Eighteenth-Century Views of Ancient Astronomy

  • John M. SteeleEmail author
Part of the Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences book series (SHMP)


By the end of the 1740s the existence of the moon’s secular acceleration was widely accepted among astronomers. The magnitude of the acceleration, however, remained unknown, excepting William Whiston’s rushed and unjustified claim that it caused of correction to the time of an eclipse in the past, which increases at rate of 1 minute in 54 years. Between 1749 and 1757 three attempts were made to determine the magnitude of the moon’s secular acceleration by Richard Dunthorne, Tobais Mayer, and Jérôme Lalande after which attention shifted to trying to account for the acceleration theoretically. Dunthorne, Mayer and Lalande’s study of the moon’s secular acceleration relied upon the interpretation and exploitation of ancient astronomical records. How to interpret ancient astronomical observations and which sources of ancient records could be relied upon had been a controversial issue since the Renaissance and would require Dunthorne, Mayer, and Lalande to make decisions that would have a direct impact upon their estimates of the size of the secular acceleration.


Eighteenth Century Solar Eclipse Lunar Eclipse Eclipse Observation Latin Translation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Barrettus, Lucius [Albertus Curtius], 1666, Historia Coelestis ex libris commentariis manuscriptis observationum vicennalium viri generosi Tichonis Brahe Dani (Augsberg).Google Scholar
  2. Brahe, Tycho, 1602, Astronomiæ Instauratæ Progymnasmatum (Prague).Google Scholar
  3. Bullialdus, Ismael, 1645, Astronomia Philolaica (Paris).Google Scholar
  4. Costard, George, 1746, A Letter to Martin Folkes, Esq., President of the Royal Society, Concerning The Rise and Progress of Astronomy amongst the Ancients (London).Google Scholar
  5. Costard, George, 1748, A Further Account of the Rise and Progress of Astronomy amongst the Ancients, in Three Letters to Martin Folkes, Esq; President of the Royal Society (London).Google Scholar
  6. Costard, George, 1764, The Use of Astronomy in History and Chronology Exemplified in An Inquiry into the Fall of the Stone into the Ægospotamos (London).Google Scholar
  7. Costard, George, 1767, The History of Astronomy, With Its Application to Geography, History and Chronology, Occasionally Exemplified by Globes (London).Google Scholar
  8. Costard, George, 1777, ‘Translation of a Passage in Ebn Younes: With Some Remarks Thereon: In a Letter from the Rev. George Costard, M. A. Vicar of Twickenham, to the Rev. Samuel Horsley, LL. D. Sec. R. S.’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 67, 231–243.Google Scholar
  9. Du Halde, Jean-Baptiste, 1736, Description Géographique, Historique, Chronologique, Politique, et Physique de l'Empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise, Enrichie des Cartes Générales et Particulieres de ces Pays, de la Carte générale et des Cartes particulieres du Thibet, & de la Corée; & ornée d'un grand nombre de Figures & de Vignettes gravées en Taille-douce (4 volumes, Paris).Google Scholar
  10. Estève, Pierre, 1755, Histoire Generale et Particuliere de l’Astronomie (3 volumes, Paris).Google Scholar
  11. Flamsteed, John, 1725, Historia Coelestis Britannica (3 volumes, London).Google Scholar
  12. Heathcote, Ralph, 1747 Historia Astronomiæ, sive, De Ortu & Progressu Astronomiæ (Cambridge).Google Scholar
  13. Kepler, Johannes, 1627, Tabule Rulolphinæ, Quibus Astronomicæ Scientiæ, Temporum longinquitate collapsæ Restauration continetur (Ulm).Google Scholar
  14. Lalande, Jérôme, 1757, ‘Mémoire sur les Équations Séculaires, Et sur les moyens mouvemens du Soleil, de la Lune, de Saturne, de Jupiter, & de Mars, Avec les observations de Tycho-brahé, faites sur Mars en 1593, tirées des manuscripts de cet Auteur’, Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, 441–470.Google Scholar
  15. Longomontanus, Christian, 1622, Astronomia Danica (Amsterdam).Google Scholar
  16. Montucla, Jean Etienne, 1758, Histoire des Mathematiques (1st edition: 2 volumes, Paris).Google Scholar
