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Christiaan Huygens was a Dutch astronomer.


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Christiaan Huygens was a Dutch mathematician, Astronomer and physicist; born in The Hague as the son of Constantijn Huygens. He studied law at the University of Leiden and the College of Orange in Breda before turning to science. Historians commonly associate Huygens with the Scientific Revolution.

Christiaan Huygens.
Christiaan Huygens Dutch astronomer ane mathematician.

Huygens generally receives minor credit for his role in the development of modern calculus. He also achieved note for his arguments that light consisted of waves; see: Wave-particle duality. In 1655, he discovered Saturn's moon Titan. He also examined Saturn's planetary rings, and in 1656 he discovered that those rings consisted of rocks. In the same year he observed and sketched the Orion Nebula. His drawing, the first such known of the Orion nebula, was published in Systema Saturnium in 1659. Using his modern telescope he succeeded in subdividing the nebula into different stars. (The brighter interior of the Orion Nebula bears the name of the Huygens Region in his honour.) He also discovered several interstellar nebulae and some double stars.

After Blaise Pascal encouraged him to do so, Huygens wrote the first book on probability theory, which he had published in 1657.

He also worked on the construction of accurate clocks, suitable for naval navigation. In 1658 he published a book on this topic called Horologium. In fact his invention, the pendulum clock (patented 1657), was a breakthrough in timekeeping. Devices known as escapements regulate the rate of a watch or clock, and the anchor escapement represented a major step in the development of accurate watches. Subsequent to this publication, Huygens discovered that the cycloid was an isochronous curve and, applied to pendulum clocks in the form of cycloidal cheeks, would ensure a regular swing of the pendulum from any height. The mathematical and practical details of this finding were published in "Horologium Oscillatorium" of 1673. Huygens also observed that two pendulums mounted on the same beam will come to swing in perfectly opposite directions, an observation he referred to as odd sympathy.

Huygens also developed a balance spring clock more or less contemporaneously with, though separately from, Robert Hooke, and controversy over whose invention was the earlier persisted for centuries. In February 2006, a long-lost copy of Hooke's handwritten notes from several decades' Royal Society meetings was discovered in a cupboard in Hampshire, and the balance-spring controversy appears by evidence contained in those notes to be settled in favor of Hooke's claim.

The Royal Society elected Huygens a member in 1663. In the year 1666 Huygens moved to Paris where he held a position at the French Academy of Sciences under the patronage of Louis XIV. Using the Paris Observatory (completed in 1672) he made further astronomical observations. In 1684 he published "Astroscopia Compendiaria" which presented his new aerial (tubeless) telescope.

Huygens speculated in detail about life on other planets (although we do not know to what extent ancient writers exercised such speculation, since most of their work has not survived). In his book Cosmotheoros, further entitled The celestial worlds discover'd: or, conjectures concerning the inhabitants, plants and productions of the worlds in the planets he imagined a universe brimming with life, much of it very similar to life on 17th century Earth. The liberal climate in the Netherlands of that time not only allowed but encouraged such speculation. In sharp contrast, philosopher Giordano Bruno, who also believed in many inhabited worlds, was burned at the stake by the Italian authorities for his beliefs in 1600.

In 1675, Christian Huygens patented a pocket watch. He also invented numerous other devices, including a 31 tone to the octave keyboard instrument which made use of his discovery of 31 equal temperament.

Huygens moved back to The Hague in 1681 after suffering serious illness. He attempted to return to France in 1685 but the revocation of the Edict of Nantes precluded this move. Huygens died in The Hague on July 8, 1695.

Named after Huygens

  • The Huygens probe: The lander for the Saturnian Moon Titan, part of the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn.
  • Asteroid 2801 Huygens.
  • A crater on Mars.
  • A mountain on the Moon.
  • Huygens Software, a microscope image processing package.
  • Achromatic eyepiece design named about him.
  • Huygens wavelets, the fundamental mathematical basis for scalar Diffraction theory.
  • W.I.S.V. Christiaan Huygens: Dutch study club for the studies Mathemathics and Computer Science at the Delft University of Technology.



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