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Greek Astronomy (Dover Books on Astronomy) Paperback – October 5, 2011
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About 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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Top Customer Reviews
It seems that the ancient Greeks, from about 850 to 150 BC, gave the world the first alphabet, mathematical proofs, history, philosophy, democracy, politics, the olympic games, gymnasiums, university education, coins, wages, mercenary armies, jury trials, literacy (about 50%), book-shops, and civilisation itself. What they didn't do well at was astronomy, physics and chemistry, as far as I can tell. But this introductory essay by Heath, and the numerous quotations and fragments, left me scratching my head, trying to think why they could be so weak in a subject which is, on the face of it, amenable to logical, rational analysis.
There are some clues in this book to the reasons for the dismal failure of Greek Astronomy. There is a quote on pages 28-29 from Plutarch about Anaxagoras, saying this:
"For Anaxagoras, who was the first to put in writing, most clearly and most courageously of all men, the explanation of the moon's illumination and darkness, did not belong to ancient times, and even his account was not common property, but was still a secret, current only among a few, and received by them with caution, or simply on trust. For in those days they refused to tolerate the natural philosophers and star-gazers, as they were then called, who presumed to fritter away the deity into unreasoning causes, blind forces, and necessary properties. Thus Protogoras was exiled, and Anaxagoras was imprisoned, and with difficulty saved by Pericles."
There are several other quotations which suggest a similar danger in publishing rational astronomy ideas which contradicted religion. Plato, pages 40-42, wrote that knowledge can not be obtained from observation, but must rather be determined by thinking about it. The writings of Aristotle were complete twaddle, and this book contains some prime examples of Aristotle's twaddle-thinking. The fact that Aristotle's views on astronomy were enforced throughout the Dark Ages until Copernicus, Galileo and others put a stop to it, is the reason why science was held back for more than 1600 years. The Geminus quote on pages 123-125 strongly argues that astronomers should keep their noses out of physics and not try to step into the territory of philosophers.
So I can highly recommend this book to see how the ancient Greeks totally failed in astronomy. They didn't even know as much as the earlier Mesopotamians and Egyptians. Luckily the book is short, so the pain is mercifully brief.
This can be verified with the Socrates Code (See “Man, the measure of all things?” in The Philosopher, V. 102 No. 2). This explains that astronomía characterises the self-observed knowledge (wisdom) about the eidetically perceived kósmos on a particular step of the step-wise ascent of the psyché. This ís, for instance, reported in the theologumena arithmeticae (see p. 56 in The Theology of Arithmetic by Robin Butterfield, 1988) by the Pythagorean (Neoplatonist) Iamblichus (c. 245 – 325 ACE):
"Four are the foundations of wisdom ––- arithmetiké, mousiké, geometría, astronomía – ordered 1 (Monad), 2 (Dyad), 3 (Triad), 4 (Tetrad)".
The four numbers are non-arithmetical. They are, like arithmetiké, mousiké, geometría, astronomía, profound metaphors, which have nothing at all to do with their loanwords arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy. They characterise the self-observed step-wise creation (genesis) of the psychic kósmos as obtained by what Plato calls the practice of dying (meléte thanátou). This provides unconditioned knowledge (gnósis) by recollection (anamnésis).
Similar words for the step-wise creation of the kósmos are offered in Timaios (36) by Plato: "Arithmetiké, harmoniké, geometriké were the three principles by which demiurgos (artificer) proportioned the kósmos".
Iamblichus’ words are corroborated in Lao Tzu’s Daodejing (Chapter 42):
"The Dao creates 1, 1 creates 2, 2 creates 3, which creates the 10.000 things".
Lao Tzu clarifies them in Chapter 25:
"There exists chaos (mixed thing), which existed already before heaven and earth existed, still and formless. It is in a state of a circular movement nourished by itself. One may call it the mother of 10.000 things. I do not know its name and for that matter I call it Dao (Tao). Because I find no better attribute, I call it 'great (Da)'".
All cited quotes above comply with the Pythagorean oath:
"… by him that gave to our generation the Tetraktys, which contains the fount and root of eternal nature (phýsis)".
They can be conceived with the Socrates Code. The more familiar one becomes with it, the better the above quotes can be understood.
See also my critical reviews here on Amazon on:
Plato: Timaeus and Critias (Penguin Classics), translated by Desmond Lee Plato,
Plato. Symposium (Hackett Classics) translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff,
Plato. Republic (Hackett Classics) translated by C. D. C. Reeve,
Theology of Arithmetic by Robin Butterfield,
For futher details see my Youtube presentation:
TAO: PATH TO DISCOVER THE PSYCHO-COSMIC ORIGIN OF THE WESTERN CULTURE.