BPAA 2002 Lecture 1

The Ancient Greeks and Copernicus

These are links to general astronomy and highly recommended:

Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Contact me with any questions that arise in the course of your reading or surfing.



Cambridge Illustrated History of Astronomy, edited by Michael Hoskin, Cambridge University Press 1997. This is a readable, reliable and very well illustrated history. Probably available used or as a remainder.

The Great Copernicus Chase, Owen Gingrich, Sky Publishing 1992. A collection of articles by Gingrich, mostly form Sky & Telescope. Very readable, interesting and not well known bits of astronomical history. Available used.

The Eye of Heaven Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Owen Gingrich, American Institute of Physics 1993. Essays on a more scholarly and technical level but still very good. Good defense of Ptolemy in both this book and in Copernicus Chase. There has been a long standing industry in debunking Ptolemy and his methods. Gingrich does a good job of putting him in historical context and defending the greatness of his achievements.

June 8, 2004: Venus in Transit, Eli Maor, Princeton University Press 2000 Available in paperback and used. Good short account of the history of transits and the role they have played in finding the solar parallax.

The Transit of Venus, David Sellers, Maga Velda Press 2001. Not available in this country. You can order it from www.amazon.co.uk .  This is a little more technical than Maor. this link will give you the flavor. Transit of Venus

Parallax, The Race to Measure the Cosmos, Allan Hirshfeld, Freeman 2001. Good overview of the measurement of solar and stellar parallax.

Single volumes of the Britannica Great Books Series are readily available used. This probably represents the effectiveness of door to door encyclopedia salesmen in the 1960's. In one volume you can get translations of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Kepler for less than $10!

The following are novels by John Banville. They give a good look into the minds and times of Copernicus and Kepler. Have a dictionary handy when you read them. He has a big vocabulary!

Kepler A Novel, Godine Boston 1983

Doctor Copernicus, Vintage 1993 Paperback

Links Related to this lecture.

This site provides biographical details for many mathematicians including all those listed below.

Greek Astronomy

Eudoxos Biographical Details

Ptolemy Biographical details

Copernicus biographical details


Ptolemy's Model

This link provides an animated model of Ptolemy's method for calculating the positions of the outer planets. It is one of the most remarkable achievements in ancient Greek mathematics.


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