As soon as humans became aware of the natural rhythms of the earth and seasonal changes they wanted to create calendars and clocks. Calendars were essential to be able to understand agricultural cycles. Food meant power and calendars were part of the armoury of kings and emperors, jealously guarded by the priests, in order to control the people. To create accurate calendars, early civilisations observed and logged the apparent movement of the stars by astrology and astronomy.
Astrology and Astronomy
To understand the natural cycle of Planet Earth, and before the full understanding of the arrangement of the Solar System, astrologers studied the sky and the movement of stars, planets and comets. For the Babylonians, the Sumerians and before them, the Chinese, astrology was considered hard science, that is, not subjected to the rules of testing a hypothesis which modern science applies.
As man created more sophisticated tools to study the skies and the mathematics to enable him to measure and interpret heavenly objects, the emphasis shifted from Astrology to the science of Astronomy. Ptolemy the Greek, one of the founders of modern astronomy, was born around one hundred years before Christ. He was based in Alexandria in Egypt, then the scientific and mathematical centre of the Western world.
This is what Saffron discovered about the developing theories of early western astronomy when she was exploring the Planetarium at Astro Station.
The first case contained an ancient fat book with yellowed pages, written in painstaking black script and illustrated with technical drawings. Below the book lay a typed card with a heading on it, The Almagest.
Text followed. “This is a facsimile of Ptolemy’s mathematical and astronomical treatise, The Almagest. Ptolemy is considered to be the father of modern astronomy and the first scientist to advance our understanding of our Solar System,” she read.
“Until Copernicus proposed his heliocentric model in the Middle Ages, astronomers believed the Sun and the other planets revolved around Planet Earth. Ptolemy devised tables that made it easier to predict the future positions of the planets.
The Almagest provided the most comprehensive models for planetary motion of the time and included much reference to the mathematics of the Greeks and in particular to the trigonometry of Hipparchus which otherwise would have been lost.”
An excerpt from Far Out, a YA novel.
Thanks to Coffee ‘n Characters for hosting us. Standby by for Day 6 to learn more about ancient astrology and astronomy.
Credits: Image courtesy of Coffee ‘n Characters.
First published July 2013