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Buergi, Joost

1. Dates
Born: Liechtenstein, (NDB: Toggenburg) Switzerland 28 Feb 1552
Died: Kassel, Germany 31 Jan 1632
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 80
2. Father
Occupation: No Information
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Swiss
Career: German
Death: German
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He probably received no systematic education; did not know Latin. Whatever education he had, he probably finished while working at Kassel.
5. Religion
Affiliation: evangelical Protestant--i.e, Lutheran
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Int (Watchmaking), Mathematics, Astronomy
As a mathematician, computation (esp. logarithms), geometry.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage
From 25 July 1579 court watchmaker to Duke Wilhelm IV, Landgrave of Hesse; worked in the Duke's observatory after Wilhelm's death in 1592, continued to serve in Hesse under Moritz, but was in frequent demand from Emperor Rudolf II.
1603-22, Bürgi went to Prague, became court watchmaker to Rudolf II and his successors Matthias and Ferdinand II.
Became assistant and computer for Kepler.
Remained in Prague even after the Imperial court moved to Vienna; he was there through the defeat of the Bohemian anti- Hapsburg revolt (1620).
Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie and Neue Deutsche Biographie: 1622, left Prague for Kassel.
DSB: ca. 1631, returned to Kassel.
8. Patronage
Type: Court
Duke Wilhelm IV of Hesse-Kassel (died 1592) then Duke Moritz (died 1627)
Emperors Rudolf II, Matthias, and Ferdinand II. Bürgi met Rudolf in 1592 when he brought the Emperor a silver celestial globe which Duke Wilhelm had him construct for the Emperor. 9, Technology: Int, Mth.
Constructed clocks, and astronomical and practical geometry instruments (notably the proportional compass and a triangulation instrument useful in surveying).
Note that as a mathematician he developed the 'prosthaphairesis,' and possibly thought of and developed logarithms. I'll list this as applied mathematics.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal: was part of the scientific circle at Prague.
Formal: none.
  1. Ernst Zinner in Neue Deutsche Biographie, 2, 747.
  2. M. Cantor, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 3, 1604-6.
  3. Rudolf Wolf, Geschichte der Astronomie, (Munich, 1877), pp. 273- 6.
  4. Edmond R. Kiely, Surveying Instruments, (New York, 1947), p. 224.
  5. There is no biography of Bürgi.
  6. Novy (DSB) lists some works which contain bibliographic information.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Bertele, H. von, "Precision Timekeeping in the Pre-Huygens Era," Horological Journal, 95 (Dec 1953), 794-816.
  2. Folti, Jaroslav, and Lubos Novy, "Zu Buergis Anleitung zu den Logarithmentaflen," Acta Hist. Rerum Nat. Tech., 4 (1968), 97- 126.
  3. Groetzsch, H., "Die Kreuzschlaguhr und Globusuhr von Jost Buergi - Wissenschaftliche Instrumente aus dem Arbeitsgebiet von Johannes Kepler," Actes XIIIe Cong. Int. Hist. Sci., 1971, 6 (1974), 246-250.
  4. Horsky, Zdenek, "Eine Handschrift ueber das Triangularinstrument," Acta Hist. Rerum Nat. Tech., 4 (1968), 127-142.
  5. , "Sextant astronomique de Buergi," Acta Hist. Rerum Nat. Tech., 1 (1965), 125-129.
  6. Jourdain, Philip E.B., "John Napier and the Tercentenary of the Invention of Logarithms," Open Court, 28 (1914), 513-520.
  7. Karlsen, Helge B.J., "A 16th Century Astronomical Tableclock by Jost Buergi with Non-Uniform Motions of the Sun and Moon," Antiq. Horology, 14 (1983), 63-75.
  8. List, Martha, and Volker Bialas, Die Coss von Jost Buergi in der Redaktion von Johannes Kepler: Ein Beitrag zur fruehen Algebra (Nova Kepleriana, 5) (Munich, 1973).
  9. Mackensen, Ludolf von, "Erfindung und Bedeutung des universalen Reduktionszirkels von Jost Buergi," in M. Folkerts, and U.
  10. Lindgren, eds., Mathemata: Festschrift fuer Helmuth Gericke (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1985).
  11. _____, Die erste Sternwarte Europas. mit ihren Instrumenten und Uhren: 400 Jahre Jost Buergi in Kassel. Mit Beitragen von Hans von Bertele und John H. Leopold (Schriften zur Naturwissenschafts- un Techniks-geschichte), (Munich: Callwey, 1979). Mautz, Otto, "Zur Basisbestimmung der Napierschen und Buergischen Logarithmen" (Suppl. to Jahresber. Gynasiums Realsch. Toechtersch. Basel, 1918-1919). _____, "Zur Stellung des Dezimalkommas in der Buergischen Logarithmentafel," Verhandl. Naturforsch. Ges. Basel., 32 (1921), 104-106.
  12. Roessler, G., "Ein unbekanntes Instrument von Joost Buergi im Hessischen Landesmuseum zu Kassel," Z. Instrumentenk., 52 (1932), 31-38.
  13. Voellmy, E., "Jost Buergi und die Logarithmen," Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fuer Elemente der Mathematik, no. 5 (1948).
  14. Zinner, E., Deutsche und niederlaendische astronmische Instrumente des 11.-18. Jahrhunderts, (Munich, 1956), 268-76.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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