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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
Matteo Ricci, On the Christian Expedition to China (De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas). Lyon, 1616
Johann Schreck, Wonderful Machines of the Far West (Ensei kiki zusetsu rokusai). Japan, 1830
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
Athanasius Kircher, Monuments of China (China monumentis). Amsterdam, 1667
Athanasius Kircher, China, Illustrated with Many Monuments (Chine… illustrée de Plusieurs Monuments). Amsterdam, 1670
Alvaro Semedo, History of that Great and Renowned Monarchy of China ( ). London, 1655
Louis le Comte, Memoirs... made in a late Journey through the Empire of China ( ). London, 1698
Pierre-Marie-Alphonse Favier, Beijing: History and Description (Peking: Histoire et Description). Beijing, 1897
Giacomo Cantelli, The Kingdom of China, before now called Cathay and Mangin (Regno della China). Rome, 1682
Vincenzo Coronelli, The Western and Eastern Parts of China divided into their Provinces (Parte Occidentale della China... Parte Orientale della China). Venice, 1696
J.B. du Halde, General History of China, vol. 1. London, 1741
J.B. du Halde, General History of China, vol. 3. London, 1741
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).