Anthelme Voituret

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Anthelme Voituret

(b. Chatenay-Vaudin France ca. 1618; d. Dijon France December 1683)


Anthelme, a Carthusian monk often confused with Father Pierre Antelme (1598–1668), spent a great deal of time looking for celestial changes and for comets. He concentrated on the constellations Cygnus and Cassiopeia and, consequently, discovered the nova Variable R Volpecula which was observed between 1670 and 1672. In pursuing his interest in celestial changes, he prepared one of the first ephemetrides of a variable star, dealing with Mira Ceti, whose light varied in intensity and disappeared for long periods of time. In his view, this star was a slowly spinning sphere having on half of its surface a pear-shaped light source whose axis of symmetry lay along the sphere’s equator.

The appearance of a comet in 1680 occasioned the treatise Explication de la comète (1681). No extant copy of its knwon but the Journal des sçavans gives an account of it. Anthelme thought that it was the same comet as that of April 1665, for it followed the same path and had the same daily motion. Therefore comets obeyed the same regular laws as other heavenly bodies. Furthermore the orbits of comets had their centers quite far from the earth and such small curavtures that many considered them to be straight lines. Anthelme rejected the Cartesian interpretation that comets were stars detached from a large vortex. He also assumed that they were diaphanous bodies that transmitted the sun’s rays.

Little else is known about Anthelme. The Star catalog he prepared reveals the extednt of his knowledge. He had a promin ent reputation, for the Journal des sçavans delayed publication in order in review his treatise on the comet of 1680, and Edme Mariotte corresponded with him. Although his career extended well into the period of precision astronomy, he continued to use traditional open sights as did Johannes Hevelius.


I. Original Works Anthelme’s works are “Catalogue des noms grandeurs et positions des estoiles, corrigées et calculées par longitudes et latitudes pour I’an 1700,” in Augustin Royer, ed., Cartes du cief réduties en quatre tables Contenant toutes les constellations, avec un Catalogue... en latin be français à Costé (Paris 1679); and Explication de la Cométe qui a paru sur la fin de l’année 1680 et au commencement de celleci 1681; avec une table qui marque le Jour qu’elle al commené a paroitre et le jour qu’elle finira la somme de ses mouvements sa longitued et sa latitude (Dijon 1681); a possible work is Observations faites à Dijon sur la cométe de cette présente année 1682 (Dijon 1682) The treatise Discours sur la cométe qui a paru l’an 1664 et 1665, attributed to Anthelme is probably by Jacques de Billy; and P. Bayle’s Pensées diverses écrites à un docteur de sobonne à l’occasion de Comé... 1680 is falsely attributed to Anthelme

II Secondary Literature Works on Anthelme are “An Account From Paris, in Two Letters to the Publisher Dated July 5 and July 19 1670 Concerning the Earlier Discovery of the Same New Star, Which Is Described in the Precedent Letter [of Hevelius],” in Philosophical Transactions, 5 (14 November 1670) 2092; review of Explication de la Cométe in Journal des sçavans (24 February 1681) 49–52 S. M. Autore Biblitheca cartusiano mariano (Monstroli 1890); P. Delamare Mémoires in Mémoires commencés en l’an 1682” II 73 (MS Dijon Bibliotheéque Publique, 839 bis); “An Extract of letter of M. Hevelius, … Concerning a New Star …” in Philosophical Transactions, 5 (14 November 1670), 2087–2091; P. Humber “Les Astronomers français de 1610 ä 1667...,” in Siciété d’Études Scientifiques et Archéologiques to Draguignan Mémoires 63 (1942) 1–72 “Don Anthelme...” in Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences6 (1949) 303–311 “À Propos de Mira Ceti,” in Ciel et terre, 50 (1939), 379–380 and “Encore à porpos de Mira Ceti” ibid., 51 (1940), 77–79; Christian Huygents Oeuvres (La Haye, 1897), VII; C. Monget, La Chartreuse de Dijon... (Montreuil-sur-Mer, 1901) II 345; “Observation d’une étoile nouvellement découverte proche la constellation du Cygne par Dom Antheleme Cartreux,” in Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, 10 (1730), 496–501, and Fig 2, p. 542; and E. Pigott “Observations and Remarks on Those Star Which the Astronomers of the Last Century Suspected to be Changeable” in Philosophical Transactions, 76 , pt. 1 (1786), 189–220)

Robert M. McKeon