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Apian [Bienewitz or Bennewitz], Peter

1. Dates
Born: Leisig, Saxony, 1495
Died: Ingolstadt, 21 April 1552
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 57
2. Father
Occupation: No Information
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Germany
Career: Germany
Death: Germany
4. Education
Schooling: Leipzig
Went off to school in Rochlitz.
By 1518, at Leipzig. Studied astronomy under Caspar Borner and mathematics under Kalb and Heinrich Stromer. It is not known how long he stayed or what degree he might have achieved. I assume B.A.
Studied at Vienna. It is not known how long he stayed, but it was long enough to form a lasting relationship with his teacher Georg Tanstetter.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Mathematics, Geography
Subordinate: Cartography, Astrology
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Patronage, Personal Means
Secondary: Publishing
Stayed in Landshut and Regensburg for undetermined amounts of time, means of support also uncertain.
1527-52, Professor of Mathematics at Ingolstadt.
After moving to Ingolstadt Apian became a property owner. He owned his own valuable home in Ingolstadt. In 1547, he bought the manor house at Itlhofen, and was given the hunting rights and judicial authority in the area by the Kurfuerst Friedrich. In 1548, he bought the manor at Brunnstein, and he owned not less than four farms at Kemnath.
Founded his own press in Ingolstadt, called in his brother Georg to help run it. It was very busy and had a branch office in Landshut. Among other things, be published maps.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official, Eccesiastic Official
1523, Apian made his first application to the senate at Ingolstadt. He indicated various literary projects which he would be able to realize with the presses in Ingolstadt, hoping at the same time to take advantage of the tax-free status of members of the university, and asked for a loan of 200 fl. to help him publish one of his works. He was denied.
1524, the Chancellor Leonhard von Eck took up Apian's cause, the senate entered into direct negotiations with Apian, and in the next year he received loans of 32, 110, and 30 fl. Apian dedicated his world map of 1530 to von Eck.
c. 1527, Leonhard von Eck instigated his hiring at Ingolstadt, at a salary of 100 fl. (his predecessor got 16fl.).
1529, because of his many publishing endeavors, Apian found himself in financial straits and had to ask the senate for a loan of 500 fl. It was denied. In 1530, due to the personal intervention of the Duke Wilhelm IV, it was granted.
The Cosmographicus liber is dedicated to the Cardinal- Archbishop of Salzburg.
Apian married Katharina, daughter of Thomas Mosner, a councilman from Landshut (Apian's hometown), who was later transferred to Ingolstadt as a member of the senate.
Already in 1532, the Kaiser Charles V, who is said to have studied under Apian, granted Apian a privilege ("ein Privileg"). In 1540, Apain dedicated his major work the Astronomicum Caesareum to the `Fuerstenpaar Karl-Ferdinand.' Charles paid for the printing, gave Apian a great sum of money (reportedly 3000 gulden), and in that year Apian was named court mathematician. In 1541, Charles Knighted Apian and his brothers Nikolaus, Georg, and Gregor. A few days later the Cardinal Contarini named him Comes et Miles sacri Palatii et Aulae Lateranensis. In 1544, Apian was knighted as a Hof- and Pfalzgraf (von und zu Ittlkofen) by Charles. This gave him the right to create notaries and registrars, to legitimize illegitimate children (!), and the authority to create doctors, licentiates, bachelors, and poets laureate.
He was also supported to some degree by Duke Georg of Saxony.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Instruments, Cartography
Apian made sundials and astronomical instruments, inventing his own quadrant and armillary sphere, and also devoted himself to constructing instruments that would solve spherical-trigonometric problems mechanically.
His special form of the quadrant was useful in surveying.
Apian was a cartographer, although more an editor and publisher of maps than one who prepared them. In 1520 he did a world map based on the larger Waldseemüller world map. Apian's is the oldest world map that uses the name America. In 1530 he did another world map which was much more his own work. It used the heart projection, which was not however Apian's invention. In 1533 he published a map of Saxony prepared from an earlier one by Sevastianus a Rotenhan.
Apian was the first to propose the use of moon distances (I am virtually certain this means the moon's distance from fixed stars) to determine longitudes.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None known
  1. Neue deutsche Biographie, 1 (Berlin, 1952), 325-6.
  2. S. Guenther, "Peter und Phillipp Apian: Zwei deutsche Mathematiker und Kartographen," Abhandlungen der Koeniglich boehmischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 6th ser., 11 (1882).
  3. Edmond R. Kiely, Surveying Instruments, (New York, 1947), p. 166.
  4. Leo Bagrow, A. Ortelii Catalogus Cartographorum, 2 vols. Ergänzungsheften Nr. 199 & 210 zu "Petermanns Mitteilungen," (Gotha, 1928-30), 1 (Nr. 199), 30-6.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University
Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.
©1995 Al Van Helden
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