In that spirit, the exhibit includes an artifact that is both famous and rare but that isn't, strictly speaking, a scientific discovery — a leaf from one of the 21 remaining copies of the Gutenberg Bible printed in the 1450s.
Johannes Gutenberg's Bible was the first manuscript to be reproduced on a press with movable type. His invention made possible the dissemination not just of the thinking of Copernicus, Newton and Galileo, but that of ancient geniuses such as Euclid and Archimedes.
If it hadn't been for the printing press, Mountain said, scientists today couldn't look into a telescope that sees in X-ray wavelengths and discern the remnants of the supernova that Brahe first spotted in 1572.
"Because he wrote it down, we knew where to look," Mountain said.
Though Mountain directs the operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope, it was only recently that he had the opportunity to peruse the calculations that resulted in Edwin Hubble's own eureka moment.
"It was the discovery that the universe was expanding that made Hubble famous," Mountain said. "But I had never before seen Hubble's original data until I turned the pages of his original manuscript."
He's thrilled that the collection has been donated to Hopkins because, he said, the university is where the groundbreaking discoveries about the heavens are being made today and will be made in the future. Perhaps in a thousand years, he thinks, Reiss' name may be recorded alongside those of Newton, Brahe and Hubble.
"The complexity continues," Mountain said.
And so does the conversation.
If you go
"Eureka! Rare Books in the History of Scientific Discovery" runs through Feb. 29 at the George Peabody Library, 17 E. Mount Vernon Place. Free. Call 410-234-4943 or go to library.jhu.edu.