Brief Summary
Major Contribution
Short Biography
Most Significant Publication
Interesting Fact
Recommended Further Reading
About Astro Mundi

An Introduction to Johannes Schoener - compiled by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher
Brief Summary :
Johannes Schoener (1477-1547) was a renowned German mathematician, an astronomer and astrologer, a cartographer, a scientific instrument maker and a publisher of astrological works. He produced some of the oldest known globes in the period from 1515 to 1533. Schoener was ordained as a Catholic priest but was later converted to Protestantism by Melanchthon, Luther's right-hand man. In 1526, Schoener became the first professor of mathematics at Nuremberg, Germany.

Major Contribution :
Schoener took the unfinished works of Johannes Muller (known as Regiomontanus) and edited and published them in 1531. Bernhard Walther, a wealthy German merchant and keen astronomer, was the link between the two astrologers, as Schoener was Walther's student, and Walther was Regiomontanus' patron, having built him an observatory and a printing press. When Regiomontanus died suddenly of the plague in Rome in 1476, Walther inherited all his instruments and writings, but kept them hidden, and many were not released until 1524 when Schoener took possession of the material.

Schoener was also a contemporary of Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), and their link lay through Schoener's friendship with religious reformer, Philip Schwarzerde (known as Melanchthon). Melanchthon was a professor at Wittenberg University, who upon recognizing the brilliance of one of his junior professors, Georg Joachim Rheticus, sent Rheticus to study with Schoener at Nuremberg University. Schoener then set up a private meeting between Rheticus and Copernicus, which resulted in Rheticus becoming Copernicus' sole student. Rheticus is credited with the push to publish Copernicus' work, as it was he who campaigned for the printing of Narratio Prima ('First Report'), and who won both political and financial support for his master from both Catholic and Protestant clerics. It was Rheticus who later supervised the first edition of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus in 1542. Schoener is credited in Copernicus' De revolutionibus for observations of Mercury's movements, but they belonged in fact to Walther, as Schoener published differing observations in 1544.

Short Biography :
Johannes Schoener was born on 16th January 1477 (JC) at 11pm (LMT) in Karlstadt, Germany. He records that at the age of forty years and 192 days he was very "scabby, ulcerous and afflicted with apostumes and various melancholy disturbances". At age fifty-eight on New Year's Day he says he had a bad fall from a height, of which "the cause was Saturn retrograde in Leo in the tenth house of my geniture".*

Schoener's nativity, using Regiomontanus houses (his own preference)

Even though we know details of Schoener's birth data and his chart from his diary, nothing is known of his parentage or his early life, but records show he became ordained as a Catholic priest in 1500 at the age of 23 years. He tells in his diary of a relationship begun a year before his ordination and that he fathered three children in 1502, 1503, and 1504. Nothing is recorded again until 1526, when he and Melanchthon elected a chart for the opening of the new humanistic university in Nuremberg. His interest in Luther's new religion is apparent at this time, as in his diary he says he converted to Protestantism and married for the first time. A son, Andreas Schoener was born in 1528, and it was Andreas who carried on Schoener's work after his father's death in 1547.

Schoener's last publication on Regiomontanus' tracts occurs in 1544, three years before his death, and he says he has printed them "lest they perchance perish after my death, since they had so long lain neglected and were difficult to read and might fall into the hands of unqualified persons".*

* Source: Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, v.4, C.16, p. 367.

Quote :
Astronomy has as its subject the body of heaven, than which nothing is more noble, nothing more beautiful. For heaven is incorruptible, it neither grows by extension, nor is diminished by contraction, nor does it receive change in variety …just as the body of the heavens is the most excellent among all other bodies, so the science of the stars is far in advance of all other disciplines in the excellence of its subject.

Source: Johannes Schoener, Opusculum Astrologicum, Dedicatory Epistle, 1539.

Most Significant Contribution :
In his own right Schoener was the author of a complete compendium of medieval natal astrology written in 1539 entitled Opusculum Astrologicum, and six years later in 1545, he wrote De Judiciis Nativitatum Libri Tres or 'Three Books on the Judgment of Nativities'.

Interesting Fact :
One of Schoener's most famous globes, made in 1515, contained precise and correct details of the Magellan Strait at the southern tip of South America- five years before the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan became the first European to navigate the strait in 1520, and return with details of his 'discovery'.

Recommended Further Reading :
Johannes Schoener
Johannes Schoener: Galileo Project entry page
Wikipedia entry on Johannes Schöner
The Aftermath of Regiomontanus (Google Books preview of Thorndike's History of Magic and Experimental Science, vol. IV, chapter 16 - good source of biographical information on Schoener and the impact his intellectual circle made upon astrology in the 16th century)
ARHAT Publications: order form for Robert Hand's English translation of Schoener's Three Books on the Judgment of Nativities, Book I
Schoener's Opera Mathematica (digital edition of Latin text)
Schoener's Table of Dignity Scores (English translation)

© Mari Garcia, Joy Usher, May 2012.