In the 1600's anagrams
were a much more serious thing than the hobby
and amusement we find them now. Anagrams were a way of assuring your place in history
and the fame that was rightfully yours.
Say for some reason you didn't want your discovery to be made public right away - you wanted to verify it first. When Galileo saw Saturn (the furthest distant planet at the time) he recoded the following statement:
Latin: altissimvm planetam tergeminvm obseravi
English: "I observed the highest planet in threefold shape"
Granted, this anagram is nonsense in the form above, but it doesn't have to make sense - the only thing necessary is to be able to produce the original text from it in case someone else tries to take the fame away from you.
Unfortunately, Galileo was wrong - Saturn isn't made of three parts. Its true nature was found about 50 years later when Christiaan Huygens turned his attention to the planet and recorded a sentence:
Latin: Annulo cingitur, tenui, plano, nusquam cohaerente, ad eclipticam
English: It is surrounded by a thin flat ring that does not touch it and is
inclined against the ecliptic.
This sentence was then alphabetized. This anagram was published in the treatise De Saturni luna observatio nova (New observation of a moon of Saturn) in 1656 where he claimed to have an explanation for the 'handles' on Saturn that Galileo observed, and asked for anyone who had a solution to come forward. Three others proposed ideas that included explanations such as exhalations of vapor, large appendages, and a pear shaped planet. Huygens rightfuly holds the place in history for the discovery of Saturn's rings.
Other famous historical anagrams:
- Newton to Leibniz:
AAAAAAA CC DD EEEEEEEEEEEEEE FF IIIIIII LL M NNNNNNNN OOOO QQQ RR
SSSS TTTTTTTT VVVVVVVVVVVV X
While this one was not ever translated, one possible solution is:
data aequatione quodcumque fluentes quantitates involvente, fluxiones
invenire et vice versa
Which translates to "For a given equation with an arbitrary number of
fluentes to find the fluxiones and vice versa"
- Galileo to Kepler:
HAEC IMMATURA A ME IAM FRUSTRA LEGUNTUR O.Y.
which literally translates to "These unripe things are now read by me in
vain" and is an anagram of
cynthiae figuras aemulatur mater amorum
Which means: "The mother of love (Venus) imitates the phases of