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Galileo and China

Aug 19, 2015 - Aug 31, 2016

Science has traditionally played a key role in cultural exchange. Johann Schreck, one of Galileo’s friends a member of the Academy of the Lynx, went to China and taught astronomy. Adam Schall, a student of Schreck, became an advisor to the Emperor and was honored with official status as a Chinese dignitary. At the same time, Europeans were making new discoveries that were well known to the Chinese. Stories like these illustrate premodern cultural exchange between Europe and China, and the circulation of scientific ideas throughout Asia.

History of Science

5th Floor Special Collections

This exhibit is located on the 5th Floor Special Collections, accessed through the elevators in the west main lobby of Bizzell Memorial Library. Visit History of Science for visitor information.

Exhibit At A Glance

1. The Role of the Jesuits

A friend of Galileo’s, Johann Schreck, assisted him during Galileo’s early telescopic observations. Schreck was inducted into the Academy of the Lynx, an early scientific society, only a week after Galileo. A few years later, Schreck joined the Jesuits, Catholic missionaries, and went to China where he trained the astronomer Adam Schall. Schall initiated a joint publishing effort between Jesuit and Chinese astronomers which continued for the rest of the century, constituting a high point of international relations between Europe and China.  


Antoine Gaubil, A Description of the Plan of Peking, the Capital of China ( ). London, 1748
1
Matteo Ricci, On the Christian Expedition to China (De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas). Lyon, 1616
2
Johann Schreck, Wonderful Machines of the Far West (Ensei kiki zusetsu rokusai). Japan, 1830
3
Adam Schall, Historical Narration of the Origin and Progress of the Mission to China (Historica narratio, de initio et progressu missionis apud Chinenses). Vienna, 1665
4
Athanasius Kircher, Monuments of China (China monumentis). Amsterdam, 1667
5
Athanasius Kircher, China, Illustrated with Many Monuments (Chine… illustrée de Plusieurs Monuments). Amsterdam, 1670
6
Alvaro Semedo, History of that Great and Renowned Monarchy of China ( ). London, 1655
7
Louis le Comte, Memoirs... made in a late Journey through the Empire of China ( ). London, 1698
8
Pierre-Marie-Alphonse Favier, Beijing: History and Description (Peking: Histoire et Description). Beijing, 1897
9
Giacomo Cantelli, The Kingdom of China, before now called Cathay and Mangin (Regno della China). Rome, 1682
10
Vincenzo Coronelli, The Western and Eastern Parts of China divided into their Provinces (Parte Occidentale della China... Parte Orientale della China). Venice, 1696
11
J.B. du Halde, General History of China, vol. 1. London, 1741
12
J.B. du Halde, General History of China, vol. 3. London, 1741
13
J.B. du Halde, General History of China, vol. 4. London, 1741

Explore the Topic

Supplemental resources for a rich educational experience
 

Johan Schreck: Galileo's Friend in China
Learn more about the role of Schreck and other Jesuits in spreading Galileo's science to China.
Galileo's World Exhibit Guide
iBook companion to the Galileo's World exhibition
Gallery Book Lists
A list of all books in every exhibit (author/title/date).
Galileo and China Book List
A list of all books in the Galileo and China exhibit (author/title/date).