Babylonian Astronomers

Babylonian Astronomers

According to Asger Aaboe, the origins of Western astronomy can be found in Mesopotamia, and all Western efforts in the exact sciences are descendants in direct line from the work of the late Babylonian astronomers. Our knowledge of Sumerian astronomy is indirect, via the earliest Babylonian star catalogues dating from about 1200 BCE. The fact that many star names appear in Sumerian suggests a continuity reaching into the Early Bronze Age.

The history of astronomy in Mesopotamia, and the world, begins with the Sumerians who developed the earliest writing system—known as cuneiform—around 3500–3200 BC. The Sumerians developed a form of astronomy that had an important influence on the sophisticated astronomy of the Babylonians. Astrolatry, which gave planetary gods an important role in Mesopotamian mythology and religion, began with the Sumerians. They also used a sexagesimal (base 60) place-value number system, which simplified the task of recording very great and very small numbers. The modern practice of dividing a circle into 360 degrees, of 60 minutes each hour, began with the Sumerians.

During the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, Babylonian astronomers developed a new empirical approach to astronomy. They began studying philosophy dealing with the ideal nature of the universe and began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems. This was an important contribution to astronomy and the philosophy of science, and some scholars have thus referred to this new approach as the first scientific revolution. This new approach to astronomy was adopted and further developed in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy. Classical Greek and Latin sources frequently use the term Chaldeans for the astronomers of Mesopotamia, who were, in reality, priest-scribes specializing in astrology and other forms of divination.

Only fragments of Babylonian astronomy have survived, consisting largely of contemporary clay tablets with ephemerides and procedure texts, hence current knowledge of Babylonian planetary theory is in a fragmentary state. Nevertheless, the surviving fragments show that, according to the historian A. Aaboe, Babylonian astronomy was "the first and highly successful attempt at giving a refined mathematical description of astronomical phenomena" and that "all subsequent varieties of scientific astronomy, in the Hellenistic world, in India, in Islam, and in the West—if not indeed all subsequent endeavour in the exact sciences—depend upon Babylonian astronomy in decisive and fundamental ways."

Read more about Babylonian AstronomersOld Babylonian Astronomy, Neo-Babylonian Astronomy, Babylonian Influence On Hellenistic Astronomy

Other articles related to "babylonian astronomers, babylonian, astronomers":

Babylonian Astronomers - Neo-Babylonian Astronomy - Empirical Astronomy
... Though there is a lack of surviving material on Babylonian planetary theory, it appears most of the Chaldean astronomers were concerned mainly with ephemerides and not with theory ... Most of the predictive Babylonian planetary models that have survived were usually strictly empirical and arithmetical, and usually did not involve geometry, cosmology, or speculative philosophy like ... In contrast to Greek astronomy which was dependent upon cosmology, Babylonian astronomy was independent from cosmology ...

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