Special Sub-Topic: Great Figures of Ancient Science
|Around 500 B.C., one of these greats of ancient Greece was the first major figure to propose that the Earth is spherical, but which? |
Pythagoras. Pythagoras, he of the famous theorem, was not only fascinated by numbers. In reality, he and his followers, active in Croton in southern Italy from the 6th century B.C., were fascinated by all aspects of the physical world, and delved into metaphysics as well. Pythagoras' conception of the world as a sphere came via his repeated journeys on business ships traveling around the Mediterranean. Apparently, seeing the position of the stars shift in the night sky based on location was enough to convince Pythagoras that the Earth was not a flat, floating disk, as his contemporaries had theorized.
|Which great of ancient science, math and geography was derisively nicknamed 'Beta' by his peers because his scientific theories and investigations were considered 'second rate'? |
Eratosthenes. It is my guess that we have no remaining historic documents recording the names of any of the fellows who called Eratosthenes 'Beta' (the second letter of the Greek alphabet, and hence 'second best'.) Eratosthenes invented a 'sieve' diagram to help decipher the prime numbers. He also was the first man to accurately measure the circumference and diameter of the Earth, no small accomplishment during a time when no tape measures were handy. Eratosthenes also created a fairly sophisticated calendar, and mapped over 600 stars during his productive lifetime. Beta indeed!
|Oenipodes was a philosopher/mathematician of ancient Greece who is most well-known for first making which astronomical observation? |
Earth is tilted 24 degrees. Oenipodes is one of those lesser known ancient Greek astronomers, largely due to the fact that none of his writings have come down to us. We must rely on Plato and other Greek sources for information about Oenipodes, who is also assigned as the first ancient scientist to give a reasonably accurate measurement of the 'Great Year' (cycle in which the collective motions of the sun and moon repeat themselves.) His measurement of the inclination of the ecliptic (the Earth's tilt) was fairly accurate, at 24 degrees (now regarded as 23.5 degrees), marking his place in the annals of scientific history.
|Democritus is typically given credit for being the originator of the atomic theory, that is, that all matter is made of tiny, indivisible particles called 'atoms'. Is he really the first known figure to have hypothesized this key component of the physical science? |
n. Democritus was a disciple of Leucippus of Miletus, the probably true originator of atomic theory (though it is possible that the theory was established even prior to him.) Though we know nothing about this Miletan philosopher, other than accounts passed down through Aristotle and his contemporaries, it is now considered almost certain that he existed. His development of atomic theory preceded Democritus' ideas on the subject by some 20 years. The impetus for his atomic theory came from readings of the Eleatic philosophers Zeno and Parmenides, who both denied nothingness. If there is no nothingness, something must exist in all places...what better than tiny atoms?
|Which ancient Eleatic philosopher 'proved' that motion does not exist based on a number of paradoxes? |
Zeno. Zeno didn't really prove anything, per se, but through logical reasoning using the literal meaning of words, he provided a number of fun paradoxes that, when reasoned through, are very difficult to disprove. A couple of his paradoxes can be found at the following web address, be prepared for frustration! (http://www.thebigview.com/greeks/parmenides.html)
|This early medieval Latin author probably established what came to be known as the 'trivium' and the 'quadrivium', the educational curriculums used throughout the Middle Ages. Name him. |
Martianus Capella. Capella, a Latin scholar from Carthage, was most well known for his fanciful encyclopedic work called 'The Marriage of Mercury and Philology' (alternatively called the 'Satyricon'.) Within this work, he laid down the trivium, namely: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, and the quadrivium, consisting of geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music. This somewhat stifling curriculum remained current until the 12-13th centuries, when universities began developing in other areas of thought.
|6th century philosopher Johannes Philoponus developed which theory of motion that was later to appear in the work of Galileo and Newton? |
Impetus. Johannes Philoponus could very well be the first person in history to suggest what would become Newton's first law, stated simply, 'An object at rest remains at rest, an object in motion remains in motion.' He believed that an object would continue moving in a straight line unless acted on by another force (e.g. friction, gravity.) Like Leucippus and Oenipodes, another figure of science who, though not well-known, is of extreme historic importance.
|During the early period of Islamic rule in the Middle East under the Umayyad Dynasty (the first Arab dynasty), what city, dominated by Nestorian Christian and Jewish scholars, became the center of science and medicine? |
Gondeshapur. Gondeshapur (aka Jundishapur, or sometimes Gondisapur), located in what is now Iraq, was the central location for an ethnic enclave of Nestorian Christians who lived there during the Persian Sassanid period. In the 7th century, when the Arabs took control of Mesopotamia, the town became the center of scientific learning thanks to the many translated scientific texts of ancient Greece. Initially, the texts were translated into the local Syriac dialect (Aramaic), but eventually, Arabic translations were made, and Greek thought came to be embraced by learned Arabs and Jews living in Islamic-dominated lands. These ancient Greek texts eventually came to be translated into Latin via Arabic in Muslim Spain, passing back into the intellectual mainstream during the late Middle Ages.
|What is the Latin name of the Nestorian Christian who served as court physician for the greatest caliph of the most important Arab dynasty, the Abbasids, Harun al-Rashid? |
John MesuŽ. John MesuŽ, aka Yuhanna Ibn Masawiah, was not only chief medical advisor to Harun al-Rashid, but also one of the most prolific writers during the early period of Islamic rule in the Middle East. A member of the Bukht-Yishu (Jesus hath delivered) scholars of Gondeshapur, MesuŽ wrote on topics ranging from fevers to eye diseases, almost all in Arabic. This marked the period when Syriac writings were being translated en masse into Arabic, and MesuŽ played a major role in the life science fields.
|Which important instrument of science was reintroduced to western Europe, during the late Middle Ages, by Pope Sylvester II? |
Abacus. Indeed, it seems that the use of the abacus was lost in large part during the Middle Ages. I suppose during that period they counted using fingers and toes? Pope Sylvester II, also known as Gerbert, discovered the abacus and reintroduced its use in western Europe after having studied in the still Arab-dominated Spain. The abacus had still been in use in Byzantium, and probably was passed to the Arabs via that ancient empire. Thank you for trying this quiz, and please feel free to try my others relating to it...thanks!
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