As we all know, a mayor export product of the Netherlands is Astronomers...
Oort, Kapteyn, etc)
What most of us don't know is that at least twelve of the eighty eight
constellations we now know were invented by these 17th century Dutchmen
Frederick de Houtman
Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser (1540 –1596)
Petrus Plancius (1552 –1622)
(Dutch constellation inventors)
The oldest surviving catalogue of the southern stars was made by the Dutch
Mariner Fredrick de Houtman (1571–1627) Compiled while on Sumatra and later on
published in Amsterdam( in 1603). Only about half a dozen remaining copies are
known, (one of them in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. A facsimile of it was
privately published in 1927 by the British astronomers H. H. Turner and E. B.
In his catalogue, de Houtman lists 304 stars, although coordinates are not given
for one of them (in the tail of Scorpios). In his introduction to his dictionary
of the languages of Malay and Madagascar, de Houtman states that he made some
observations of the southern stars on his first voyage in 1595–1597, and revised
and increased the number on his second voyage, 1598–1602. The astronomical
catalogues were added as extra part of the dictionary. (handy when
traveling to the Indies, navigational information plus local languages)
How much of de Houtman’s work was copied from his countryman Pieter Dirkszoon
Keyser (c.1540–1596), who did not survive the first voyage, remains open to
speculation. Astronomy was of strategic importance as a tool of navigation on
the brand new trade route to Java. Both sailors had instructions to do
measurements. This was information deemed of strategic importance! At that time
it was believed that compass needles showed deviations, the further one
penetrated to the south. The Famous Petrus Plancius or in plane Dutch, "Pete
Flatfoot", had instructed Frederick de Houtman in astronomical positioning, in
order to examine this phenomenon. And he asked the navigator Pieter Keyser, to
make observations of the heavens and map the southern skies, he equipped him
with the tools to do so.
(probable with an
Pieter Platvoet was one of the founders and advisers of the
Dutch East India Company
the first great Multinational.
So Next time you look up at night to see the stars over
Australia, remember the first European Mariners that charted the waters and the
skies of "Down Under"...
The 12 new constellations listed by de Houtman,
with their present-day names in brackets, are as follows:
Het Chameljoen (Chamaeleon)
Den Dorado (Dorado)
Den Reygher “The Heron” (Grus)
De Water slang (Hydrus)
De Indiaen (Indus)
De Vlieghe (Musca)
De Pauw (Pavo)
Den voghel Fenicx (Phoenix)
Den Zuyder Trianghel (Triangulum Australe)
Den Indiaenschen Exster, op Indiesch ghenaemt Tucan
“The Indian magpie, named Tucan in the Indies” (Tucana)
De vlieghende Visch (Volans)
In addition, he listed stars in the pre-existing constellations
and the southern
Eridanus, which he called “den Nyl”, the Nile.
He also named
Columba, which he called "De Duyve met den Olijftak",
the dove with olive branch,
formed from nine stars that Ptolemy had listed near
the tail of
the Giraffe, made up from faint stars uncharted by Ptolemy. These three Platvoet
constellations are also still accepted by modern astronomers.
So Pieter Platvoet added three more constellations to the twelve non classical
Dutch constellations as he prepared his
Sky globe in 1598. There are no known copies of his globe in existence today. (Check your loft!)
(This picture depicts the Southern sky, and is probably copied from the
Uranometria, he copied the names
used on the sky globe, and this work was so influential, the names are still in use today.
sources, the websites I checked you can find down the page.
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