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Mayr [Marius], Simon

1. Dates
Born: Gunzenhausen, Bavaria, 20 January 1573 (early sources say 1570, but Klug settles it definitively).
Died: Ansbach, 26 December 1624
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 51
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
Early sources say that Reichart Mayr was the Burgermeister of Gunzenhausen. Simon went to the Margrave's school for talented poor boys, however, and Klug says that there is no evidence whatever to support the assertion that the father was Burgermeister.
I take Simon's (and his brother's) presence in that school to indicate that the family was indeed poor.
3. Nationality
Birth: German
Career: German
Death: German
4. Education
Schooling: Padua
Mayr's elementary education was in Gunzenhausen. He had a beautiful voice that attracted attention, and in 1586 he was enrolled in the Margrave's school near Ansbach. Almost immediately he was commandeered for the Margrave's Capella, in which he sang for three years. In 1589 he returned to the school, which existed to train poor young men for the ministry, and he was there until 1601.
In December 1601, after a brief stay in Prague at Tycho's establishment (until Tycho's death), he enrolled in Padua to study medicine. He was Proctor of the German Nation in 1604 and librarian (of the same) in 1605, when he left suddenly without a degree.
In Padua he belonged to the circle around Galileo, who would later accuse him of plagiary.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran 6.Discipline: Asn, Asl.
Subordinate: Mth.
Mayr was already publishing on astronomy (on a comet) in 1596, and in 1604 he was among the first to observe the new star. He was the first to mention the Andromeda nebula in print, and in Mundus jovialis, he published tables of the mean periods of the satellites of Jupiter more accurate than Galileo's. He bestowed the names that are still used for the satellites. The satellites were the issue on which Galileo charged plagiary, and I find that the issue can still generate heat in the 20th century. While I am skeptical of Mayr, the issue is complicated and I do not pretend to have plumbed it. The facts that he was engaged in Capra's plagiary of Galileo's instructions for the geometric and military compass in 1607, that he claimed to have discovered the Tychonic system independently in about 1596, and that he proceeded to claim every one of Galileo's discoveries (and even presumed to name the satellites the sidera brandenburgica, after his own patron) seem to me to add up to an indictment by themselves without the technical details on the periods of the satellites.
As a dedicated Protestant, committed to the literal truth of the Bible, Mayr never accepted Copernicus. This was the point behind his use of the Tychonic system.
Beginning with Novae tabulae directionum, 1599, and then later with his annual Prognosticon astrologicum, Mayr was heavily into astrology.
In 1610 he published a German translation of the first six books of Euclid.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: None
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage
Secondary: Medicine, Schoolmastering
Mayr was appointed mathematician to the Margrave of Ansbach (Georg Friedrich of Bandenburg-Ansbach) in 1601. Even earlier, in 1596, at the recommendation of advisors who had seen Mayr's system of the world (the Tychonic system), the Margrave had begun to give him special support to continue astronomical studies. He was sent to Prague in 1601 by the Margrave to study with Tycho. Upon Tycho's death four months later, he returned to Ansbach, but soon set out for Padua, still supported by the Margrave.
The death of Georg Friedrich interrupted Mayr's support in Padua. He supported himself by using his medical knowledge, by instruction (Baldasare Capra was his student), and by astrology (which I do not know how to categorize).
Mayr returned to Germany in 1605 as the Mathematician and Physician to the new Margraves, Christian and Joachim Ernst, and he spent the rest of his life in that position.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Merchant
When he was a boy, Mayr's beautiful voice attracted the attention of the Margrave Georg Friedrich of Brandenburg- Ansbach. For three years he sang in the Margrave's Capella, following which he had a place in the school near Ansbach. There he showed mathematical talent. In 1596, at the recommendation of advisors who had seen Marius' system of the world, the Margrave gave him special support to continue astronomical studies. The Margrave sent him to Prague in 1601 and then to Padua.
After the years in Padua, he returned to the service of Georg Friedrich's successors, Christian and Joachim Ernst as court mathematician and physician. (I do not know in what way there were two joint successors.) Mayr was in charge of the Ansbach calendar. An observatory was built for him. He in turn named the satellites of Jupiter the sidera brandenburgica after him patrons and dedicated the Mundus jovialis to them.
Mayr dedicated his translation of Euclid to Freiherr Hans Philip Fuchs von Bimbach, who had helped him earlier with the telescope. (After hesitation I categorize the Freiherr as an aristocrat.)
Mayer dedicated his first Prognosticon to Freifrau Maria von Eyb.
The Nürnberg merchant Philipp Eckebrecht, who also helped Kepler with the Rudolphine Tables, published Mayr's final works when Mayr became too sick to work.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Instruments
I am accepting Mayr's own account that through Freiherr Hans Philip Fuchs he heard about a device shown at the Frankfurt fair in 1608 and learned to reproduce it as Galileo did. He also altered the telescope by removing the ocular in order to make observations on the scintillation of the stars.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Galileo accused Mayr of plagiary in regard to the satellites of Jupiter.
  1. Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 21, 141-6.
  2. Josef Klug, "Simon Marius aus Gunzenhausen und Galileo Galilei," Abhandlungen der Königlichen Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschafter, Math.-Phys. Kl., 22 (1906), 385-526. This is much the best source about Mayr's life. It is an all-out condemnation of him for plagiary.
  3. J.A.C. Oudemans and Johannes Bosscha, "Galilée et Marius," Archives néerlandaises des sciences exactes et naturelles, 2nd ser., 8 (1903), 115-89. This replies to Klug (whose article they had read in manuscript)--an all-out defense of Mayr, with more than a little Dutch animus toward Galileo for claiming credit for the Dutch telescope.
  4. Johannes Bosscha, "Simon Marius. Réhabilitations d'un astronome calomnié," Archives néerlandaises des sciences exactes et naturelles, 2nd ser., 12 (1907), 258-307, 490-528, plus at least one and probably two more sections in 13.
  5. A. Favaro, Galileo Galilei e lo studio di Padova, 2 vols. (Padua, 1883), 1, 137, 184, 192, 234, 340-7. G.S. Braddy, "Simon Marius (1570-1624)," Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 81 (1970), 64-5.
  6. Pietro Pagnini, "Galileo and Simon Mayer," tr. W.P. Henderson, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 41 (1930-1), 415-22.
  7. J.H. Johnson, "The Discovery of the First Four Satellites of Jupiter," Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 41 (1930-1), 164-71.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. A. Favaro, "Galileo e Simon Mayr," Bibliotheca mathematica, 3rd ser., 2 (1901), 220-3.
  2. _____, "A proposito di Simone Mayr," Atti e memorie dell'Ac- cademia di scienze, lettere, ed arti (Padua), n.s. 34 (1917- 18), 17-19.
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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