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Osiander, Andreas

1. Dates
Born: Gunzenhausen, Bavaria, 19 December 1498
Died: Königsberg, 17 October 1552
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Artisan
Andreas (sic) Osiander was a smith. It is stated that the father achieved the status of a member of the town council.
On the other hand, Osiander attended school in Leipzig and Altenburg as a poor scholar who begged his bread from door to door. Although the evidence is ambiguous, I conclude that the family was poor.
3. Nationality
Birth: German
Career: German
Death: German. 4.University: Ing Osiander was admitted to the University of Ingolstadt, as an instructor of aristocratic youth, on 9 July 1515. He left without a degree.
4. Education
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Lutheran
Osiander was ordained a priest in 1520 and was appointed as priest of a church in Nürnberg in 1522. He enthusiastically accepted Lutheranism and became one of its leading spokesmen, not only in Nürnberg, but in Germany as a whole. 6.Discipline: Asn, Asl, Mth.
Though a minister, Osiander took mathematical sciences as his hobby. He opposed the Copernican system if were taken, not merely as a better mathematical hypothesis, but as a true description of the universe. Nevertheless, as is well known, Rheticus, knowing his expertise, left Osiander in charge of the publication of De revolutionibus, and he inserted the famous preface denying that the book intended to propose more than a mathematical hypothesis.
He corresponded with Cardano on astrology, to which he was sympathetic, and he oversaw the publication of one of Cardano's astrological works.
He also edited Cardano's Ars magna for publication, and Cardano dedicated it to him.
I just learned, by oral report, that in the late 16th century an oral tradition claimed him also as an alchemist. I will record the information, but I don't find it solid enough to put into the file.
For all that, Osiander was primarily and overwhelmingly a theologian, though I find enough real science here--just enough, I might add--not to purge him from the list.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: None
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Academia
Osiander was ordained in Nürnberg in 1520. For a time he supported himself by teaching Hebrew, which he had learned.
In 1522 he was appointed pastor of a church in Nürnberg and quickly demonstrated his capacity. He became a leading voice in the Lutheran reformation in the city.
In 1548 he was outraged by the Interim, the compromise temporary settlement of the religious wars which he considered too Catholic, and he left.
He went to Königsberg where, in January 1549, the Duke of Prussia appointed him both to a position as pastor of one of the city's churches and as professor of theology at the newly founded university. In 1552 he was put in charge of the Prussian church.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, City Magistrate, Eccesiastic Official
It is hard to assess Osiander's position in regard to the magistrates of Nürnberg. However, they did control the positions in the city churches and must then have appointed him in the first place. In 1534, when he threatened to leave the city, the magistrates increased his salary significantly in order to retain him. He frequently represented the city's clergy at gatherings of Lutherans, such as meetings of the League of Schmalkald. However, about the mid 30's Osiander, who was a rigid man given to strong opinions which he did not express with moderation, began to offend the powers in the city and to drive them away. And with the Interim he broke with them entirely.
In 1537 he dedicated a work to Archbishop Cranmer, whom he had met in Germany.
In 1542-3 he was sent, at the request of the Pfalzgraf, to Pfalz-Neuberg where he was the principal agent in introducing Lutheranism.
Osiander's principal patron was Duke Albrecht of Prussia, who had spent a period in Nürnberg in 1523-4 and always thereafter regarded Osiander as his spiritual father. Osiander dedicated a book to him in 1544. When Osiander left Nürnberg, Duke Albrecht received him and appointed him both to a church in Königsberg and to a chair in the university. Osiander's style immediately fomented terrible theological divisions in Königsberg, but he retained the support of the Duke through the ferocious struggles until his sudden death in 1552, and after his death Duke Albrecht looked after Osiander's family.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Osiander corresponded with Cardano on astrology.
He was acquainted with Rheticus and oversaw the publication of Copernicus' De revolutionibus.
  1. Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 24, 473-83.
  2. Wilhelm Möller, Andreas Osiander. Leben und ausgewählte Schriften, (Elberfeld, 1870). (Band 5 of Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter und Begründer der lutherischen Kirche.) Mark Graubard, "Andreas Osiander: Lover of Science or Appeaser of its Enemies," Science Education, 48 (1964), 168-87.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. H. Wilken, Andreas Osianders Leben, Lehre und Schriften, (Stralsund, 1844).
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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