Men and heavens


‘A great many of the ancient civilisations, once considered ‘pri-mitive’, which grew and flourished in very different parts of the world (Brittany, Scotland, Kenya, Mexico, the Sahara, China, Cambodia, Arizona etc.) in widely separated periods, developed the science of astronomy to levels which now seem remarkably advanced. These civilisations, often using such unrefined instruments as sticks and stones, managed to understand the cyclical nature of the movements of the sun, of the moon and of particular stars and constellations, and were able to record and hand down these notions for use in early calendars. Recent research has demonstrated that the ancient monument of Stonehenge, in the south of England, could even have been used to predict eclipses. Our opinions concerning the cultural and intellectual achievements of our predecessors must probably, therefore, be radically revised. What is probably most surprising is the widespread diffusion of the phenomemon. In fact, the use of elements of astronomy in myths, rites and agriculture seems to be universal, and transcends geo-graphical and ethnic barriers. It corresponds to mankind’s desire and need to find a place in the universe, to understand the world and to control the environment in which it lives. This puts theories which suggest ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as the cradles of civilisation in a new light. The astronomical and astrological traditions of the Western world had their origins in Greece in the VI century B.C., and incorpo-rated elements of the Egyptian and Babylonian heritage. Modern man is probably the most advanced along this continuum of knowledge, and is the most recent exponent of that irresistible ‘urge towards the heavens’ which has always distinguished humanity. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to Stonehenge; a scale model of the monument, with relative explanations, illustrates the science of astronomy in the Megalithic age, revealing that the peo-ple of that period possessed a surprising knowledge of the subject. The second section deals with the instruments of the Greek astro-nomers Ptolemy and Hipparchus; the full-scale models allow the visitor to better understand the basic principles upon which astro-nomical observation is based, principles which are valid even to-day: The exhibition concludes with the science of astronomy in the Renaissance, the period dominated by the figure of Galileo, and includes a model of the observatory of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), upon whose data Kepler (1571-1630) based his discovery of the elliptical orbits of the planets. Finally, the telescope of Galileo (1564-1642), which enabled humanity, for the first time in its history, to overcome the confines of its primary sensory perceptions. With the advent of the telescope, the first in a long series of obser-vational instruments constructed by the hands of man, the conception of the universe changed, and mankind started to become fully aware of the dimensions involved, and of the real nature of the heavenly firmament.’


20 Agosto 1988 - 27 Agosto 1988


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions