Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) was an important mathematician (writing the first treatise on probability), physicist (proposing the wave theory of light) and astronomer (discovering Saturn’s moon Titan). He also invented the pendulum clock — the most accurate timepiece for four centuries until the 1930s. Christiaan’s father was wealthy, which afforded him a lifetime of liberty to pursue scientific research, and Christiaan was also brilliant, which afforded him entré to other great minds of his day, including mathematicians Mersenne and Fermat, and the philosopher/mathematician Leibniz. Christiaan also played the harpsichord.
Christiann was also interested in making telescopes, grinding his own lenses in collaboration with his brother. He also designed what is now called the Huygenian eyepiece. Lenses were also a common interest through which Huygens could meet socially with the eminent philosopher Spinoza, who ground lenses professionally. Christiaan never married.
Christiaan’s father was Sir Constantijn Huygens, a Dutch Golden Age poet and composer. Constantijn had a talent for languages, learning French, Latin, Greek, Italian, German and English. Constantijn was also educated in math, law and logic and learned how to handle a pike and a musket. He began his career in civil service in the employ of Sir Dudley Carleton, the English envoy at the Court in The Hague, and ultimately worked his way up the ladder to secretary to two Princes of Orange: Frederick Henry and William II. He was also knighted by both the English and the French. Secure in his income he turned his attention to writing poetry and music. Constantijn died on Good Friday, 1687 at the age of 90.
In the past three weeks we’ve considered ‘modern magi’, each of whom in their own way followed ‘stars’, both figuratively and literally. Our anthem this morning is based on a poem by Robert Frost: “Choose Something Like A Star.” So in conclusion I would suggest that there are TWO stars in the Christmas story — the star in the sky which the magi followed, and the Morning Star — a metaphorical name for the Christ. So although Frost does not allude to the Christ this poem, I would suggest that Frost’s text still applies: the Morning Star is One on whom we can choose to “fix our minds on, and be staid.”