On 16 February 1531, Johannes Stöffler (1452–1531) passed away in Tübingen, Germany. Educated at the Blaubeuren Monastery school and at the University of Ingolstadt, he was a German instrument-builder, astrologer, mathematician, and priest. His published works included Almanach (1499), Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii (1512), Astrolabiumsschrift (1513), Tabulae astronomicae (1514), Calendarium Romanum magnum (1518), Ephemeriden (1531), Commentary on the Sphaera of pseudo-Proclus (posthumous, 1534). He was buried in Collegiate Church (Stiftskirche) in Tübingen.
From the compendium Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies (Ed. T.W. Freeman, 2015):
“[D]uring his work as a clergyman, even with his additional duties later as the dean of the national chapter of Ehingen, he used well, true to his status as a private scholar, to undertake intensive mathematical studies and research. He performed astronomical observations of his own and calculated, on the basis of Ptolemy’s world conception, the daily planetary constellations including the sun and the moon, for a period of over thirty years in advance (1499–1531); in his own workshop he made several celestial globes, in all probability one terrestrial globe, and also sundials and excellent mechanical astronomical clocks. By these feats he achieved, in the course of approximately twenty years, the qualifications of a major authority in the mathematical/astronomical field.
“Stöffler saw himself primarily as a Christian astrologer… His astrological researches led him to turn away from ancient traditions and brought him to a view of the reality, indeed the validity, of his own standpoint. Stöffler went beyond astrology to become a mathematical astronomer. By patient calculations he uncovered the reasons for the mistakes of the ancient Church that caused the controversy about Easter. Though anxious to avoid conflict with ecclesiastical authorities, he developed principles for a new determination of the date of Easter. When in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII finally accomplished the overdue reformation of the calendar, Stöffler’s research was a decisive influence on all essential points. Stöffler’s geography can be understood, to a great extent, in the light of astrology. Since the latter, besides depending on the celestial movements, also requires the knowledge of longitudinal/temporal differentials he could not avoid dealing with the determination of geographical coordinates by astronomical measurement… In principle, like Ptolemy, he contended that it was the mission of geographia to portray the world as far as it is inhabited or known.
“Stöffler remained linked to the classical world concept, in all scientific ideas and, as an eminent astronomer, astrologer and geographer, he accomplished a great deal, though of a nature (as least in geography) that still glorified Antiquity, in spite of considerable corrections and critical comments. Nevertheless he promoted (mainly through his students) the development of geography to a level that would not have been possible without his efforts… By his outlook on the Maker’s works in Creation, he had probably personally endowed Melanchthon with the natural piety that later became the germ of the latter’s own theologically (in effect Lutheran) orientated geography.
“When Stöffler’s influence as a geographer, with the fading concept of the geocentric world concept, declined, even though his accomplishments in geography, astrology and calendar-making were still appreciated, he disappeared from the memory of the geographical world … As one of the leading geographers of his era, this unassuming scientist from Tübingen is still waiting for a more just appreciation of his merits.”
—Hoheisel, Karl. “Johannes Stöffler (1452–1531).” in Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies. Vol. 12. Ed. Thomas Walter Freeman. (London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015), 123-124; 125-126.
Images: Deutsche Fotothek; Himmelsglobus by Johannes Stöffler (1493); Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.