Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Clavius, Christoph

Reference work entry

BornBamberg (Bavaria, Germany), 25 March 1538

DiedRome (Italy), 6 February 1612

Christoph Clavius was one of the most respected and widely published authors in the fields of mathematics and astronomy during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. His books were widely used, especially in the pervasive network of Jesuit colleges, and through them he was recognized as an authoritative interpreter and commentator on such fundamental ancient authors as  Ptolemy and Euclid, as well as on contemporary authors and issues, including the early debates over Copernican cosmology. Clavius also served as one of the two astronomers on Pope Gregory XIII’s commission to reform the Western calendar. As such he was the primary architect of the technical aspects of the reform, which was promulgated in 1582. Clavius subsequently became the most prolific defender of that reform against its critics.

Little is known of Clavius’s early life aside from his birth date and place. In 1555, he entered...

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Selected References

  1. Baldini, Ugo. “The Academy of Mathematics of the Collegio Romano from 1553 to 1612.” In Feingold, pp. 47–98. (The most important studies of Clavius and the mathematical scholars of the Collegio Romano are thanks to Baldini.)Google Scholar
  2. — (1992). Legem impone subactis: Studi sul filosofia e scienza dei Gesuiti in Italia, 15401632. Rome: Bulzoni Editore. (Modern editions of primary sources for Clavius’s work are rare. Clavius’s previously unpublished treatise on the theory of solar motion is one example.)Google Scholar
  3. Baldini, Ugo and Pier Daniele Napolitani (eds.) (1992). Christoph Clavius: Corrispondenza. Pisa: Dipartimento di Matematica, Università di Pisa. (Clavius’s surviving correspondence has been admirably edited and published but, at present, only in a typescript edition that is not widely available.)Google Scholar
  4. Coyne, G. V., S. J., M. A. Hoskin, and O. Pedersen (eds.) (1983). Gregorian Reform of the Calendar. Vatican City: Pontificia Academia Scientiarum, Specola Vaticana. (There exists no complete study of Clavius's work on the Gregorian calendar reform.)Google Scholar
  5. Feingold, Mordechai (ed.) (2003). Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Grant, Edward. “The Partial Transformation of Medieval Cosmology by Jesuits in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” In Feingold, pp. 127–155.Google Scholar
  7. Lattis, James M. (1994). Between Copernicus and Galileo: Christoph Clavius and the Collapse of Ptolemaic Cosmology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (The only monographic study of Clavius as an astronomer.)MATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Wallace, William A. (1984). Galileo and His Sources: The Heritage of the Collegio Romano in Galileo’s Science. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. (Wallace has explained in considerable detail the many connections between Galileo, Clavius, and other Jesuit authors.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA