Rheita, Anton Maria Schyrlaeus De (Antonín Maria

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(b. Bohemia, 1597; d. Ravenna, Italy, 1660)


Little is known of Rheita’s life. He was a priest and a Capuchin, at first amember of the community in Vrajt (Rheita) in Bohemia. He apparently left that monastery during the Thirty Years’ War, and by the 1640’s was professor of theology at Trier. It is not certain when he went to Ravenna.

Rheita’s work in observational astronomy and optics was carried out in Belgium in the 1640’s. In 1643 he published at Louvain a tract of rather dubious scientific value entitled Novem stellae circa Jovem visae, circa Saturnum sex, circum Martem nonnullae. Two years later, at Antwerp, he brought out the work on which his scientific reputation rests, the Oculus Enoch et Eliae, opus theologiae, philosophiae, et verbi dei praeconibus until et iucundum. This treatise contains, among a somewhat curious variety of topics, Rheita’s description of an eyepiece for a Keplerian telescope that left the image reverted, his own invention; in it Rheita also made use of the terms “ocular” and “objective,” which he himself had coined. Most interesting to historians of science, however, is Rheita’s map of the moon, drawn according to his own observations. The map is eighteen centimeters in diameter, and although it is rather scanty in detail (and decidedly inferior to that published in Antwerp in the same year by M.F.van Langren), it is the first representation of the moon that places its southernmost part at the top, reproducing the image seen through an inverting astronomical telescope.


Both of Rheita’s surviving works have been cited in the text. There is no secondary literature.

ZdenĚk Kopal