Ancient Greek Methods of Measuring Astronomical Sizes

  • Adam ClinchEmail author
Living reference work entry

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Mankind’s greatest goal has always been to explain why. Why does an acorn fall to the ground? Why does wood burn, but not water? Why can’t animals talk and why does the wind blow? Questions like these have fueled civilizations for years, but it’s hard to argue that the original spark was not, “Why are we here?” Before a step can be made towards answering that question, people must have felt the need to answer what they meant by “here.” At a time when one could look up at the sky and any explanation was equally plausible, the sense of here, the Moon, and the Sun must have held a great sense of mysticism. Although many cultures contributed to the explanations we currently have regarding the relationship between the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun, none established a more mathematical foundation than the Greeks. Before the first year AD, the Greeks had formulated sound methods for measuring the size of the Earth, the distance to the Moon and the Sun, and the size of the Moon and the Sun. The contributions from Greek mathematicians, and their influence on other cultures for centuries to come, will be shared.


Thales Anaximander Pythagoras Aristotle Aristarchus Eratosthenes Posidonius Archimedes Hipparchus Ptolemy Al Biruni Copernicus Geodesy Cartography Heliocentric solar system 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Capital High SchoolHelenaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Bharath Sriraman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesThe University of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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