Thomas Digges

Thomas Digges

Overview
Sir Thomas Digges was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 and astronomer
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...

. He was the first to expound the Copernican system in English but discarded the notion of a fixed shell of immoveable stars to postulate infinitely many stars at varying distances; he was also first to postulate the "dark night sky paradox".

Thomas was the son of Leonard Digges, the mathematician and surveyor. After the death of his father, Thomas grew up under the guardianship of John Dee
John Dee (mathematician)
John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy....

, a typical Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 natural philosopher.

Digges served as a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Wallingford
Wallingford (UK Parliament constituency)
Wallingford was a constituency in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.It was a parliamentary borough created in 1295, centred on the market town Wallingford in Berkshire . It used to return two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons; this was cut to one in 1832, and...

 and also had a military career as a Muster-Master General to the English forces from 1586 to 1594 during the war with the Spanish Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

.

Thomas Digges married Anne, daughter of Warham St Leger
Warham St Leger
-Life:He was second son of Sir Anthony St Leger by his wife Agnes, daughter of Sir Hugh Warham, brother of Archbishop William Warham, and was born probably about 1525. His eldest brother, William, was disinherited; the third brother, Sir Anthony St Leger, was made Master of the Rolls in Ireland in...

; and was the father of Sir Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges
Sir Dudley Digges , of Chilham Castle, Kent , was a Member of Parliament, elected to the Parliament of 1614 and that of 1621, and also a "Virginia adventurer," an investor who ventured his capital in the Virginia Company of London...

 (1583–1639), politician and statesman, and Leonard Digges
Leonard Digges (writer)
Leonard Digges was an accomplished Hispanist and minor poet, a younger son of the astronomer Thomas Digges Leonard Digges (1588 – 7 April 1635) was an accomplished Hispanist and minor poet, a younger son of the astronomer Thomas Digges Leonard Digges (1588 – 7 April 1635) was an...

 (1588–1635), poet.

Thomas attempted to determine the parallax
Parallax
Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. The term is derived from the Greek παράλλαξις , meaning "alteration"...

 of the 1572 supernova
SN 1572
SN 1572 , "B Cassiopeiae" , or 3C 10 was a supernova of Type Ia in the constellation Cassiopeia, one of about eight supernovae visible to the naked eye in historical records...

 observed by 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 concluded it had to be beyond the orbit of the Moon
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...

.
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Encyclopedia
Sir Thomas Digges was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 and astronomer
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...

. He was the first to expound the Copernican system in English but discarded the notion of a fixed shell of immoveable stars to postulate infinitely many stars at varying distances; he was also first to postulate the "dark night sky paradox".

Life


Thomas was the son of Leonard Digges, the mathematician and surveyor. After the death of his father, Thomas grew up under the guardianship of John Dee
John Dee (mathematician)
John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy....

, a typical Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 natural philosopher.

Digges served as a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Wallingford
Wallingford (UK Parliament constituency)
Wallingford was a constituency in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.It was a parliamentary borough created in 1295, centred on the market town Wallingford in Berkshire . It used to return two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons; this was cut to one in 1832, and...

 and also had a military career as a Muster-Master General to the English forces from 1586 to 1594 during the war with the Spanish Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

.

Thomas Digges married Anne, daughter of Warham St Leger
Warham St Leger
-Life:He was second son of Sir Anthony St Leger by his wife Agnes, daughter of Sir Hugh Warham, brother of Archbishop William Warham, and was born probably about 1525. His eldest brother, William, was disinherited; the third brother, Sir Anthony St Leger, was made Master of the Rolls in Ireland in...

; and was the father of Sir Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges
Sir Dudley Digges , of Chilham Castle, Kent , was a Member of Parliament, elected to the Parliament of 1614 and that of 1621, and also a "Virginia adventurer," an investor who ventured his capital in the Virginia Company of London...

 (1583–1639), politician and statesman, and Leonard Digges
Leonard Digges (writer)
Leonard Digges was an accomplished Hispanist and minor poet, a younger son of the astronomer Thomas Digges Leonard Digges (1588 – 7 April 1635) was an accomplished Hispanist and minor poet, a younger son of the astronomer Thomas Digges Leonard Digges (1588 – 7 April 1635) was an...

 (1588–1635), poet.

Work


Thomas attempted to determine the parallax
Parallax
Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. The term is derived from the Greek παράλλαξις , meaning "alteration"...

 of the 1572 supernova
SN 1572
SN 1572 , "B Cassiopeiae" , or 3C 10 was a supernova of Type Ia in the constellation Cassiopeia, one of about eight supernovae visible to the naked eye in historical records...

 observed by 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 concluded it had to be beyond the orbit of the Moon
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...

. This contradicted the accepted view of the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

, according to which no change could take place among the fixed stars.

In 1576, he published a new edition of his father's perpetual almanac, A Prognostication everlasting. The text written by Leonard Digges for the third edition of 1556 was left unchanged, but Thomas added new material in several appendices. The most important of these was A Perfit Description of the Caelestiall Orbes according to the most aunciente doctrine of the Pythagoreans, latelye revived by Copernicus and by Geometricall Demonstrations approved. Contrary to the Ptolemaic cosmology
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 of the original book by his father, the appendix featured a detailed discussion of the controversial and still poorly known Copernican heliocentric model of the Universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. This was the first publication of that model in English, and a milestone in the popularisation of science.


For the most part, the appendix was a loose translation into English of chapters from Copernicus' book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium is the seminal work on the heliocentric theory of the Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus...

.

Thomas Digges went further than Copernicus, however, by proposing that the universe is infinite, containing infinitely many stars, and may have been the first person to do so. According to Harrison
Edward Robert Harrison
Edward R. Harrison was a British astronomer and cosmologist, who spent much of his career at the University of Massachusetts and University of Arizona...

:

"Copernicus had said little or nothing about what lay beyond the sphere of fixed stars. Digges's original contribution to cosmology consisted of dismantling the starry sphere, and scattering the stars throughout endless space."


"By grafting endless space onto the Copernican system and scattering the stars throughout this endless space, Digges pioneered... the idea of an unlimited universe filled with the mingling rays of countless stars."


An illustration of the Copernican universe can be seen at right. The outer inscription on the map reads:
"This orb of stars fixed infinitely up extends itself in altitude spherically, and therefore immovable the palace of felicity garnished with perpetual shining glorious lights innumerable, far excelling over [the] sun both in quantity and quality the very court of celestial angels, devoid of grief and replenished with perfect endless joy, the habitacle for the elect."

External links