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Langren, Michael Florent van

1. Dates
Born: Probably Amsterdam but possibly Mechlin or Antwerp, ca. 1600
Died: Brussels, May 1675
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 75
2. Father
Occupation: Engineer
Arnold van Langren, the Archducal "spherographer." Whatever that word means, he was something of an astronomer, cartographer, and geographer--in a word, a scientist, or (as I find) better, engineer.
The father received a good income from his position-- affluent appears to be the proper word.
3. Nationality
Birth: Dutch
Career: Belgian Area
Death: Belgian Area
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He did not attend a university; probably he did not even attend a Latin school.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic.
The family moved south from the United Provinces because of religion.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Hydraulics, Engineering
Subordinate: Cartography, Navigation
His principal endeavor in astronomy was his effort to determine longitude via the moon. This led him to prepare the first lunar map, and ultimately maps of the full moon and of thirty phases.
He also observed the comet of 1652, and published his observations.
He was an active cartographer, preparing maps of various areas in the Spanish Netherlands.
He was most active as an engineer. He prepared plans for a port near Dunkirk and for improvement of the port of Ostend. He developed a plan to clean the canals of Antwerp, and he devoted extensive effort to means of protecting Brussels from flooding. He also planned canals linking Brussels with other parts of the Spanish Netherlands.
He was also a military engineer, who worked on the fortifications of Brussels, and who devised a three barrel cannon.
I need to add that nearly all of the plans met opposition and almost none were put into effect.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage
Langren was the Royal Cosmographer and Mathematician (to the King of Spain). He received a pension of 1,200 écus, which was apparently a considerable sum.
He received continuous separate payments for individual projects. Since his whole career was one prolonged frustration as plan after plan was blocked by opposition, it appears to me that one should treat these payments more as patronage than as reimbursement for services.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
Beyond the fundamental relationship with the court, note that first the Archduchess Isabelle and then King Charles IV of Spain encouraged and supported his work on the moon. His lunar map was dedicated to the Archduke Leopold.
His plan for the Fossa Eugeniana, specifically named for the Infanta Isabelle Claire Eurgenie, netted a reward of 150 livres.
Langren's lunar map was an explicit exhibit of the mores of patronage, with the names of prominent figures attached to lunar features. The Infanta Isabelle Claire Eugenie appeared in it three times--a mountain Eugeniae (in a Mare Belgicum), a Mare Eugenianum, and a mountain Isabellae (in the Mare Eugenianum). Innocent X and Louis XIV are there also, along with many others. There was a major mountain name Philippi. See Bosman's article and Moreau's volume of letters.
Langren was very close to the humanist Eryicius Puteanus, who was also a political figure in the court. Puteanus was about a generation his senior, and I see no way to avoid the conclusion that the relation was one of patronage. Note that Putenus also had features of the moon named for him and his family.
He dedicated one of his maps to the Archbishop of Malines.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Navigation, Hydraulics, Civil Engineering, Military Engineering, Cartography
As an astronomer, Langren's primary goal was to develop of method to determine longitude at sea. His method intended to use the illumination and eclipse (i.e., darkening) of lunar mountains, frequent phenomena like the moons of Jupiter, that could be observed from all points of the earth.
Langren was primarily an engineer, as the activities above indicate. I am interested in the large number of engineers mentioned in the literature about him; society by that time was crawling with engineers apparently qualified to deal with hydraulic problems and fortifications. And note that he was tahe grandson, son, and brother of engineers.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Apparently he carried on a considerable correspondence with Boulliau.
In the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Brussels (#19237-8) there is a collection of 233 folios of letters to Langren (though not his replies)--more than half of them the letters of Puteanus published by Moreau.
  1. Biographie nationale, 11, 275-91.
  2. Nationaal biografisch woordenboek, 12.
  3. G. des Marez, "Notice sur les documents relatifs ŕ Michel-Florent van Langren . . ." Revue des bibliotheques et archives de Belgique, 1 (1903), 371-8 and 2 (1904), 23-31.
  4. Erycius Puteanus, Hondred viertien nederlandse briefen aan . . .
  5. Langren, with intro. by J. J. Moreau, (Aantwerp, 1957).
  6. H. Bosmans, "Le carte lunaire de van Langren," Revue des questions scientifiques, 54 (1903), 108-39.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. J. Keuning, "The Van Langren Family," Imago mundi, 13 (1956), 101-9.
  2. D. Bierens de Haan, "Constantijn Huygens . . . Michael Florent van Langren . . ." Verhandlingen der K. akademie van Wetenschappen, ser. 1, 2. no. 1 (1893).
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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