Greek Astronomy

Overview

Astronomy as a science began with the Ionian philosophers, with whom Greek philosophy and mathematics also began. While the Egyptians and Babylonians had accomplished much of astronomical worth, it remained for the unrivalled speculative genius of the Greeks, in particular, their mathematical genius, to lay the foundations of the true science of astronomy. In this classic study, a noted scholar discusses in lucid detail the specific advances made by the Greeks, many of whose ...

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Greek Astronomy

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Overview

Astronomy as a science began with the Ionian philosophers, with whom Greek philosophy and mathematics also began. While the Egyptians and Babylonians had accomplished much of astronomical worth, it remained for the unrivalled speculative genius of the Greeks, in particular, their mathematical genius, to lay the foundations of the true science of astronomy. In this classic study, a noted scholar discusses in lucid detail the specific advances made by the Greeks, many of whose ideas anticipated the discoveries of modern astronomy.
Pythagoras, born at Samos about 572 B.C., was probably the first to hold that the earth is spherical in shape, while his later followers anticipated Copernicus with the then-startling hypothesis that the earth was not the center of the universe but a planet like the others. Heraclides of Pontus (c. 388–315 B.C.), a pupil of Plato, declared that the apparent daily rotation of the heavenly bodies is due, not to a rotation of the heavenly sphere about an axis through the center of the earth, but to the rotation of the earth itself around its own axis. Secondly, Heraclides discovered that Venus and Mercury revolve around the sun like satellites. Perhaps the greatest astronomer of antiquity was Hipparchus, who flourished between 161 and 126 B.C. He compiled a catalog of fixed stars to the number 850 or more, made great improvements in the instruments used for astronomical observations, and discovered the precession of the equinoxes, among other accomplishments. The astronomy of Hipparchus takes its definitive form in the Syntaxis (commonly called the Almagest) of Ptolemy, written about A.D. 150, which held the field until the time of Copernicus.
The extraordinary achievements of these and many more Greek theorists are given full coverage in this erudite account, which blends exceptional clarity with a readable style to produce a work that is not only indispensable for astronomers and historians of science but easily accessible to science-minded laymen.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
In this reprint of the work first published in 1932 (London, J.M. Dent) the late Heath (1861-1940) discusses the ideas of Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, and many others, offering an outline of the foundations of scientific astronomy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486266206
  • Publisher: Courier Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/2/2011
  • Series: Dover Books on Astronomy Series
  • Edition description: Dover ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 258
  • Sales rank: 1,014,609
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Little Heath: Bringing the Past to Life
Thomas Little Heath (1861–1940) was unusual for an authority on many esoteric, and many less esoteric, subjects in the history of mathematics in that he was never a university professor. The son of an English farmer from Lincolnshire, Heath demonstrated his academic gifts at a young age; studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1879 to 1882; came away with numerous awards; and obtained the top grade in the 1884 English Civil Service examination. From that foundation, he went to work in the English Treasury, rose through the ranks, and by 1913, was permanent secretary to the Treasury, effectively the head of its operations. He left that post in 1919 at the end of the first World War, worked several years at the National Debt office, and retired in 1926.

During all of that time, however, he became independently one of the world's leading authorities on the history of mathematics, especially on the history of ancient Greek mathematics. Heath's three-volume edition of Euclid is still the standard, it is generally accepted that it is primarily through Heath's great work on Archimedes that the accomplishments of Archimedes are known as well as they are.

Dover has reprinted these and other books by Heath, preserving over several decades a unique legacy in the history of mathematical scholarship.

In the Author's Own Words:
"The works of Archimedes are without exception, monuments of mathematical exposition; the gradual revelation of the plan of attack, the masterly ordering of the propositions, the stern elimination of everything not immediately relevant to the purpose, the finish of the whole, are so impressive in their perfection as to create a feeling akin to awe in the mind of the reader." — Thomas L. Heath

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Table of Contents

PREFATORY NOTE
INTRODUCTION
EPIGRAM by PTOLEMY
DOXOGRAPHY:
  THALES
  ANAXIMANDER
  PYTHAGORAS
  ALCMAEON
  XENOPHANES
  HERACLITUS
  PARMENIDES
  EMPEDOCLES
  ANAXAGORAS
  THE PYTHAGOREANS
  LEUCIPPUS
  DEMOCRITUS
PLATO:
  The study of astronomy
  The Heavenly Choir
  Anaxagoras and Mind
  The earth
  The Myth of Er
  The creation of the universe
  "Time: sun, moon, and planets"
  Form and movements of fixed stars
  The earth and the planets
  The stars animate beings: motion and names of planets
EUDOXUS (AND CALLIPPUS):
  System of concentric spheres
  Callippus' additions to the system
  Aristotle's modification
  Simplicius on
ARISTOTLE:
  Motion and the prime movent
  "The stars and the heaven: shape, motions, distances, and speeds: supposed "harmony"
  "The earth: its position, shape, rest or motion: historical sketch"
  Spherical shape of the earth
HERACLIDES OF PONTUS:
  Rotation of the earth on its axis
  Motion of Mercury and Venus round the sun
EUCLID:
  Preface to Phaenomena
ARISTARCHUS OF SAMOS:
  On the sizes and distances of the sun and moon
  The heliocentric system: Copernicus anticipated
ERATOSTHENES:
  Measurement of the earth
ARATUS:
  "Phaenomena, ll. 1-73, 91-136"
  Comments of HIPPARCHUS
POSIDONIUS:
  Measurement of the earth
GEMINUS:
  On physics and astronomy
  "The zodiac: motions therein of sun, moon, and planets"
  On day and night
  "Months, years, and cycles"
  "Cycles of Meton, Callippus, and Hipparchus"
HIPPARCHUS:
  Hipparchus' cycle
  Discovery of precession of the equinoxes
PTOLEMY:
  The earth does not change its position in any way whatever
  Arguments against the earth's rotation
STRABO:
  On the zones
"TREATISE "DE MUNDO":"
  "De Mundo (from Aristotelian corpus), cc. 5-6"
CLEOMEDES:
  "On a "paradoxical" eclipse of the moon"
PLUTARCH:
  On the face in the moon?De facie in orbe lunae: extracts
APPENDIX:
  The Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere
INDEX
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