Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita

Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita

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Anton Maria Schyrleus (also Schyrl, Schyrle) of Rheita (1604–1660) ( Antonín Maria Šírek z Reity) was an astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

 and optician
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

. He developed several inverting and erecting eyepieces, and was the maker of Kepler’s telescope. "Things appear more alive with the binocular telescope," he wrote, "doubly as exact so to speak, as well as large and bright." His binocular telescope is the precursor to our binoculars
Binoculars, field glasses or binocular telescopes are a pair of identical or mirror-symmetrical telescopes mounted side-by-side and aligned to point accurately in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes when viewing distant objects...


Two different stories exist about his early life. The most popular account holds that he is of Czech
Czech people
Czechs, or Czech people are a western Slavic people of Central Europe, living predominantly in the Czech Republic. Small populations of Czechs also live in Slovakia, Austria, the United States, the United Kingdom, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Russia and other countries...

 origin, born in 1597. According to this story he was a priest and a member of the order of Capuchin friars at Rheita, Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, hence his name. At the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 in 1618, he left the order and established himself in Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...


The other, more probable account, starts in 1604, when Schyrleus is born in Reutte
Reutte is a market town in Tyrol, Austria. It is the administrative center of the Reutte district . Reutte is located on the Lech river, and has a population of 5,738 .- Neighbouring municipalities :...

, Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

. After joining the Augustine
The term Augustinians, named after Saint Augustine of Hippo , applies to two separate and unrelated types of Catholic religious orders:...

 order in 1622, he is sent to the university at Ingolstadt
Ingolstadt is a city in the Free State of Bavaria, in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is located along the banks of the Danube River, in the center of Bavaria. As at 31 March 2011, Ingolstadt had 125.407 residents...

, where he probably follows courses in astronomy and learns how to grind lenses. Following his graduation he does not return to his convent but enters the Capuchin order, which sends him to Linz
Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria . It is located in the north centre of Austria, approximately south of the Czech border, on both sides of the river Danube. The population of the city is , and that of the Greater Linz conurbation is about...

 in 1636 where he is to teach philosophy. Here, he comes in the service of Kurfürst
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

 Philipp Christoph von Sötern
Philipp Christoph von Sötern
Philipp Christoph von Sötern was the Prince-Bishop of Speyer from 1610 to 1652 and the Archbishop-Elector of Trier from 1623 to 1652.-Biography:...

, the archbishop of Trier
Archbishopric of Trier
The Archbishopric of Trier was a Roman Catholic diocese in Germany, that existed from Carolingian times until the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Its suffragans were the dioceses of Metz, Toul and Verdun. Since the 9th century the Archbishops of Trier were simultaneously princes and since the 11th...

 and Speyer, who is held captive by the emperor, Ferdinand III. The archbishop sends him on a mission to negotiate with Pope Urban VIII. The emperor however, seeing this diplomatic activity as a form of spying, bans Schyrleus from his lands in 1641. From here on, both accounts of Schyrleus' life come together.

In the 1640s he was a professor of philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 at Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

. In 1642, he was in Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 conducting astronomical observations and optical measurements, and in 1643 his work Novem stellae circa Jovem visae, circa Saturnum sex, circa Martem nonnullae ("Nine stars seen around Jupiter, six around Saturn, several around Mars") appeared. In 1645, he published Oculus Enoch et Eliae, siue, Radius sidereomysticus, a very influential work on optics
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light...

 and astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...



In Oculus Enoch et Eliae, besides describing one of his inventions, an eyepiece for a Keplerian telescope, which left the image reverted, it also contained a long section on binocular telescopes, which greatly influenced other telescope-makers and opticians in the next century. His section on binocular telescopes is not illustrated, but the methods he describes became the standard construction techniques for many years.

Another engraving in this book may show a lens grinding machine.

Astronomical observations

Schyrleus was a determined anticopernican. In the foreword of its book, which includes a dedication to Jesus Christ and Ferdinand III
Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor
Ferdinand III was Holy Roman Emperor from 15 February 1637 until his death, as well as King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria.-Life:...

