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December 08, 1956 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1956-12-08

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Star-Gazing One of Earliest Sciences

(Editor's Note: This is the first in
a series of three interpretive articles
discussing the development of as-
tronomy and its effects on human
When the first semblance of
man turned his eyes toward the
sky and wondered-astronomy be-
This unique birth places astron-
omy as one of the oldest, if not
the oldest, of all sciences and en-
dows it with a rich, eventful his-
tory. For as man developed, as
his civilizations prospered, so did
astronomical knowledge follow in
As in most fields dealing with
antiquity it is difficult if not
impossible to ascertain fully the
importance of astronomy in primi-
tive life.
Needed Calendar
But it is reasonable to surmise,
and later events verify this pre-
mise, that the need for a calendar
by which to guide one's affairs
and to determine planting seasons
fostered study of the periods of
celestial bodies.
Man for the most part has a
tendency to revere that which is
beyond his powers of comprehen-
lion. The sun and moon, being
the two most permanent and
prominant features of the sky,
soon became the objects of man's
reverence. This awe developed in-
to worship and thus religion.
And So Came Astrology
It is to the priest of the varied
religions that we may designate
the title of "astronomer." Many
of these priests eventually tried
to argue that man's destination
could be revealed in the stars and
thus the pseudo-science .of astrol-
ogy was born.
One of the earliest records of
observations can be found among
the Babylonians who flourished
about 3000 B.C. in what is now
Their priests would record from
watchtowers events in the sky,
especially the coming of the new
Moon which marked the start of
the new month.
Though these observations were
rather crude according to modern

tronomy can be dated approxi-.
mately from 1543. This is the date
when Copernicus' "De Revolu-
tionibus Orbium Coelistium" (Con-
cerning the Revolution of the
Heavenly Spheres) was published
and the world was given the cur-
rently accepted concept of the
earth revolving with its sister
planets around the sun.
Copernicus Not First
We should note however that
the dethronement of the earth
from the central position of the
universe was first thought of by
Philolaus, fifth century B.C., a
supporter of Pythagoras. He pic-
tured in the center of the universe
a "central fire"-as distinguished
from the sun - around which
members of the Solar System re-
This developmient in astronomy
is reflected in its effect on man's
Perhaps the most important ef-
fect is that with the dethrone-
ment of the earth as the center
of the Universe also came the
dethronement of man as the cen-
tral figure of thought.
Man Was Freed
No longer was man in a place of
primary significance; no longer
could the whole universe be
thought to exist for his unique
Free then from the previous
prejudices man was able to em-
bark on a great period of explora-
tion and discovery that touched
almost all phases of life.
(Tomorrow: Contributors to
development of Astronomy)

Hillel, Sabbath morning services, 9
a.m., Hillel.
* * *
Congregational and Disciples Student
Guild, graduate student group, 8:15
p.m., Guild House.
Michigan Christian Fellowship. pre-
liminary meeting with John Scott,
7:30 p.m., Lane Hall.
* * *
Congregational and Disciples Student
Guild, lecture, 7 p.m., speaker: Mr.
Hugh Gaston, "What Makes or Breaks
a Marriage".
* * .
Graduate Outing Club, hike and sup-
per, 2 p.m., Sunday, Rackham Building.
Hillel, graduate group record concert,
following supper club, Hillel.
* * *,
Hillel, organizational meeting for
United Jewish Appeal, 5 p.m., Sunday,
Newman Club, Communion break-
fast, after 9:30 mass, Father Richard
Unitarian Student Group, meeting, 7
p.m., Sunday, Unitarian Church.
Michigan Christian Fellowship, John
Stott Lectures, Dec. 10-14, Rackham
Lecture Hall.
University of Michigan Folk Dancers,
meeting, 7:30-10 p.m., Monday, Lane
.Doctor Talks
On Pathology
A group of 150 Michigan path-
ologists will hear Dr. Howard T.
Karsner, research adviser to the
Surgeon General of the United
States Navy deliver the first an-
nual Carl V. Weller Lecture today
at 5 p.m.

Two earth satellites made of
plastic, one that flashes a light
intermittently and another stud-
ded with metal "feelers" are pro-
posed in the book, "Scientific Uses
of Earth Satellites," recently pub-
lished by the Universitly Press.
Edited by Prof. James A. Van
Allen, chairman of the depart-
ment of physics at the State
University of Iowa, the book is
made up of technical papers de-
livered here in January at a meet-
ing of the Upper Atmosphere
Rocket Research Panel.
Coordinated Research
Prof. Van Allen is chairman
of the panel, which since 1946 has
coordinated high altitude rocket
research in this country and is
charting the scientific measure-
ments to be made by earth satel-
lites launched during the 1957-58
International Geophysical Year.
Two University faculty members
are on the panel.
The 33 papers represent "the
best current thinking of leading
Elizabeth Dillon
'-n 4noS Jo 4S1OJ uO
1111 South U.
Open Mon. eve. till 8:30

'U' Engineers Propose
Plastic Earth Satellite

(* ..

scientists, technicians, and mili-
tary experts on the ways in which
man-made satellites can contrib-
ute to our knowledge of the uni-
verse," the book states.
U' Engineers
Three of the papers are authored
by six men from the University's
Engineering Research Institute.
The plastic satellite is proposed
in one of these by Leslie M. JonesI
and Frederick L. Bartman, re-I
search engineers at the Engineer-
ing Research Institute. It would
be a five-pound, five-foot-diam-
eter inflated sphere with a seven-
inch-diameter metal core.

Four To Talk
At Conference
Four faculty members will speak
at the winter meeting of the Mich-
igan Linguistic Society today, at
Wayne State University.
At this meeting, Andreas Kout-
soudas, research assistant in the
Engineering Research Institute,
will explain "Mechanical Trans-
lation and Zipf's Law."
Members of the English dept.,
Prof. Charles C. Fries and Bryce
Van Syoc, will speak on "Teaching
English in Indonesia and Japan."
This program will also include a
talk by Prof. Yao Shen, of the
Far Eastern languages dept., on
the subject "Learning the Chinese
Script Can Be Easy."


DETHRONED THE EARTH - Copernicus, the 16th century
scientist founded modern astronomy in 1543 when his "Concern-
ing the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres" was published
describing the modern theory a solar system of which the sun
rather than the earth is the center.

standards, they represent an
eventful epoch in man's intellec-
tual growth.
Up In The Air
These ancients also attempted
to explain the enigmas of the Cos-
mos with rather elaborate and
purile systems.
Some of the earliest theory pic-
tures the earth as situated on a
high mountain surrounded by the
seas, which were themselves hem-
med in by a ring of mountains.
And there were passages
through these mountains which
enabled the celestial bodies to
move daily about the fixed earth.
Other theories depicted the
earth as resting on a cow which
stood on its four legs. But it is not
known on what the cow was
Greek Thinking
With the ancient Greeks was
ushered in a more advance stage

of civilization and a more mature
idea of theory of the universe.
The primary points of the theory
was a fixed earth about which the
stars, attached to the celestial
sphere like small diamonds, and
the "wanderers" or planets." the
sun and moon revolved.
It is quite hard to determine
which came first. Whether what
was observed aroused these feel-
ings or whether they were only the
results of an already existing view-
point is hard to ascertain.
Then Things Became Dark
With the fall of Greco-Roman
civilization came a phase of hu-
man history, the Dark Ages, dur-
ing which scientific development
was slowed.
As man began to awaken from
this intellectual impasse astron-
omy became one of the motivating
forces in this process.
The beginning of modern as-



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