About m.azzolini

Curious historian of science and medicine.

Forthcoming 2014 Crawford Lecture in the History of Astronomy

It is a great pleasure to announce that the 2014 Crawford Lecture in the History of Astronomy and Astrology this year will be delivered by Professor Jim Bennett, Former Director of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. Its title is:

The Craft of Early Astronomy: Making Books, Globes and Instruments in the Sixteenth Century

Abstract: Astronomy is understandably considered the most theoretically advanced of the sciences in the Renaissance. To engage seriously with astronomy required an advanced ability in mathematics. Yet many leading astronomers were directly engaged with the production of books and instruments. In aspects of their work they were printers and makers. This lecture approaches sixteenth-century astronomy from the unusual perspective of craft practice. The Crawford Collection and other resources in libraries and museums demonstrate that early astronomy was crafted as well as reasoned.

It will take place on 30 April 2014, at 5:30 p.m. in the Teviot Lecture Theatre, Teviot Place, The University of Edinburgh. The lecture will be followed by a small reception. All welcome.

The lecture is free but ticketed. Information on the location and how to book your ticket can be found at: http://goo.gl/zMaU0S

For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Monica Azzolini: m.azzolini@ed.ac.uk

Free poster at: Crawford_Lecture_Bennett_A4_web

A medieval computer


In a little more than a month, Manchester (UK) will host the largest conference in the history of science, technology and medicine in recent years. The 24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine will take place over a whole week (21-28 July) and already promises to be a memorable event. The Congress meets every four years around the globe (last time it was in Budapest, and before then in Beijing), so it is particularly exciting to see it happening in the UK (although, sadly, I won’t be able to attend it!). The organisers have set up a website with a wealth of information: along with the programme (which is searchable, of course), there is a terrific blog where participants at the Congress can showcase their own research. The piece below is one such example, and a particularly exciting one at that: it is written by Seb Falk, a PhD student at Cambridge University currently working on a unique medieval manuscript, The Equatorie of the Planetis. The text describes a ‘medieval computer’ (i.e. calculating device) that could be used to predict the position of the luminaries and the five known planets. Among other things such a device may have assisted the medieval astrologer when casting horoscopes.

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Crawford 2013 podcast and other considerations

Almost a month has passed since our 2013 Crawford Lecture, a month full of exam marking, as May is the most intense period of the exam diet here in Edinburgh. But the sun now shines, both literally and metaphorically, students are enjoying some well deserved break, and I can now look forward to a summer of research. I hope to post soon something about astrological talismans and potions, but before doing that I’d like to announce that the podcast of Professor Sven Dupré‘s magnificent lecture is now available (here), and offer some general considerations.

I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture. It nicely encapsulated the best interdisciplinary research that is now conducted in the history of science. It was about Galileo, but not on Galileo. It was about his intellectual, social, and cultural context, not just about the Renaissance genius. Yes, because I have always felt uncomfortable around geniuses in history (I have yet to meet one in person!). Continue reading

2013 Crawford Lecture in the History of Astronomy

Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Susterma...

Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans painted in 1636. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a little announcement for those of you who happen to live (or be) in Scotland next week! The event is ticketed but free. If you cannot come, do check our Crawford Lecture page for a podcast in about a month’s time!


“Galileo, the Telescope and the Renaissance Culture of Glass” by Professor Sven Dupré (Freie Universität Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science).

When: 7 May 2013 at 5.30pm. Where: Teviot Lecture Theatre, Doorway 5, Old Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG.

Reception to follow.

Fresh from the Press…

This may sound like a rather shameless plug for my book (and, I confess it, in part it is!), but 2013 is proving a rich year for the history of astrology and astronomy, and I wanted to alert readers of this blog of three major studies that have appeared in print since January. These are (in alphabetical order):

  • Monica Azzolini, The Duke and the Stars: Astrology and Politics in Renaissance Milan (Harvard University Press, 2013)


  • Patrick Boner, Kepler’s Cosmological Synthesis: Astrology, Mechanism and the Soul (Brill, 2013)


  • Mary Quinlan-McGrath, Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance (Chicago University Press, 2013)


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Everything has a beginning…

So, here we are. A new blog. About what, you may ask? About the history of the science of the stars, namely astronomy and astrology as they were understood and practiced in early modern times. The idea for this blog comes from my own research interests and my move to Edinburgh in 2007. Edinburgh has, you see, one of the most remarkable libraries for the study of the history of astronomy. What is even more remarkable is that very few people know that. This collection was donated to the Scottish Nation in 1888 and has been housed in the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill ever since. If you want to know more about it, you can go to our dedicated page on the Crawford Collection. You will find out why it carries the name Crawford, how the collection came to be donated to the Observatory, and a little bit about its generous donor. The discovery of this amazing resource prompted me to organise a series of events to better publicise it, in the hope that this would lead to a more active exploration of its resources by historians of science like myself. The result is the Crawford Project, which comprises a series of events that have the stated aim of showcasing the collection and making the history of astronomy (and astrology) a regular feature of Edinburgh’s intellectual life. You will learn more about the events that took place since 2008 in a related page. Here you will find details of the international workshop that took place in 2008 and the series of lectures that have been organised since. Each annual lecture is delivered by a distinguished historian of science: the topic varies from year to year but it is related to books (and authors) housed in the Crawford Collection. Each lecture is accompanied by a beautiful poster and has been recorded. So, even if you missed the lecture or you do not live in Edinburgh (and many of you will not!) you can listen to its podcast.

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