The First Scientific Map of the Moon (1679)

moon-lg (1)

Mil­lions watched as astro­naut Neil Arm­strong put boots to the moon in 1969.

It was, as he famous­ly remarked, one “giant leap for mankind,” but from a sci­en­tif­ic stand­point the ter­ri­to­ry was far from vir­gin.

Near­ly 300 years ear­li­er, engi­neer Gio­van­ni Domeni­co Cassi­ni, astronomer to Sun King Louis XIV, made lunar his­to­ry in 1679, when he pub­lished the first sci­en­tif­ic map of the moon, above.

Need­less to say, the event was not tele­vised and Cassi­ni nev­er had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to walk on the sur­face he stud­ied. Instead he observed it through the eye­piece of a tele­scope, a rel­a­tive­ly new inven­tion.

His pre­de­ces­sors, includ­ing Galileo, used the then-rev­o­lu­tion­ary tool to delve deep­er into their own lunar obses­sions, mak­ing sketch­es and per­form­ing exper­i­ments designed to repli­cate the craters they noticed in the moon’s crust.

Cassi­ni, then eight years into his forty year career as Direc­tor of the Paris Obser­va­to­ry, pro­duced a map so exhaus­tive, it pro­vid­ed his peers with far more details of the moon’s sur­face than they had with regard to their own plan­et.

He also used his pow­ers of obser­va­tion to expand human under­stand­ing of Mars, Sat­urn, and France itself (which turned out to be much small­er than pre­vi­ous­ly believed).

moon maiden


A man of sci­ence, he may not have been entire­ly immune to the sort of moon-based whim­sy that has long infect­ed poets, song­writ­ers, and 19th-cen­tu­ry roman­tic hero­ines. Hid­ing in the low­er right quad­rant, near Cape Her­a­clides on the Sinus Iridum (aka Bay of Rain­bows), is a tiny, bare-shoul­dered moon maid. See right above.

Or per­haps this appeal­ing­ly play­ful vision can be attrib­uted to Cassini’s engraver Claude Mel­lan.

Either way, she seems exact­ly the sort of female life form a 17th-cen­tu­ry human male might hope to encounter on a trip to the moon.

via Pick­over Real­i­ty Car­ni­val

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Astron­o­my Cours­es

Galileo’s Moon Draw­ings, the First Real­is­tic Depic­tions of the Moon in His­to­ry (1609–1610)

The Birth of the Moon: How Did It Get There in the First Place?

Michio Kaku Schools Takes on Moon Land­ing-Con­spir­a­cy Believ­er on His Sci­ence Fan­tas­tic Pod­cast

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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