Schreck's story is the beginning of a century-long exchange of scientific ideas between Europe and Asia. 


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Johann Kepler: Blueprints of the Universe

Kepler-Blueprints Learning Leaflet

Is there a mathematical basis of the universe? 

Johann Kepler's "Mystery of the Universe" is one of the brilliant illustrations in the history of astronomy. Kepler used the five regular Pythagorean solids to refute the major objections to Copernicanism. In this work he demonstrated that vast empty regions lying between the planetary spheres, which were required by Copernicus, were not wasted space. Rather, these gaps perfectly matched, within the limits of observational error, the geometry of the 5 regular Pythagorean solids. 


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Inclined Plane: Law of Falling Bodies

Inclined Plane Learning Leaflet

Why were experimental variables (like tilt) so important? 

Galileo described his experiment with an inclined plane in Two New Sciences. In this work, Galileo furthered a research tradition in physics known as "impetus." This tradition, begun in the 6th century CE with John Philoponos, sought to explain motion. A body falling straight down accelerates too fast to be measured, so Galileo constructed his inclined plane in order to study it in slow motion.  Galileo's inclined plane provided experimental confirmation of the law of free fall.


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Elisabeth Hevelius: Observational Astronomer

Elisabeth Hevelius Learning Leaflet

How does the Sextant symbolize the person who worked on the famed Hevelius star catalog and star atlas throughout its production, from observation to publication? 

Elisabeth Hevelius, wife of Johann Hevelius, was an astronomer in her own right. They worked together in the observatory of their Gdansk home to measure angular widths and distances with a great sextant, which required two observers at a time. The Sextant was among the new constellations they proposed in Uranographia (1690), the most detailed and influential celestial atlas of the 17th century. The Uranographia contains 54 beautiful double page engraved plates of 73 constellations, and 2 oversized folding plates of planispheres.


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Astronomy & Music: Introduction to the Duochord

Duochord Learning Leaflet

Can you identify simple musical intervals? 

The ancient Pythagoreans envisioned the heavens as a musical scale, comprised of celestial spheres rotating according to harmonious music. For Robert Fludd, a seventeenth-century physician, the universe was a monochord, its physical structure unintelligible without an understanding of music. In this activity, explore the relationship between mathematics, astronomy, and music.


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Catherine Whitwell: Astronomy & Creative Writing

Catherine Whitwell Learning Leaflet

Why write science in a creative style? 

Catherine Whitwell wrote an introduction to the night sky as a conversational dialogue between a mother and daughter. It contains 23 engraved plates drawn by Whitwell herself, including four hand colored folding plates. One of the plates depicts the constellations of Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup and Hydra the Water Snake. Another plate conveys a dramatic impression of the Full Moon at night, shown against a striking black background. 


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Boldly Explore: Camille Flammarion (1888)

Flammarion-1888 Learning Leaflet

Where will the quest of discovery lead you? 

Science is a quest of discovery, the challenge of boldly exploring where no one has gone before. That is the appeal and rhetorically durable theme which has made this woodcut so appealing.

Many have reprinted this illustration through the years, sometimes without knowing its original source. It first appeared in this popular work on meteorology. Flammarion was an astronomer and popular science writer who worked at the Juvissy Observatory in Paris. He was mistaken in his belief that scientists, writers and theologians in the Middle Ages and Renaissance regarded the Earth as flat.

Related OER:  Colorized version of Flammarion's image by Susanna Magruder.


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Ada Lovelace: First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace Learning Leaflet

What is the difference between a calculating machine and a computer? 

In notes appended to Ada Lovelace's translation of one of the first introductions to Charles Babbage's "Analytical Engine," she included an in-depth analysis of the significance and potential of Babbage's machine design. These dense notes, much longer than the text she translated, explained how Babbage's machine had the potential of becoming a programmable computer, instead of merely a calculator.


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Hildegard of Bingen: An Abbess for Health Care

Hildegard of Bingen Learning Leaflet

Why did people come to Hildegard’s convent? 

Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess of convents at Rupertsberg and Elbingen in the 12th century, explained their herbal remedies and medical procedures in her book Physica. In addition to this work on medicine, Hildegard wrote other works on cosmology and theology, corresponded in nearly 400 letters with abbots, popes and emperors, and created at least 70 musical compositions. This OER explores the significance of Hildegard of Bingen.


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