One of humanity’s greatest achievements has been the fathoming of the universe: what it is like, and how it came about. This lecture series will trace the unfolding of our knowledge about the cosmos, from around 1500 to the present day.
The reason why the universe of the young Copernicus was still essentially that of the ancient Greeks was not because of ‘medieval superstition’, but a shortage of fresh data. What changed after c. 1570, and especially with the telescope after 1609, was a floodtide of new information, obtained with new types of instruments.
And this Renaissance connection between technology and discovery has accelerated down to today, with spectroscopy, modern physics, radio astronomy, space probes, and a host of other innovations. It is a history populated by fascinating characters, such as Galileo, whose original discoveries were applauded by the Church, the reclusive Sir Isaac Newton, the immigrant organist William Herschel and his mathematical sister Caroline, wealthy, scientifically-minded Victorian brewers, engineers and manufacturers, and American millionaires. For discovery is also about ingenious men and women and historical circumstances, and these we will examine, from the moving earth to the ‘Big Bang’.
Please note: this lecture series will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 26 January 2024.