Talk:History of astronomy

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Edits badly needed![edit]

This is terribly written, the Indian section contains sentence fragments, and often it is difficult to decipher what the author is trying to say. This is an important article, and should give to best information, **SOURCES**, and be written in a more coherent manor. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:09, 20 December 2011 (UTC)


On what currency note was the satellite Aryabhata Printed?

Mesopotamian Astronomy[edit]

I can write an overview of Mesopotamian astronomy (note that it is an empty section at the moment), but I think that the current subheadings look arbitrary (i.e., "Sumerian," etc.). They do not reflect any periodization or organizational scheme in any work on the subject I have read (admittedly a short reading list, though).

Given its importance to the history of astronomy, I think this subject deserves its own page. If nobody objects, I will remove the subheadings and write a short overview without the subheadings and start a new page where it can receive the attention it merits. Something like "Mesopotamian Astronomy and Astrology." If there is such a page, I have not found it.Maestlin 00:32, 24 February 2006 (UTC)

If you don't like the sub-headings, go ahead and change them. One of the principles of Wikipedia is WP:Be bold.--ragesoss 02:00, 24 February 2006 (UTC)

Done. It is long but not any longer than the section on Indian astronomy. I also added more references and, in a separate edit, moved around the sections so that all the east asia material goes together. Maestlin 22:26, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Link Removed[edit]

I removed the link to the Astronomical Code of the Rigveda since it is about a fairly narrow topic. I added a link to it in the article on Hindu astronomy where it is more relevant. Maestlin 01:25, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

Indian Astronomy - Balance[edit]

The writings of western historians provide a quite different outlook than appears in the current section on Indian astronomy. There are two issues at hand:

  • The dating of the Vedic texts and their astronomical interpretation.
  • The claim for the discovery of calculus.

An essay by the late historian of Indian science, David Pingree, frames the issue well. He regretted that "many non-Westerners ... are deluded into believing that the greatest glory an Indian, a Chinese, an Arab, or an African scientist can have acquired is that gained by having anticipated a Greek or a modern westerner." Turning to the claim that Madhava discoverd calculus, he noted that "now [that] we have the Sanskrit texts properly edited,... we understand the clever way that Madhava derived the series without calculus.... In this case the elegance and brilliance of Madhava's mathematics are being distorted as they are buried under the current mathematical solution." Isis, 83(1992):554-563.

I am not an expert on Indian science, but I hope someone who is familiar with the literature will be able to add a few balancing citations. --SteveMcCluskey 21:19, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Steve, I flagged the section on astrology in the RgVeda (in History of Astrology) for the same reason. (perhaps some material on Indian astronomy should be excised until further notice). With the recent loss of Pingree and the scattering of the dept. at Brown, we can only hope that some qualified researchers take up this challenge soon. I do not have plans to learn Sanskrit and get involved in this research, but I'm always on the lookout for works correcting this problem - have yet to find any in a book form of the History of Indian astronomy/astrology. I recall hearing that the development of the Nakshatras occurs in the latest of the Vedas - Atharva Veda. While there is a good chance that the mythology of earlier Vedas has some (perhaps significant) starlore intertwined, interpreting the presence of astronomical observations is a more difficult claim to make. If the dating of the Atharva can be worked out, then astronomical observations of the moon cycle through the 27 (or 28) mansions would support the Nakshatra ritualistic astrology. Zeusnoos 16:17, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
Articles about the history of science in India and in Islamic regions tend to bring out strong feelings on Wikipedia. I won't cut or alter existing material on these subjects, in most cases, until I have all my ducks lined up, so to speak--and there are better uses of my time. Two subjects that I would particularly like to see addressed are the alleged heliocentrism of Aryabhata and the rather peculiar article on Ibn al-Shatir, which seems to be trying to make him into a precursor of Copernicus. Maestlin 22:34, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
Slightly off topic. Since I just spent a day on Ibn al-Shatir last semester, I revised that entry adding references and tempering the claims of influence on Copernicus. --SteveMcCluskey 13:59, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

The article mentions a vernal equinox in Orion. I don't think that is possible: precession of the earth's axis of rotation (precession of the equinoxes) puts the sun in different constellations in different eras, but the sun is still limited to the constellations of the zodiac. Am I confused?Evelyn Kinzel 23:31, 5 January 2007 (UTC)


alineations? What is it? --darklilac 19:18, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Structures lacking straight lines? I suspect alignments is the word someone wanted. Zeusnoos 20:47, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

astronomy in Asia[edit]

As I have mentioned in other discussions, I think we need to be careful about how much space we devote to Asian science. It seems that in every science article in Wikipedia, there is always an extra long section on India (as well as China and Islam) while many times Greece isn't given as much attention as it should be given. Wikipedia is the first online encyclopedia I have seen that devotes more space to Asian civilizations (when discussing the history of any science) than it does Greece. Can we really say that what these Asian civilizations did was really science? The other (more respectable) encyclopedias I read give me enough solid facts (not speculations) to believe otherwise. Modern science, as we now understand it as a subject, like it or not, was largely a Western creation. Cftiger 22:33 27 November 2006.

