The astrolabe is a fascinating medieval astronomical/astrological instrument. The replica I have always attracts students’ attention when I bring it into class and we talk about how scientific knowledge is embodied in technical instruments. We work through how use the astrolabe to tell time, find the positions of stars, the elevation of buildings. We also spend time thinking seriously about astrolabes as objects of artistic value. By then end of even my introductory course students have a good idea of the history of astrolabes and how they were used.
Consequently, I am particularly sensitive to erroneous and problematic stories about the astrolabe. Unfortunately, that is precisely what a reporter over at Curiosity.com did in a recent article: “10 Astronomical Discoveries Made Without A Telescope.” While there are a number of problems this post, I concentrate on the errors about the history of the astrolabe.
See my long rant over at PACHS: “An Astrolabe Rant”