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Monoxide Child
2004-Apr-07, 12:02 AM
Hey, in my Humanities class, we are studying the middle ages. Each of us have to construct a divice used in the middle ages and explain what its importance is. I decided I wanted to do something that was related to astronomy (physics will suffice as well). So does anyone have any ideas for what I should make? Thanks

scottmsg
2004-Apr-07, 12:21 AM
The first thing that I thought of was a quadrant or similar navigation device. They were used by the Portuguese in the 1400s during their explorations down the coast of Africa, so I think that would qualify as middle ages. It could be used to determine latitude by measuring the position of the sun, which fulfills your astronomy desire.


Scott

JohnOwens
2004-Apr-07, 12:25 AM
It may or may not be what scottmsg was referring to, but I'd recommend the astrolabe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe).

Added: You can even read the user's manual (http://art-bin.com/art/oastro.html) (maybe). :wink:

Ut
2004-Apr-07, 12:30 AM
Nay, scottmsg's referring to the forerunner to the sextant.

Staiduk
2004-Apr-07, 02:46 AM
Depending on what you want to achieve, and how handy you are; there are a bunch of *****in' things you can make.
If you want a relatively easy to make and surprisingly effective device; I'd recommend the cross-staff. Forerunner to many of today's nevigation instruments; and still used in one way or another; simply because it's so bloody easy to make one - just a straight stick marked in degrees; and a crossbar that moves to calculate the angle between two points.

If, on the other hand; you've got some time, are pretty damn good with tools, and want seriously high marks; try making a Torquetum. Never heard of it? No probs; chances are your teacher hasn't either - there's very few left in the world. (Mega marks for that!) Probably the most beautiful - and insanely complicated - navigational/astronomical device ever invented until the whiz-wheel; so if you try it better make sure you have some serious free time on your hands. :D

Taibak
2004-Apr-07, 03:04 AM
Hey, in my Humanities class, we are studying the middle ages. Each of us have to construct a divice used in the middle ages and explain what its importance is. I decided I wanted to do something that was related to astronomy (physics will suffice as well). So does anyone have any ideas for what I should make? Thanks

The big question is whether or not this has to be a western European invention. If yes, we might be in trouble here. As technologically-minded as medieval Europeans could be, they were way behind in astronomy for much of the Middle Ages. Not sure if the Byzantines made many contributions either. The quadrant is as close as you'll get, but at 1400 it's debateable if that's a medieval invention. I would say yes, on the grounds that, as far as I'm concerned, the Middle Ages didn't end until about 1605 (beginning of the Stuart dynasty in England). That's late, but most historians would place the ending of the Middle Ages well after 1400, setting the cutoff date at the end of the Hundred Years War, the Reformation, or the invention of moveable type.

If it doesn't have to be a European invention, then I agree the astrolabe is your best bet. It's an Arabic invention, but a product of the High Middle Ages. It also was a far more important invention for scientific purposes than the quadrant was. They're complex, but it's as close to a pure scientific instrument as you're going to get in this period.

After that, you don't get much for key scientific inventions until the telescope until the seventeenth century and no real physics inventions until Galileo's gravity experiments. Medieval European technology, Byzantines excepted, was really oriented towards the practical rather than the theoretical. You might want to try building a meridian, but that will take more time than I'm assuming you have.

Taibak
2004-Apr-07, 03:05 AM
If, on the other hand; you've got some time, are pretty damn good with tools, and want seriously high marks; try making a Torquetum. Never heard of it? No probs; chances are your teacher hasn't either - there's very few left in the world. (Mega marks for that!) Probably the most beautiful - and insanely complicated - navigational/astronomical device ever invented until the whiz-wheel; so if you try it better make sure you have some serious free time on your hands. :D

Damn... I've never heard of a torquetam and I've got a degree in this stuff. What on earth is that?

scottmsg
2004-Apr-07, 03:10 AM
Damn... I've never heard of a torquetam and I've got a degree in this stuff. What on earth is that?

I think Staiduk is referring to this (http://humboldt.edu/~rap1/EarlySciInstSite/Instruments/Torquetum/Turq.html).

