The History of the Telescope: Exploring the Boundaries Between Science and Culture - Day 1 of 2

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 2:00pm - 6:30pm EDT

  • Location:20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor
    New York, New York, US
  • Price:Free and open to the public

On April 16-17, NYU will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope, as leading scholars come together to explore the interfaces between the humanities and social sciences, and science and technology. For two days, humanists, scientists, and engineers will discuss how the instrument's use led not only to a multitude of discoveries and the development of new branches within the physical sciences, but to probing questions about the role and purpose of humanity in the universe. Far from being just a crucial scientific instrument, the telescope since Galileo has served as a potent symbol of aristocratic patronage as well as a genuine threat to received ideas about how the heavens work. From the 18th century to the present, it has conferred power and prestige on those who used it to redefine the origins of the universe. Ethical, political, economic, religious, cultural, and aesthetic ideals converge in this exciting history. By placing the invention and development of the telescope within their proper historical contexts, we can appreciate the role of science in culture as well as the role of culture in framing the scientific enterprise — and how both scientific and cultural ventures engage creativity and ingenuity.

The Saturday talks will conclude with internationally-acclaimed actor Jay Sanders' readings of key scenes from Robert Goodwin's recent play, "Two Gentlemen of Florence," in which Sanders performed the role of Galileo. Sanders' performance will be followed by a reception.

Day 1 Schedule

2:00 p.m. Welcoming and Opening Remarks

Myles W. Jackson, The Dibner Family Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Director of Science and Technology Studies, NYU-Poly, and Professor of the History of Science, Gallatin; Susanne Wofford, Dean of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of NYU; Jane Tylus, Director of the Humanities Initiative at NYU

2:30 p.m. "When Was the Telescope Possible? The Catalan Background"

Tom Settle, NYU-Poly and Florence

3:10 p.m. "Galileo's Telescope and Roman Elites, 1611: The Casino Malvasia and Vigna Bandini"

Tom Mayer, Augustana College

3:50 p.m. "Come, give me an instrument: Telescopes, Trumpets, and Organ Pipes"

Eileen Reeves: Princeton University

4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Questions and Gerneral Discussion

5:30 p.m. Remarks by Kurt Becker, Associate Provost NYU-Poly