(Art) The Illuminated Heavens of Ignace-Gaston Pardies

Ignace-Gaston Pardies was a 17th century French Jesuit physical scientist known as an insightful critic of Newton’s early experiments on light and as one of the earliest proponents of a wave theory of light.

Although Pardies was a prolific writer, his star atlas is very rarely mentioned in studies of celestial cartography, which is perplexing, since his Globi coelestis is one of the most pleasing and harmonious star atlases ever published.

Nothing is known about how he compiled it, whose observations he used, or who drew the constellation figures, but the resulting set of six plates is visually appealing. The figures, probably based on those of Johann Bayer, are attractive and graceful, and they fit aesthetically with one another, which is not the case with most star atlases of the time.

Globi coelestis was first published by Pardies’ colleagues in 1674, the year after his untimely death at the age of 26. It was reprinted around 1690, with the addition of the paths of several recent comets, including the comet of 1682 — Halley’s comet.

[Text description adapted from Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City, for the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, and Technology.]