Triangulating positions: Hevelius, Halley and the management of the open-sights controversy

Public history of science lecture by Dr Noah Moxham

When the decade-long argument between Johannes Hevelius, the Danzig astronomer, and Robert Hooke about the respective merits of plain and telescopic sights for astronomical instruments reared its head again in 1685, the resulting controversy threatened to engulf the Royal Society. The sequel to this argument reveals not just a clash between two notable and notoriously egotistical natural philosophers but a complex set of negotiations between three British learned societies which developed into an open competition for ascendancy. The many figures who intervened in this dispute were taking part in a network of formal exchanges between institutions, as well as offering opinions about the debate itself: their involvement highlights the dense interconnctedness, and precariousness, of the institutions of early modern science.

Triangulating positions: Hevelius, Halley and the management of the open-sights controversy 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

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