Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712) was an Italian astromer, engineer and mathematician who was a progenitor of modern scientific thought and laid the groundwork for how we view the universe — and our relationship to it — today.
From 1648 to 1669, Cassini worked at the Panzano Observatory; in 1650 he was appointed Professor of Astronomy at the University of Bologna. In 1669 King Louis XIV of France (the famous 'Roi Soleil' or 'Sun King') commissioned Cassini to build the Paris Observatory, where he served as Director from the day it opened in 1671 until his death in 1712 at the age of 87.
Although he held various cosmological views of the universe, Cassini initally held the Earth to be the center of the Solar System, though later observations compelled him to accept the model of the universe proposed by Tycho Brahe and, eventually, that of Nicolaus Copernicus. Later in his career, Cassini uncovered the mystery behind the phenomenon of Zodiacal Light, a faint, diffuse and roughly triangular white glow visible in the night sky that appears to extend from the vicinity of the Sun along the ecliptic plane of the sky, caused by dusty objects in interplanetary space.
And yet, the realm of science had, for Cassini, its limits. Arithmetic, rhetoric, geometry, cartography. It was all fascinating and profoundly useful — to a point. But none could calculate the weight of the soul or interpret dreams or account for human consciousness. And Cassini, a closeted astrologer and mystic, yearned for those answers as well.
I M A G I N E . . .
After hours in his observatory, Cassini would secretly retire to a small room directly off of the planetarium. He referred to this room as his 'Contemplorium.' Cassini's Contemplorium was at once a library, a laboratory, a place of refuge and a congeries, where beautiful objects and instruments were purposefully constructed for the comprehension of the most arcane aspects of the universe . . .