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date: 27 November 2022

Aristarchus (1), of Samos, Greek astronomer, mathematician, 3rd century bcelocked

Aristarchus (1), of Samos, Greek astronomer, mathematician, 3rd century bcelocked

  • Nathan Camillo Sidoli

Extract

Aristarchus, often called the “mathematician” in our sources, is dated through a summer solstice observation of 280bce attributed to him by Ptolemy (Alm. 3.1). He is said to have been a student of Straton of Lampsacus, who succeeded Theophrastus as the head of the Peripatetic school in 288/287bce (Stob. Ecl. 1.16.1); and he is most famous for having advanced the heliocentric hypothesis, although his only surviving work in mathematical astronomy assumes a geocentric cosmos.According to Archimedes, Aristarchus hypothesized that the fixed stars and sun are unmoved, while the earth is carried around the sun on a circle, and that the sphere of the fixed stars is so large that the ratio of the circle about which the earth moves to the distance of the stars is that which a centre has to the surface of a sphere (Sand Reckoner, 4–5). We do not know how Aristarchus understood or utilized this hypothesis, which Archimedes claims is strictly impossible, but Archimedes himself reinterprets it to mean that the ratio of the diameter of the earth to the diameter of the earth’s orbit is the same as that of the diameter of the earth’s orbit to the diameter of the cosmos. Furthermore, Plutarch says that Aristarchus supposed that the earth rotates about its own axis (De fac.

Subjects

  • Science, Technology, and Medicine

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