Elements diagram, 1552

Elements diagram, 1552

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Credit: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Elements diagram, 16th century. This diagram of the classical Greek (Aristotelian) elements is from the 1552 edition of Sphaera Mundi, by the French mathematician and cartographer Oronce Fine (1494-1555). Fine was a writer of many books popularising mathematics and astronomy. Sphaera Mundi (Sphere of the World) was an astronomy textbook with woodcut illustrations by Fine. It was first published in 1542. This diagram includes Latin text labels, and the four elements are Fire (Ignis), Air (Aer), Water (Aqua) and Earth (Terra). In the corners, four combinations of the elements are also marked: humidity, cold, warmth and drought. There was also a fifth element, the heavenly aether.

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