  17. Riccioli, Giovanni Battista, 1651, Almagestum Novum (Bolognia).Google Scholar
  18. Riccioli, Giovanni Battista, 1665, Astronomiæ Reformatæ (Bolognia).Google Scholar
  19. Souciet, Etienne, 1729–32, Observations Mathématiques, Astronomiques, Géorgraphiques, Chronologiques, et Physiques; Tirées des Anciens Livres Chinois, ou faites nouvellement aux Indes, à la Chine & aileurs, par les Pères de la Compagnie des Jesus (3 volumes, Paris).Google Scholar
  20. Weidler, Johannes Frederic, 1741, Historia Astronomiae sive de Ortu et Progressu Astronomiae (Vitemberg).Google Scholar
  21. Whalley, John, 1701, Ptolemy’s Quadupartite; or, Four Books Concerning The Influences of the Stars (London).Google Scholar
  22. Albrecht, S., 1999, ‘Der Turm zu Babel als bildlicher Mythos: Malerei – Graphik – Architektur’, in J. Renger (ed.), Babylon: Focus Mesopotamischer Geschichte, Wiege Früher Gelehrsamkeit, Mythos in der Moderne (Berlin: Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft), 443–574.Google Scholar
  23. Asher-Greve, J. M., 2006, ‘From ‘Semiramis of Babylon’ to ‘Semiramis of Hammersmith”, in S. W. Holloway (ed.), Orientalism, Assyriology and the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press), 322–373.Google Scholar
  24. Burke, P., 1997, Varieties of Cultural History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
  25. Carmody, F. J., 1956, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation: A Critical Bibliography (Berkely and Los Angeles: University of California Press).zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  26. Chapman, A., and Johnson, A. D., 1982, The Preface to John Flamsteed’s Historia Coelestis Britannica or British Catalogue of the Heavens (1725) (Greenwich: National Maritime Museum).Google Scholar
  27. Christianson, J. R., 2000, On Tycho’s Island: Tycho Brahe and His Assistants 1570–1601 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  28. Crépel, P., and Coste, A., 2005, ‘Jean-Etienne Montucla, Histoire des Mathématiques, Second Edition (1799–1802)’, in I. Grattan-Guinness (ed.), Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics, 1640–1940 (Amsterdam: Elsevier), 292–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. D’Elia, P. M., 1960, Galileo in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Unversity Press).Google Scholar
  30. Derome, R., 2000–01, ‘Iconography of Ptolemy’s Portrait’, Scholar
  31. Finocchiaro, M., 2007, Retrying Galileo, 1633–1992 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press).Google Scholar
  32. Fuchs, R., 2009, ‘Die «Portraits» des Klaudios Ptolemaios’, in A. Stückelberger und F. Mittenhuber (eds.), Klaudios Ptolemaios. Handbuch der Geographie: Ergänzungsband (Basel: Schwabe Verlag), 402–429.Google Scholar
  33. Goulding, R., 2006, ‘Histories of Science in Early Modern Europe: Introduction’, Journal for the History of Ideas 67, 33–40.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goulding, R., 2010, Defending Hypatia: Ramus, Savile, and the Renaissance Rediscovery of Mathematical History (Dordrecht: Springer).Google Scholar
  35. Grafton, A., 1997, ‘From Apotheosis to Analysis: Some Late Renaissance Histories of Classical Astronomy’, in D. R. Kelley (ed.), History and the Disciplines: The Reclassification of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe (Rochester: The University of Rochester Press), 261–276.Google Scholar
  36. Hsia, F. C., 2008, ‘Chinese Astronomy for the Early Modern European Reader’, Early Science and Medicine 13, 417–450.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hsia, F. C., 2009, Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
  38. Johnson, F. R., 1937, Astronomical Thought in Renaissance England: A Study of the English Scientific Writings from 1500 to 1645 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press).zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  39. Laudan, R., 1993, ‘Histories of the Sciences and their Uses: A Review to 1913’, History of Science 31, 1–33.Google Scholar
  40. Llewellyn-Jones, L., and Robson, J., 2010, Ctesias’ History of Persia: Tales of the Orient (Abingdon: Routledge).Google Scholar
