Adriaan Metius

Last updated
Born9 December 1571
Died6 September 1635
Nationality Dutch
Alma mater University of Franeker
Scientific career
Fields geometer

Adriaan Adriaanszoon, called Metius, (9 December 1571 – 6 September 1635), was a Dutch geometer and astronomer born in Alkmaar. The name "Metius" comes from the Dutch word meten ("measuring"), and therefore means something like "measurer" or "surveyor."

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands, also called Holland, is a country located in Northwestern Europe with some overseas territories in the Caribbean. In Europe, it consists of 12 provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with those countries and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Geometry Branch of mathematics that studies the shape, size and position of objects

Geometry is a branch of mathematics concerned with questions of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is called a geometer.

Astronomy Universe events since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago

Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets. Relevant phenomena include supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, astronomy studies everything that originates outside Earth's atmosphere. Cosmology is a branch of astronomy. It studies the Universe as a whole.


Father and brother

Adriaan Metius was born in Alkmaar, North Holland. His father, Adriaan Anthonisz, was a mathematician, land-surveyor, cartographer, and military engineer who from 1582 served also as burgomaster of Alkmaar.

Alkmaar City and municipality in North Holland, Netherlands

Alkmaar[ˈɑl(ə)kmaːr](listen) is a city and municipality in the Netherlands, located in the province of North Holland. Alkmaar is well known for its traditional cheese market. For tourists, it is a popular cultural destination.

North Holland Province of the Netherlands

North Holland is a province of the Netherlands located in the northwestern part of the country. It is situated on the North Sea, north of South Holland and Utrecht, and west of Friesland and Flevoland. In 2015, it had a population of 2,762,163 and a total area of 2,670 km2 (1,030 sq mi).

Mathematician person with an extensive knowledge of mathematics

A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in his or her work, typically to solve mathematical problems.

Metius' brother, Jacob Metius, worked as an instrument-maker and a specialist in grinding lenses. Also born in Alkmaar, Jacob died between 1624 and 1631. Little is known of him besides the fact that, in October 1608, the States General discussed his patent application for an optical telescope of his own invention described as a device for "seeing faraway things as though nearby", consisting of a convex and concave lens in a tube, and the combination magnified three or four times. [1]

JacobMetius was a Dutch instrument-maker and a specialist in grinding lenses. He was born and died in Alkmaar and was the brother of Adriaan Adriaanszoon. He is one of three people associated with the invention of the telescope, the other two being Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Janssen. Not much of him is known besides his 1608 patent application for the invention. He died in Alkmaar between 1624 and 1631. Metius may have made many inventions but kept them secret. Before his death he destroyed them all to prevent anyone else from claiming them.

Patent Intellectual property conferring a monopoly on a new invention

A patent is a form of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing an invention for a limited period of years, in exchange for publishing an enabling public disclosure of the invention. In most countries patent rights fall under civil law and the patent holder needs to sue someone infringing the patent in order to enforce his or her rights. In some industries patents are an essential form of competitive advantage; in others they are irrelevant.

Optical telescope Telescope for observations with visible light

An optical telescope is a telescope that gathers and focuses light, mainly from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum, to create a magnified image for direct view, or to make a photograph, or to collect data through electronic image sensors.


Adriaan Metius attended a Latin school in Alkmaar and studied philosophy in 1589 at the recently founded University of Franeker. He continued his studies at Leiden in 1594, where he studied under Rudolph Snellius. He worked for a brief time under Tycho Brahe on the island of Hven, where Brahe had built two observatories, and subsequently worked at Rostock and Jena, where he gave lectures in 1595. Subsequently, he returned to Alkmaar and assisted his father for a time as a military engineer inspecting fortifications, and also worked as a teacher of mathematics at Franeker in Frisia, his teaching especially geared towards the training of surveyors.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Philosophy The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

University of Franeker university

The University of Franeker (1585–1811) was a university in Franeker, Friesland, the Netherlands. It was the second oldest university of the Netherlands, founded shortly after Leiden University.

