History and Philosophy of Western Astronomy

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Now that you have some feeling for the scales of time and space that astronomy This chapter covers the development of western astronomy and modern science. I focus on the rise of modern science in Europe, from the ancient Greeks to Isaac Newton. Other cultures were also quite interested and skilled in astronomy (the Mayans [link will display in another window], Egyptians, peoples of India and China come immediately to mind), but the Greeks were the first ones to try to explain how the universe worked in a logical, systematic manner using models and observations. Modern astronomy (and all of science) has its roots in the Greek tradition. If you would like a more thorough discussion of the history of astronomy than what I will present here, please take a look at Science and the Human Prospect by Ronald Pine (links will display in another window). I will give dates of when certain persons lived and worked to give you some reference points in the long history of astronomy. Don't worry about memorizing the dates. What is more important is to see the development of ideas and methods of modern science.

I include images of world atlases from different time periods in this chapter and the next as another way to illustrate the advances in our understanding of our world and the universe. Links to the sites from which the photographs came are embedded in the images. Select the picture to go to the site. The vocabulary terms are in boldface.

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last updated: July 17, 2020

Is this page a copy of Strobel's Astronomy Notes?

Author of original content: Nick Strobel