Michael Chriss

Thursday, October 16, 2019,

Michael Chriss

2:30–3:30 pm, 

The Arizona Senior Academy Building

We have all heard true and apocryphal stories about Christopher Columbus. But what was it about the year 1492 that actually made his voyage of discovery possible?  What was in the Zeitgeist that induced him to plan and undertake this voyage? After many attempts at raising funds, what arguments and conditions convinced the rulers of Spain to support his project?  These are the questions that will be addressed. 

Guided by the history of science, our speaker presents the new way of looking at the world at the beginning of the Renaissance.  The social and cultural context of Columbus’ activities include innovations in the arts, in painting and mapmaking, in medicine (Paracelsus), and not least, in astronomy and navigation.  In addition, the Christian – Muslim division influenced people’s consciousness with the successful re-conquest in Spain and also with real fears of an encroaching Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. These events then encouraged a reexamination of European identity and goals. These goals thus altered the usual international trade routes and with them came a shift in economic focus that encouraged geographic and commercial exploration. To continue the lucrative spice trade, several voyagers now sought new routes to the Orient. Our speaker will illustrate how Christopher Columbus became a veritable trailblazer in this movement.

Michael Chriss, Academy Village Resident since 2010, has spent a lifetime in teaching and popularizing science through public lectures and planetarium programs. He was Professor of Astronomy and Humanities at the College of San Mateo, and its Planetarium Director for most of his career.  He was educated at the University of Arizona, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and Oxford. In addition to his favorite subject, astronomy, Mr. Chriss studied the history of art and science, a degree that prepared him to teach humanities classes.  Most recently he has taught at the University of Arizona, concentrating on “The Philosophy and History of Astronomical Thought.” 

Written by Maria Dobozy, Academy Village Volunteer

Oct. 16: “New Horizons: The Voyage of Columbus”