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To scrutinize the whole of Nature: The Royal Society and its fellows 1660-1730

Johannes Hevelius

Plate reperesenting the transit of Mercury. Johannes Hevelius. Johannis Hevelii Mercurius in sole visus.[Gda?sk]: auctoris typis et sumptibus, imprimebat Simon Reiniger, 1662 Rare Books Collection FOL. QB41.H4Plate reperesenting the transit of Mercury. Johannes Hevelius. Johannis Hevelii Mercurius in sole visus.[Gda?sk]: auctoris typis et sumptibus, imprimebat Simon Reiniger, 1662 Rare Books Collection FOL. QB41.H4Johannes Hevelius (1611-87), a wealthy brewer from Danzig (now Gda?sk), was one of the most eminent astronomers of the seventeenth century and the possessor of what was for some time the most well-equipped observatory anywhere in Europe. In 1647 he published a lavishly illustrated atlas of the moon, Selenographia, which made him well known and admired in England.

In 1661 Hevelius was one of the few astronomers able to observe a transit of Mercury across the Sun. He recorded his observations in Mercurius in sole visus, the plates of which he engraved himself and had printed on his own press. He sent copies to prominent astronomers in England, such as Seth Ward (1617-89) and John Wallis (1616-1703). Hevelius’s book was mentioned at meetings of the Society and in early 1663 Henry Oldenburg (c.1619-77), the Royal Society’s secretary, was asked to write to Hevelius to:

assure him of the esteem, which the society has of his merits, of which he had given such demonstrations to the learned world in the books published by him.

Hevelius replied at the end of 1663, beginning a long and fruitful correspondence with Oldenburg and in the following year he was invited to become one of the Society’s first foreign fellows.

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