Electronic Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic

Electronic Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic

                           THE ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF

                       Volume 6, Number 1 - August 1994


                              TABLE OF CONTENTS


* ASA Membership and Article Submission Information

* A Review of EARLY ASTRONOMY - Julian A. Smith


- Julian A. Smith

* Benjamin Banneker - Geoffrey S. Baker

* Historic Oella, Maryland's Benjamin Banneker Memorial 5K Run

* Working Group and Newsletters for the History of Astronomy

- Wolfgang R. Dick



The Electronic Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic (EJASA) is published monthly by the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, Incorporated. The ASA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of amateur and professional astronomy and space exploration, as well as the social and educational needs of its members.

ASA membership application is open to all with an interest in astronomy and space exploration. Members receive the Journal of the ASA (the JASA is a hardcopy sent through United States Mail and is not a duplicate of this Electronic Journal) and the Astronomical League's REFLECTOR magazine. Members may also purchase discount subscriptions to ASTRONOMY and SKY & TELESCOPE magazines.

For information on membership, you may contact the Society at any of the following addresses:

Astronomical Society of the Atlantic (ASA)
P. O. Box 15038
Atlanta, Georgia 30333-9998

ASA BBS: (404) 321-5904, 300/1200/2400 Baud

or telephone the Society Recording at (404) 636-3642 to leave your address and/or receive the latest Society news.

ASA Officers and Council -

President - Eric Greene
Vice President - Jeff Elledge
Secretary - Tex Ratcliff
Treasurer - Cindy Weaver
Council - Frank Guyton, Larry Klaes, Ingrid Siegert-Tanghe, John Stauter, Wes Stucky, Harry Taylor, Gary Thompson, Bob Vickers


Article submissions to the EJASA on astronomy and space exploration are most welcome. Please send your on-line articles in ASCII format to Larry Klaes, EJASA Editor, at the following net addresses or the above Society addresses:
or - ...!decwrl!!klaes
or -
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You may also use the above addresses for EJASA back issue requests, letters to the editor, and ASA membership information.

When sending your article submissions, please be certain to include a network and/or regular mail address where you can be reached, a telephone number, and a brief biographical sketch.

Back issues of the EJASA are also available from the ASA anonymous FTP site at ( Directory: /ejasa


Submissions are welcome for consideration. Articles submitted, unless otherwise stated, become the property of the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, Incorporated. Though the articles will not be used for profit, they are subject to editing, abridgment, and other changes. Copying or reprinting of the EJASA, in part or in whole, is encouraged, provided clear attribution is made to the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, the Electronic Journal, and the author(s). Opinions expressed in the EJASA are those of the authors' and not necessarily those of the ASA. No responsibility is assumed by the ASA or the EJASA for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use of operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein. This Journal is Copyright (c) 1994 by the Astronomical Society of the Atlantic, Incorporated.


by Julian A. Smith

EARLY ASTRONOMY (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1994, 258 pages plus index) is a remarkably sure-footed summary of the history of mathematical astronomy in the pre-telescopic era. Ten chapters explain the astronomical work of prehistoric Man, the Megalithic builders, Babylonia, Egypt, China, Ancient Greece, India, Islam, the Mayans, and the European Renaissance. Written by University of British Columbia mathematician and historian of astronomy Hugh Thurston, EARLY ASTRONOMY is especially strong in its technical and mathematical detail. No mere summary of astronomical concepts through the ages, Thurston's book includes almost two hundred geometrical diagrams that explain in detail the mathematical theories behind them, including Megalithic alignments, Babylon's "system A" and "system B" astronomy, Eudoxus' homocentric spheres, Hipparchus' theory of deferents and epicycles, and so on.

A similar attention to detail is given in Thurston's consideration of astronomical devices. Though this is emphatically not a history of instrumentation, EARLY ASTRONOMY differs from many general histories of astronomy by describing the mathematical workings of meridian arcs, quadrants, and armillaries in some depth.

It is curious that while Thurston does devote chapters to both Arabic Astronomy and the Renaissance, he avoids any description of astronomy in Medieval Europe. This is a regrettable omission, given the historical predecessors of Copernicus, and the ample scholarship in this area (interested readers might look at the works of Pierre Duhem, Olaf Pedersen, Edward Grant, Lynn Thorndike, David Lindberg, and many more, in this connection).

There are other lacunae in the text. In Thurston's discussion of the origin of star nomenclature (pages 1-4), Richard Allen's (1838-1908) helpful classic STAR NAMES, THEIR LORE AND MEANING (New York: Dover, 1963) is left out. Similarly, Thurston alludes to the Ishango bones (page 53), possibly the earliest astronomical instrument of all, but does not describe them further. He follows Otto Neugebauer's thorough HISTORY OF ANCIENT MATHEMATICAL ASTRONOMY (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1975) in several respects, including his abrupt dismissal of Egyptian astronomy in two pages (pages 82-83). Yet given recent archaeological and historical research on Egyptian instrumen- tation and iconography, surely more could have been done here.

Regarding Arabic astronomy, Thurston says that "we are in sore need of a general study of Arabic astronomy by a specialist" (page 251). Yet there are several Variorum editions that cover this area in some depth, including David A. King's new compilations, ASTRONOMY IN THE SERVICE OF ISLAM (Aldershot, Hampshire: Variorum, 1993), ISLAMIC ASTRONOMICAL INSTRUMENTS (London: Variorum, 1987), and ISLAMIC MATHEMATICAL ASTRONOMY (London: Variorum, 1986; rev. ed. 1993). Only six pages are given to Arabic astronomy from al-Khwarizmi (ca.800- ca.847) to Ulugh Beg (1394-1449). A summary of King's research would have allowed this chapter to be considerably extended.

Even so, Thurston has managed to pack a great deal of information into the 258 pages of this text. What has been lost in scope (Egypt, Medieval Europe, Islam) has been partially made up by the detailed mathematical analysis of Greek and Renaissance Astronomy. Thurston is particularly thorough in his study of Ptolemy's ALMAGEST. He concurs with R. R. Newton's assertions in THE CRIME OF CLAUDIUS PTOLEMY (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1977) that Ptolemy invented or modified others' observations to get his results; and he explains how Ptolemy borrowed both theory and data from Hipparchus. There are six appendices, which amplify the mathematical techniques employed by the two Greek astronomers. EARLY ASTRONOMY contains a helpful if incomplete bibliography, but there is a thorough index.


Newsgroups: soc.culture.african
Subject: Electronic Journal of the
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Date: Mon, 22 Aug 94 14:58:00 -0500
Organization: Toronto Internet/Fido gateway
From: (Larry Klaes)
From: (Larry Klaes)

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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