Thursday, April 15, 2010

The History of the Telescope: Exploring the Boundaries Between Science and Culture

The Polytechnic Institute of NYU, the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and the Humanities Initiative at NYU

April 16-17, 2010

20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor

On April 16-17, NYU will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention
of the telescope, as leading scholars come together to explore the
interfaces between the humanities and social sciences, and science and
technology. For two days, humanists, scientists, and engineers will discuss
how the instrument's use led not only to a multitude of discoveries and the
development of new branches within the physical sciences, but to probing
questions about the role and purpose of humanity in the universe. Far from
being just a crucial scientific instrument, the telescope since Galileo has
served as a potent symbol of aristocratic patronage as well as a genuine
threat to received ideas about how the heavens work. From the 18th century
to the present, it has conferred power and prestige on those who used it to
redefine the origins of the universe. Ethical, political, economic,
religious, cultural, and aesthetic ideals converge in this exciting history.
By placing the invention and development of the telescope within their
proper historical contexts, we can appreciate the role of science in culture
as well as the role of culture in framing the scientific enterprise -- and
how both scientific and cultural ventures engage creativity and ingenuity.

The Saturday talks will conclude with internationally-acclaimed actor Jay
Sanders' readings of key scenes from Robert Goodwin's recent play, "Two
Gentlemen of Florence," in which Sanders performed the role of Galileo.
Sanders' performance will be followed by a reception.

The event is free and open to the public. To attend, please RSVP on or
before Monday, April 12: send an email to


Friday, 16 April 2010

2:00 pm: Welcoming and Opening Remarks: Myles W. Jackson, The Dibner Family
Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Director
of Science and Technology Studies, NYU-Poly, and Professor of the History of
Science, Gallatin; Susanne Wofford, Dean of the Gallatin School of
Individualized Study of NYU; Jane Tylus, Director of the Humanities
Initiative at NYU

2:30 pm: Tom Settle, NYU-Poly and Florence: "When Was the Telescope
Possible? The Catalan Background"

3:10 pm: Tom Mayer, Augustana College, "Galileo's Telescope and Roman
Elites, 1611: The Casino Malvasia and Vigna Bandini"

3:50 pm: Eileen Reeves: Princeton University, " 'Come, give me an
instrument': Telescopes, Trumpets, and Organ Pipes"

4:30-5:30 pm: Questions and Gerneral Discussion

5:30 pm: Remarks by Kurt Becker, Associate Provost NYU-Poly

Saturday, 17 April 2010

9:00 am: Coffee and Bagels

9:30 am: Mario Biagioli, Harvard University, "Did Galileo Copy the

10:10 am: Mordechai Feingold, California Institute of Technology, "Bringing
Heaven to the Capacity of All: The Telescope and the Culture of Astronomy
from Galileo to Newton"

10:50 am: Myles W. Jackson, NYU-Poly and Gallatin-NYU: "Joseph von
Fraunhofer's Artisanal Optics, Skill, and Experimental Natural Philosophers
in the Early Nineteenth Century"

11:30-12:30 pm: Questions and General Discussion

12:30-2:00 pm: LUNCH BREAK

2:00 pm: David DeVorkin, The Smithsonian Institution: "Catch a Falling Star:
Meteor and Satellite Trackers: Who Made Them and Why? Who Paid for Them and

2:40 pm: David Munns, John Jay College: "The Radio Astronomers: New
Communities and Knowledge via New Telescopes and Disciples"

3:20 pm: Robert Smith, The University of Alberta: "Telescopes Beyond the
Atmosphere: Making Space Astronomy and Building Coalitions"

4:00-5:00 pm: Questions and General Discussions

5:00 pm: Reading by Jay Sanders, from Richard Goodwin's Two Men of Florence.

6:00 pm: Reception


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