Christoph Scheiner was born in, Wald, Swabia, on July 25, 1573. He grew into his youth around the same time as the religious Society of Jesus (Jesuits) became popularized. The Jesuits were an offshoot off traditional Catholicism, whereby the values enacted by Jesuits directly reflected the principals held by the Catholic Church. Some claim the formation of the Jesuits was a retaliatory Counter Reformation of its own, and was enacted in an effort to combat the Protestant Reformation, which had swept across Europe during the first half of the same century (O’Malley, 43). Despite some of the religious restrictions that are implicitly incorporated with working behind the veil of Catholicism, Scheiner produced a number of forward-thinking ideas throughout his career as a mathematician and astronomer. He was both, cursed and blessed, for realizing much of his work during the same period as the famous astronomer, Galileo, who kept a scrutinizing eye on his publications. Although some of Scheiner’s work was misguided, he managed to overcome most of his mistakes and criticisms, and eventually asserted himself as a top authority on sunspots for nearly two hundred years (College, 569).
All of Scheiner’s formal education had come by the teachings of Jesuit establishments, where he learned and believed (like most) of the Aristotelian structure of the cosmos. In his later years, he attended the Society’s University, where, in 1600, he studied mathematics and physics under Johannes Lanz (Reeves, 37). Lanz thought highly of Scheiner, especially in his abilities in the arenas of mathematics and mechanics. Over the next few years, Scheiner began teaching mathematics when he had heard of an artist’s mechanical drawing aid, the pantograph, which allowed the artist to trace objects onto paper. It was not long after when Scheiner designed his own version of the pantograph, and ultimately refined it into an instrument that could be used to scale diagrams and copy images onto paper.
The invention of his pantograph shed positive light on Scheiner. However, the Jesuit’s ever-growing conflict between heavenly scripture and heavenly bodies put pressure on Jesuit academics like Scheiner, creating a problematic situation for those involved (Reeves, 40). Such problems were a function of the (relative) astronomical anomalies (such as comets and novas) and the firm, hand-me-down Catholic conservativism, which attempted to suppress heretical claims. These cosmic occurrences were heavily debated by scholars of the day, and speculated upon in great length as newly discovered data were published. As the debates grew stronger, so did Scheiner’s interest in their matter, and as a result, professional rivalry and conflict between he and colleagues began to surface.
Scheiner and fellow Jesuit professor, Christoph Clavis, shared contrary ideas about the astrophysical composition of the cosmos. Scheiner, as will be discussed later, eventually became a leader in the...