Bayer, John

was a German lawyer and astronomer of the latter part of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century, but in what particular year or place he was born, is not certainly known; however, his name will be ever memorable in the annals of astronomy, on account of that great and excellent work which he first published in 1603, under the title of “Uranometria,” being a complete celestial atlas, or large folio charts of all the constellations, with a nomenclature collected from all the tables of astronomy, ancient and modern, with the useful invention of denoting the stars in every constellation by the letters of the Greek alphabet, in their order, and according to the order of magnitude of the stars in each constellation. By means of these marks, the stars of the heavens may, with as great facility, be distinguished and referred to, as the several places of the earth are by means of geographical tables; and as a proof of the usefulness of this method, our celestial globes and atlasses have ever since retained it; and hence it is become of general use through all the literary world; astronomers, in speaking of any star in the constellation, denoting it by saying it is marked by Bayer, a, or ft, or y, &c.

Bayer lived many years after the first publication of this work, which he greatly improved and augmented by his constant attention to the study of the stars. At length, in 1627, it was republished under a new title, viz. “Ccelum stellatum Christianum,” or the “Christian stellated Heaven,” or the “Starry Heavens Christianized;” for in this work the heathen names and characters, or figures of the constellations, were rejected, and others, taken from the scriptures, were inserted in their stead, to circumscribe the respective constellations. This was the project of one Julius Schiller, a civilian of the same place. But this attempt was too great an innovation to find success, or a general reception, and would have occasioned great confusion. And we even find, in the later editions of this work, that the ancient figures and names were restored again; at least in the two editions of 1654 and 1661. 2


Martin’s JBiographia Philosophica. —Hutton’s Math. Dict.