, Schyrleus boldly declared that after having meditated for a long time on the systems of Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe
Tycho Brahe , born Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was a Danish nobleman known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations...

, and other astronomers, he was convinced that all of these scientists had advanced superfluous theories. He dedicated the moons of Jupiter to Pope Urban VIII, calling them Astres Urbanoctavianes. He also wrote that Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest planet in the Solar System, after Jupiter. Saturn is named after the Roman god Saturn, equated to the Greek Cronus , the Babylonian Ninurta and the Hindu Shani. Saturn's astronomical symbol represents the Roman god's sickle.Saturn,...

 had two "companions," and that they were periodically eclipsed by the planet. He deduced that they had their own independent orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

s, and that they illuminated Saturn, which needed light as it was a hundred times less lit by the sun than the Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. He tells us that in 1642, in Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

, he saw pass in front of the Sun a troop (turnam) of shooting stars that followed one another during a period fourteen days, and that the glare of the Sun was considerably weakened by it.

In regard to extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

, Schyrleus wrote, “If Jupiter has…inhabitants…they must be larger and more beautiful than the inhabitants of the Earth, in proportion to the [size] of the two spheres." However, he did not dare to confirm the existence of Jovian beings due to certain theological difficulties; Schyrleus wondered, for example, if beings on other planets maintained their primitive state of innocence, or if they are cursed by original sin
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

 like humans are.

The Moon

Schyrleus also included a map of the Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 in Oculus Enoch et Eliae. It was the first depiction of the Moon as seen in an inverting telescope (and thus the Moon itself is inverted in the illustration, with the South Pole at the top). The crater Tycho
Tycho (crater)
Tycho is a prominent lunar impact crater located in the southern lunar highlands, named after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe . To the south is the crater Street; to the east is Pictet, and to the north-northeast is Sasserides. The surface around Tycho is replete with craters of various sizes,...

, for example, was depicted on lunar maps as early as 1645, when Schyrleus depicted the bright ray system. His map, however, did not come into standard use, as it was superseded by those made by Hevelius and the Jesuits Giovanni Battista Riccioli
Giovanni Battista Riccioli
Giovanni Battista Riccioli was an Italian astronomer and a Catholic priest in the Jesuit order...

 and Francesco Maria Grimaldi
Francesco Maria Grimaldi
Francesco Maria Grimaldi was an Italian Jesuit priest, mathematician and physicist who taught at the Jesuit college in Bologna....

 (1650–1651). In 1647, Schyrleus published a lunar chart with a diameter of 19 cm.

He may have spent some time in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, but it is certain that he died at Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

. It is unknown why he was there at the time.


He is credited with bringing into the scientific lexicon the terms "ocular" and "objective" (as used in optics). The lunar crater Rheita
Rheita (crater)
Rheita is a lunar impact crater located in the southwestern sector of the Moon. It lies to the northeast of the crater Metius, and northwest of Young. The southwestern rim overlies the edge of Vallis Rheita, a long lunar valley stretching for over 200 kilometers on a line running northeast to...

 is named after him. By extension, the lunar valley Vallis Rheita
Vallis Rheita
Vallis Rheita is a linear valley on the near side of the Moon. It is located in the southeastern quadrant, and is oriented radially to Mare Nectaris. This valley appears to share a common origin with the Vallis Snellius to the northeast, as both are oriented radially with Mare Nectaris.The center...

, where the crater stands at the valley’s northwestern end, is also named after Schyrleus.

External links

The First 300 Years of Binocular Telescopes, Peter Abrahams, May 2002.
(Extensive info and primary texts) Imago Mundi: Schyrle de Rheita Franco Gabici, Riscoperta la figura del capuccino Rheita, geniale astronomo e inventore Richard S. Westfall, The Galileo Project, Rheita, Anton Maria Schyrlaeus Richard Lipp, Anton Maria Schyrle - Priester - Astronom - Diplomat