Aristarchus of Samos the Ancient Copernicus

Aristarchus of Samos the Ancient Copernicus

2017 | 770 Pages | ISBN: 1979822492 | PDF | 7.9 MB

ARISTARCHUS, who flourished in the first half of the third century B.C., is chiefly known as the only philosopher or astronomer of antiquity who taught that the earth moves round the sun. This doctrine is, however, not mentioned in the only writing of his which has been preserved, and the little we know about it is derived from allusions to it made by subsequent writers. All the same, his little book, "On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon," is of great importance, and Sir Thomas Heath's new and critical edition, accompanied by a translation, commentary, and notes, is therefore a most welcome addition to the literature of astronomical history.
Considering that the idea of the earth being in the centre of the universe reigned undisturbed until less than four hundred years ago, it is one of the most surprising facts in the history of astronomy that its motion round the sun should have been proposed more than 1700 years before the time of Copernicus, and that it should only have been accepted by one single philosopher, Seleukus, as to whom it is not even certain that he went the whole way and did not merely accept the daily rotation of the earth. The editor of this new edition of Aristarchus, therefore, thought it desirable to prepare a lengthy introduction to the work, giving an account of the progress of astronomy in Greece from the time of Thales to and including that of Aristarchus. Though this is not the first time that an English writer has dealt with this subject, Sir Thomas Heath has done good work by preparing this introductory memoir, which fills more than three hundred pages, as he possesses special qualifications for writing the history of Greek science, and there are various controversial matters which cannot be too much discussed-provided it is done by writers who are as competent to do so as he is. The author gives full references to the very copious literature on the subject; indeed, he even notices some statements which he might well have ignored, such as the comically exaggerated picture drawn by Gomperz, of how Demokritus seems to have anticipated out of his inner consciousness many modern discoveries. The passages in the works of ancient writers from which our knowledge of early Greek astronomy is derived are always given at full length in translation, which many readers who may not have access to the originals will find very convenient....

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