At the University of Franeker, he was appointed professor extraordinarius in 1598, and served from 1600 to 1635 as professor ordinarius of mathematics, navigation, surveying, military engineering, and astronomy. He was permitted to teach in the vernacular instead of Latin. He served as rector of the university in 1603 and 1632.

Navigation The process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another

Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navigation, marine navigation, aeronautic navigation, and space navigation.

With his father and brother he established an instrument making business which specialised in optical instruments. The family business seems to have manufactured the precision Jacob's staffs used by Tycho Brahe for his star sightings.

Tycho Brahe Danish astronomer and alchemist

Tycho Brahe was a Danish nobleman, astronomer, and writer known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations. He was born in the then Danish peninsula of Scania. Well known in his lifetime as an astronomer, astrologer and alchemist, he has been described as "the first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts." His observations were some five times more accurate than the best available observations at the time.

He died in Franeker.


Adriaen Metius: De genuino usu utriusqve globi tractatus. Adjecta est nova Sciatericorum, & artis Navigandi ratio novis Instrumentis, & inventionibus illustrata. Franeker, 1624. Metius De genuino usu.jpg
Adriaen Metius: De genuino usu utriusqve globi tractatus. Adjecta est nova Sciatericorum, & artis Navigandi ratio novis Instrumentis, & inventionibus illustrata. Franeker, 1624.

Though he scoffed at astrology, Metius is said to have spent a lot of time pursuing alchemy, especially the philosophers' stone.

Metius published treatises on the astrolabe and on surveying. His works include Arithmeticæ et geometriæ practica (1611), Institutiones Astronomicae Geographicae, and Arithmeticæ libri duo: et geometriæ libri VI (1640). Metius also manufactured astronomical instruments and developed a special form of Jacob's staff.

In 1585, his father had estimated the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, later called pi, to be approximately 355/113. Metius later published his father's results, and the value 355/113 is traditionally referred to as Metius' number. [2]

The lunar crater Metius is named after him.

In Vermeer's painting The Astronomer (1668), the book lying on the table has been identified as a 1621 second edition of Metius's Institutiones Astronomicae Geographicae. It is opened to Book III, where "inspiration from God" is recommended for astronomical research along with knowledge of geometry and the aid of mechanical instruments. [3]

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History of the telescope aspect of history

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William Gascoigne (scientist) English astronomer, mathematician and instrument maker

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Willem Blaeu Dutch cartographer, atlas maker and publisher (1571-1638)

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Gemma Frisius Dutch scientist

Gemma Frisius, was a Dutch physician, mathematician, cartographer, philosopher, and instrument maker. He created important globes, improved the mathematical instruments of his day and applied mathematics in new ways to surveying and navigation. Gemma's rings are named after him. Along with Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius, Frisius is often considered one of the founders of the Netherlandish school of cartography and significantly helped lay the foundations for the school's golden age.

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Jacobs staff calibrated wooden rod with sliding crosspiece used for measuring the altitude of celestial bodies or the height of distant objects

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Frans Gansneb genaamd Tengnagel van de Camp was a Dutch nobleman.

Martin (Maarten) van den Hove was a Dutch astronomer and mathematician. His adopted Latin name is a translation of the Dutch hof ("garden"), in Latin horta.

Otte Brahe Danish noble

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Telescope Optical instrument that makes distant objects appear magnified

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A Scientific equipment optician is an individual who makes and adjusts other optical aids, including telescope optics and microscope lenses. See also Optician for individuals who make and adjust glasses.

Metius (1571–1635) was a Dutch geometer and astronomer.

Adriaan Anthonisz Dutch mathematician

Adriaan Anthonisz (1527–1607) was a Dutch mathematician, surveyor, cartographer, and military engineer who specialized in the design of fortifications. As a mathematician Anthonisz discovered in 1585 the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, which would later be called pi.


  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-11-01. Retrieved 2005-08-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)