Scott

Staiduk
2004-Apr-07, 03:18 AM
Yep; that's the one. Gorgeous, ain't it? :)
Just try to picture building the thing. ;)

Charlie in Dayton
2004-Apr-07, 04:14 AM
I love it when people post questions like this...I go searching for stuff, and wind up with another three days' reading on various aspects of astronomy and horology and navigation and history...

Oh, have we got resources for you...

ASTROLABE SITES
The Electric Astrolabe (DOS program that will run on Win NT4.0/2000/XP - I've done it - an extremely interesting demo of ancient astronomical technology -- HIGHLY recommended)
http://www.astrolabes.org/electric.htm

The Astrolabe (home page to the above, with a link for templates to build your own Mariner's Astrolabe)
http://www.astrolabes.org/

Build your own astrolabe
http://www.mariner.org/age/stu_activity2.html

Build and use a Quadrant
http://www.celestialnavigation.net/classroom.html

Build and use a Cross Staff
http://www.kyes-world.com/crossindex.htm

Taibak
2004-Apr-07, 05:39 AM
Yep; that's the one. Gorgeous, ain't it? :)
Just try to picture building the thing. ;)

Yeah, that thing is impressive. I'm still trying to get my head around *using* the thing, let alone building it. I'm going to have to read more about these. Curious to know how it compared to the astrolabe, both in reliability and popularity.

Staiduk
2004-Apr-07, 07:33 PM
Curious to know how it compared to the astrolabe, both in reliability and popularity.
In reliability; probably about the same. It has a great many more calculations it can make; but each of those are dependant on the quality of the design - i.e. an astrolabe and turquet made at the same time would have the same general accurcy. As for popularity; no question - the atrolabe is one of the most common old celetial/navigation devices ever made; for the reason that it was simple and worked. The turquet was insanely complex; probably more of a rich wizard's showpiece instrument than a regularly used device. By that i mean; while they undoubtedly worked; and likely did things that other instruments could not; a medieval scientist would likely have used it as a demonstration or for specific purpose - more common calculations done with easier; more established instruments. Or so I suppose anyway.

mike alexander
2004-Apr-07, 07:58 PM
Then there's a clock. In the long run just as impportant for astronomy as any other device. Say, a weight-driven, verge-and foliot type (the pendulum clock was later, Galileo, Huygens, et al.)

dakini
2004-Apr-07, 09:13 PM
i would suggest a telescope, but that wasn't invented until the 1600's... i think that's the renaissance, not the middle ages.

Brady Yoon
2004-Apr-07, 09:17 PM
Middle Ages? If it means the Middle Ages in Europe, there's not much you can do! :lol:

shash
2004-Apr-08, 02:11 AM
Astrolabe is what comes to my mind immediately.

Grand Vizier
2004-Apr-08, 02:59 AM
Doesn't have to be European or Arabic. Ulug Beg, who was the great-grandson of Tamurlane, built his great observatory at Samarkand in 1428. Here's a short account of his life:

http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Ulugh_Beg.html

The observatory still stands (I've been there and it is pretty impressive), but I wouldn't recommend building his quadrant, which was 55 metres high - unless you've got a big garden and deep pockets, that is...

Besides the quadrant, the above piece refers to him using a marble sextant, a triquetram and an armillary sphere. (I actually thought the sextant was a later invention.) Of those, I don't think anyone has mentioned the armillary sphere, yet. Though it was known in classical times, it is clear it was used in the Middle Ages.

Here's one you can buy as a garden ornament for only £34.95 (not that I'm suggesting cheating, of course):

http://www.otherlandtoys.co.uk/product746/product_info.html?name=Armillary%20Sphere

Building a full-on armillary would probably be as intimidating as the triquetram, but it shouldn't be too hard to simplify the design - as the above company has done...

HenrikOlsen
2004-Apr-11, 12:16 PM
Have a look at ASTRONOMI∆ INSTAURAT∆ MECHANICA (http://www.kb.dk/elib/lit/dan/brahe/index-en.htm), Tycho Brahe's description of the instruments in use by him.
Test is in Latin, but with English translation.

It pretty much sums up which instruments was known in Europe at the time(~1590).