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Osiander, Andreas

OSIANDER, ANDREAS

(b. Gunzenhausen, Bavaria, Germany, 19 December 1498; d. Königsberg, Germany [now Kaliningrad, U.S.S.R.], 17 October 1552)

theology, astronomical and mathematical publishing.

On 9 July 1515 Osiander was admitted to the University of Ingolstadt as a “cleric of the Eichstätt” diocese.1 Without obtaining a degree he moved to Nuremberg, where he taught Hebrew and was ordained a priest in 1520. He enthusiastically embraced the new Lutheran movement and soon became one of its most militant spokesmen. When Nuremberg accepted the pro-Catholic Augsburg Interim, Osiander left and joined the Protestant Duke Albert of Prussia. On 27 January 1549 he arrived in Königsberg, where the recently founded university appointed him professor of theology.2 His doctrinal views were bitterly opposed by the more orthodox followers of Martin Luther in the “Osiander Controversy,” which continued after Osiander’s death.

In 1538 Rheticus obtained a leave of absence from Wittenberg University in order to visit German astronomers. In Nuremberg he met Osiander, whose hobby was the mathematical sciences. Hence, when Rheticus’ Narratio prima, the first printed discussion of the Copernican astronomy, was published in 1540, a copy was sent to Osiander, who was shocked by the claim of the new system to be true; he regarded divine revelation as the sole source of truth. In similar letters to Rheticus and Copernicus on 20 April 1541, when Rheticus was waiting in Frombork (Frauenburg) for Copernicus to put the final touches on the manuscript of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, Osiander urged the inclusion in the introduction of the statement that even if the Copernican system provided a basis for correct astronomical computations, it might still be false. Copernicus firmly rejected Osiander’s recommendation.

Nevertheless, subsequent events enabled Osiander to impose his fictionalist philosophy of science on De revolutionibus, while its author lay helpless and dying in far-off Frombork. Copernicus had entrusted the printing of De revolutionibus to Rheticus, who supervised the early stages of the process in the shop of Johannes Petreius (Hans Peter) in Nuremberg. When Rheticus had to go to the University of Leipzig, which had just appointed him professor of mathematics, he was replaced as editor of De revolutionibus by Osiander, who surreptitiously slipped into the authentic front matter an unsigned preface composed by himself and expounding his anti-Copernican fictionalism.3

When copies of De revolutionibus reached Rheticus in Leipzig, he became enraged and sent to the City Council of Nuremberg a sharp protest that was written by Tiedemann Giese, the closest friend of Copernicus, who had died in the meantime. Petreius replied that he had received the false preface in a form undifferentiated from the rest of the material. Whereas Osiander never publicly acknowledged his authorship of the interpolated preface, he did so privately,4 and thus finally in 1609 Kepler’s Astronomia nova was able to identify Osiander as the culprit.

Osiander was more sympathetic to the mathematician Cardano. Both of them were astrologers, and they exchanged letters about horoscopes for some five years before Cardano on 9 January 1545 dedicated Artis magnae sive de regulis algebraicis liber unus— which initiated the theory of algebraic equations—to Osiander, who edited the work for Petreius.5

NOTES

1. Götz F. v. Pölnitz, ed., Die Matrikel der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Ingolstadt-Landshut-München, I (Munich, 1937), 381.

2. His son Lucas was admitted to the university in the summer semester of 1549 (Georg Erler, ed., Die Matrikel der Universität Königsberg in Preussen, I [Leipzig, 1908–1910], 10).

3. Osiander’s preface was translated into English by Edward Rosen, Three Copernican Treatises, 3rd ed. (New York, 1971), pp. 24–25.

4. Ernst Zinner, Entstehung und Ausbreitung der coppernicanischen Lehre (Erlangen, 1943), p. 453.

5. Cardano’s dedication was translated into English by T. Richard Witmer. The Great Art or the Rules of Algebra by Girolamo Cardano (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), p. 2.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. Osiander’s works are chronologically enumerated (1522-1552) in Gottfried Seebass, Das reformatorische Werk des Andreas Osiander (Nuremberg, 1967), pp. 6–58, with nine portraits of Osiander as frontispiece and supplement.

II. Secondary Literature. On Osiander and his work, see Wilhelm Möller, Andreas Osiander (Elberfeld. 1870; repr. Nieuwkoop, 1965), and his article, “Osiander,” in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, XXIV (1887; 1970), 473–483; and G. Seebass, op. cit., pp. xi–xviii.

Edward Rosen

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"Osiander, Andreas." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Osiander, Andreas

Andreas Osiander (ändrā´äs ōzēän´dər), 1498–1552, German reformer. His original name was Hosemann or Heiligmann. Ordained a priest in 1520, Osiander joined the cause of the Reformation in 1522. He supported Martin Luther vigorously, participating in the Marburg Conference (1529), the Diet of Augsburg (1530), and the signing of the Schmalkaldic Articles (1537). Frequently during controversies the coarseness and violence of his language aroused personal enmity. In 1548, Osiander's refusal to agree to the Augsburg Interim made it necessary for him to leave Nuremberg, and he joined the theological faculty at the new Univ. of Königsberg. Osiander's mystical interpretation of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith led to a disagreement with his colleagues that subsequently involved the whole German Evangelical Church.

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