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04/04/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Rostovtzeff Lecture Series: The Sky over Ancient Iraq: Babylonian Astronomy in Context

Lecture III: Algorithms, Tables and Figures: New Insights into Babylonian Mathematical Astronomy

Mathieu Ossendrijver

The third lecture will present new insights into Babylonian mathematical astronomy, which emerged after about 400 BCE. The underlying mathematical methods for predicting lunar and planetary phenomena are predominantly based on purely arithmetic methods, that is, they operate by manipulating sequences of numbers. However, recent discoveries have corrected this firmly entrenched arithmetic characterization of the Babylonian methods by revealing that some tablets employ geometric concepts in order to compute the distance traveled by a planet. These geometric methods imply a surprisingly deep understanding of the graphical connections between time, velocity and distance on the part of some Babylonian astronomers.
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