  41. Lundquist, J. M., 1995, ‘Babylon in European Thought’, in J. M. Sasson (ed.), Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), 67–80.Google Scholar
  42. McConnell, A., 2004, ‘George Costard (bap. 1710, d. 1782)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  43. Mercier, R., 1994, ‘English Orientalists and Mathematical Astronomy’, in G. A. Russell (ed.), The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England (Leiden, New York, Köln: Brill), 158–214.Google Scholar
  44. Nichols, J., 1812, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century (6 volumes, London: Nichols, Son and Bentley).Google Scholar
  45. Ooghe, B., 2007, ‘The Rediscovery of Babylonia: European Travellers and the Development of Knowledge on Lower Mesopotamia, Sixteenth to Early Nineteenth Century’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3 17, 231–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pallis, S. A., 1956, The Antiquity of Iraq. A Handbook of Assyriology (Copengagen: Munksgaard).Google Scholar
  47. Pedersen, O., 1974, A Survey of the Almagest (Odense: Odense University Press).zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  48. Peiffer, J., 2002, ‘France’, in J. W. Dauben and C. J. Scriba (eds.), Writing the History of Mathematics: Its Historical Development (Basel: Birkhäuser), 3–43.Google Scholar
  49. Popper, N., 2006, ‘“Abraham, Planter of Mathematics”: Histories of Mathematics and Astrology in Early Modern Europe’, Journal of the History of Ideas 67, 87–106.MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reade, J. E., 1999, ‘Early British Excavations at Babylon’, in J. Renger (ed.), Babylon: Focus Mesopotamischer Geschichte, Wiege Früher Gelehrsamkeit, Mythos in der Moderne (Berlin: Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft), 47–65.Google Scholar
  51. Reade, J. E., 2008, ‘Disappearance and Rediscover’, in I. L. Finkel and M. J. Seymour (eds.), Babylon: Myth and Reality (London: The British Museum), 13–32.Google Scholar
  52. Rutkin, H. D., 2010, ‘The Use and Abuse of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe: Two Case Studies (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Filippo Fantoni)’, in A. Jones (ed), Ptolemy in Perspective: Use and Criticism of his Work from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century (Dordrecht: Springer), 135–149.Google Scholar
  53. Sarton, G., 1936, ‘Montucla (1725–1799): His Life and Works’, Osiris 1, 519–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sivin, N., 2011, ‘Mathematical Astronomy and the Chinese Calendar’, in J. M. Steele (ed.), Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World (Oxford: Oxbow Books), 39–51.Google Scholar
  55. Stephenson, F. R., and Yau, K. K. C., 1992, ‘Astronomical Records in the Ch’un-Ch’iu Chronicle’, Journal for the History of Astronomy 23, 31–51.MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  56. Swerdlow, N. M., 1993, ‘Montucla’s Legacy: The History of the Exact Sciences’, Journal for the History of Ideas 54, 299–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Swedlow, N. M., 2010, ‘Tycho, Longomontanus, and Kepler on Ptolemy’s Solar Observations and Theory, Precession of the Equinoxes, and Obliquity of the Ecliptic’, in A. Jones (ed.), Ptolemy in Perspective: Use and Criticism of his Work from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century (Dordrecht: Springer), 151–202.Google Scholar
  58. Toomer, G. J., 1996, Eastern Wisedome and Learning. The Study of Arabic in Seventeeth-Century England (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Google Scholar
  59. Wegener, U. B., 1995, Die Faszination des Maßlosen. Der Turmbau zu Babel von Pieter Breugel bis Athanasius Kircher (Hildesheim–Zürich–New York: Olms).Google Scholar
  60. Young, B. W., 2004, ‘Heathcote, Ralph (1721–1795)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  61. Zhmud, L., 2006, The Origin of the History of Science in Classical Antiquity (Berlin–New York: Walter de Gruyter).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations