Cover image for The history and practice of ancient astronomy
The history and practice of ancient astronomy
Evans, James, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiii, 480 pages : illustrations ; 29 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB16 .E93 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy combines new scholarship with hands-on science to bring readers into direct contact with the work of ancient astronomers. While tracing ideas from ancient Babylon to sixteenth-century Europe, the book places its greatest emphasis on the Greekperiod, when astronomers developed the geometric and philosophical ideas that have determined the subsequent character of Western astronomy. The author approaches this history through the concrete details of ancient astronomical practice. Carefully organized and generously illustrated, the book canteach readers how to do real astronomy using the methods of ancient astronomers. For example, readers will learn to predict the next retrograde motion of Jupiter using either the arithmetical methods of the Babylonians or the geometric methods of Ptolemy. They will learn how to use an astrolabe andhow to design sundials using Greek and Roman techniques. The book also contains supplementary exercises and patterns for making some working astronomical instruments, including an astrolabe and an equatorium. More than a presentation of astronomical methods, the book provides a critical look at theevidence used to reconstruct ancient astronomy. It includes extensive excerpts from ancient texts, meticulous documentation, and lively discussions of the role of astronomy in the various cultures. Accessible to a wide audience, this book will appeal to anyone interested in how our understanding ofour place in the universe has changed and developed, from ancient times through the Renaissance.

Author Notes

James Evans is at University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Evans offers one of the most comprehensive books on ancient astronomy. The title is appropriate, for it encompasses astronomy from ancient Babylonian observations through the zenith of Greek science during the eight centuries beginning about 600 BCE, through the Middle Ages in Europe and the Islamic lands of the Middle East, to Copernicus and Kepler. This Western tradition centers on the observable sky and its measure. The words "history and practice" mean just that; the book can be used as a text for hands-on work in such areas as navigation and surveying, as well as in studying the historical development of the field. In its devotion to detail, it has few equals. Though limited to pretelescopic astronomy, it has much for the present-day astronomy on position and motion, time and the calendar, the seasons, and the constellations, due to the richness and sophistication of the astronomy of these periods. As treatise, handbook, and source, it is unexcelled. Recommended for all libraries. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through professionals; two-year technical program students. A. R. Upgren Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

1 The birth of astronomy
2 The celestial sphere
3 Some applications of spherics
4 Calendars and time reckoning
5 Solar theory
6 The fixed stars
7 Planetary theory
Appendix: patterns for models