Philippe van Lansberge

Johan Philip Lansberge (25 August 1561 – 8 December 1632) was a Dutch astronomer. His name is sometimes written Lansberg, and his first name is sometimes given as Philip or Johannes Philippus. He published under the Latin name Philippus Lansbergius.

He is best known as the author of a set of astronomical tables, Tabulae motum coelestium, for predicting planetary positions. These were later found to contain certain errors, in part because he erroneously did not accept Kepler's discovery of elliptical orbits.

He was born in Ghent in modern-day Belgium and died in Middelburg in the Netherlands. He served as a Protestant clergyman. Martinus Hortensius was one of his students, and Landsberge subsequently collaborated with his former pupil. The Public Observatory in Middelburg is named after a man who also lived in Middelburg about 400 years ago. Philippus Lansbergen was a very intelligent and versatile protestant preacher with interests in mathematics and astronomy. He was born in the city of Gent (Belgium) in 1561. He grew up in France and studied in England. After the "fall of Antwerp" in 1585, he moved to the northern part of the Netherlands. He stayed in Leiden for a short time, and then he went to Goes to become a preacher. Lansbergen lived there until 1613. In that year, he was fired because he did not agree with a mayor election. The fifty-two year old Lansbergen decided to move to Middelburg to devote himself to astronomical research. He did that until the end of his life.

Lansbergen supported the theory of Copernic, who claimed that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and not the other way around. Both the protestant and the catholic church were having difficulties with this theory. According to them, the Earth should be the center of the universe.

During his marriage with Sara Lievaerts, six sons and four daughters were born. Unfortunately, some of them died early. He had a great reputation, because of his rare knowledge and expertise. Not only in matters of the church, but even more in mathematics and physics. In 1611, his son Pieter (1587) became a preacher in Goes. Jacob, another son, moved to Goes as well, but became a medical doctor. Lansbergens' oldest son, also called Philippus, was a preacher in Kloetinge and died there in 1647.

Lansbergen wrote several books. One of those, "Considerations about the daily and yearly movements of the Earth", became a best-seller. One could say that Lansbergen was the first Dutch author that wrote a popular book about the movements of the planets around the Sun.

Kepler and Galilei, who lived in the same period, were very interested in the work of Lansbergen. Based on his tables, they could predict the movements of the planets more accurately.

Lansbergen probably lived in the "Spanjaardstraat" in Middelburg. He had frequent contacts with sympathizers, like the famous Dutch poet Jacob Cats. Cats wrote three poems about the "very wise, famous, and honored Philippus Lansbergen".

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