Ancient Achievements

Ancient Scientists

In other religions, there was no need for astronomy except for the creation of the calendar. Ancient Pagans used Stonehenge to determine their calendar. In Early Judaism, they created their calendar. For Christianity, although it helped dictate holidays, it had pushback from philosophy and scientific observations. Astronomy played a major role in early Islam. Besides the Quran and the Sunna, which were the only sources of knowledge for the religion based on Muhammad, astronomy allowed for practical uses.

Because Muslims were commanded to seek knowledge, a responsibility given to them by God, they needed trained, competent astronomers. The Quran is about the physical world, so the philosophies of the ancient Greeks were needed to seek more knowledge. It allowed them to determine the direction of Mecca for payer from any location on earth’s sphere. They were also able to orient mosques in the same direction of Mecca and determine the precise time of each day to pray. For Ramadan, astronomy allowed them to determine when the crescent moon would first appear in order for the fasting period would begin. Some of the important accomplishments of early Islamic science include the expansion of mathematics: algebra, roman numerals, and the value zero. The zig was a regional device that facilitated astronomical calculations. Al-Sufi cataloged the names of stars, Ibn Al-Haytham wrote On the Configuration of the World, and Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi discovered the Tusi Couple, which replaced Ptolemy’s epicycle with the concept that two circular motions can produce straight line motion.

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One thought on “Ancient Achievements

  1. From a TA: This was a really great post! Often, the historical aspects of the origins of astronomy are left out of classrooms and this was a great overview of some of cultural applications of early astronomy.


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