Well, color me shocked. I never expected to find such a narrow-minded perspective on the world from a Wikipedian. Most of those "respected encyclopedias" you mention are written in English by people in America or England. Every culture colors its history to make itself seem like the most important. While the Western Scientific Method is a Western invention, that doesn't mean that the work in other countries is irrelevant to the history of, in this case, Astronomy. Just like the work done in the west before the invention of the modern Scientific Method is not suddenly invalid. Korval 05:25, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree. Much of the history of Western astronomy doesn't really qualify as science either. To exclude the history of other cultures just because they aren't part of the traditional picture of the Western march of progress towards modern science is to ignore their actual accomplishments. — Laura Scudder 15:49, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
You two are criticizing my original comment, which is fine, but can you really present any facts that prove that science wasn't mostly developed in the West? It is easy to say that Westerners have been Eurocentric, but most of the sources I read clearly aren't, in that they give plenty of credit to other cultures. The only difference between them and Wikipedia is that they acknowledge that at least 80% of science in the form that we now understand it was developed in the West. When you examine the facts, you really can't say otherwise. Why didn't the Eastern cultures create the modern world first? And how can you say that what the Greeks were working with wasn't science? Just because you would like for something to be true, doesn't mean it is. Cftiger 14:19 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I think the amount of the work represents the amount of the participation of the people to some degree. There is no rule to quata the space for each culture. In fact, Korea and Japan have their own history of astronomy which is a bit different from that of China, but, none of them were described until now. Jtm71 02:22, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

Indian Astronomy -- Sources[edit]

I requested some citation of sources in the section on Indian Astronomy on the talk page almost a year ago (on 13 May 2006). A request for sources template has been displayed on the Indian Astronomy section since February.

Recently User: has twice removed that template without providing any sources. I am restoring the template and, once again, requesting that some knowledgable editors document the claims in this section or it will become liable for removal. --SteveMcCluskey 22:37, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

  • I agree, that section is a complete incoherent mess. --Etacar11 22:46, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

common misconceptions[edit]

In the course of editing various articles on the history of astronomy, I have come across a number of claims that various non-western astronomers had anticipated certain modern discoveries.

I have presented the sources of these claims, followed by critical material that can be used to evaluate them. I would welcome additional quotations of any sources on either side of these issues.

Since this section has become very long, I have moved it to its own page Talk:History of astronomy/Common misconceptions to allow for further expansion. --SteveMcCluskey 13:22, 19 June 2007 (UTC)


In the paragraph, "The Copernican Revolution", the sentence "This..." is ungrammatical. There is no main verb. (unknown author)

Fixed - I believe that text captures the proper intent. Michael Daly 19:16, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

Proposed Edit[edit]

Propose the current 'Uniting Astronomy and Physics' section's text

"Although the motions of celestial bodies had been qualitatively explained in physical terms since Aristotle introduced celestial movers in his Metaphysics and a fifth element in his On the Heavens, Johannes Kepler was the first to attempt to derive mathematical predictions of celestial motions from assumed physical causes.[21] Combining his physical insights with the unprecedentedly accurate naked-eye observations made by Tycho Brahe,[22] Kepler discovered the three laws of planetary motion that now carry his name."

be changed to something like

'Although the motions of celestial bodies such as the stars and planets had been quantitatively explained in physical terms at least since Eudoxus introduced uniformly rotating celestial spheres in which they were embedded, Johannes Kepler was the first to attempt to derive mathematical predictions of celestial motions from anything other than such spheres and their movers, namely from the rotating Sun and its mover. This led Kepler to proclaim three laws of elliptical planetary orbits focussed on the Sun, allegedly justified by Tycho Brahe's astronomical observations, but never actually demonstrated by Kepler in any publication.'

--Logicus (talk) 19:17, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

This change gives Eudoxus credit for Aristotle's achievement of interpreting the mathematical astronomy of the astronomers Eudoxus and Calippus into an astronomy of physical spheres and movers causing their rotation. It also gives Eudoxus's astronomy more credit for being quantitatively predictive than most historians of astronomy would grant.
At the other end of the discussion, it misses the point that Kepler reversed the relation between physics and astronomy. Where Aristotle had devised a celestial physics that accounted for the uniform rotations postulated by the astronomers, Kepler postulated a motive force whose strength varied with distance from the source of that motive power; the resulting motion varied because of physical causes.
I'm going to revert this section to the previous version for now. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 02:31, 30 January 2008 (UTC)


In the main article, under the heading, "Modern Astronomy", there are several remarks about the suffixes "-er" and "-or". Note that they are in different languages. The Latin suffix "-or" was often applied to human beings. There were few machines in ancient Rome. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:21, 15 January 2008 (UTC) There were few machines in ancient Teutonic areas. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:35, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Not so[edit]

In the main article, Maria Mitchell is said to have been the first to have discovered a comet with a telescope. The article on Maria says the opposite. See Caroline Herschel. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:40, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

First star catalogue[edit]

I've noticed the text refers the MUL.APIN babylonian tablets, which date from around 1370 BC, and contains star catalogues. Then, in the chinese astronomy section, it states the world's first star catalogue dates from 4th century BC. Is there some criteria for star catalogues that MUL.APIN doesn't meet or is the date wrong? (talk) 01:25, 29 March 2008 (UTC)DF

Gnomons and the History of Astronomy[edit]

Before the Babylonian astronomy, astronomical observations were still made by use of the gnomon (shadow-caster, as on a sundial). These instruments were primitive yet the primary instrument of solar observation until the implementation of the back-staff. Gnomons inspired our understanding of time itself, as well as, more specifically, the discovery of the equation of time (as it is known today) by Bessel in 1816, of declination and the analemmatic curve, and defined the cardinal points (the midpoint of the ecliptic line as viewed from Earth is South). Quintus Twig (talk) 05:05, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

I'd like to see some references on pre-Babylonian uses of the gnomon before venturing to put that into the article. As far as I know, horizon observations were more common among pre-historic astronomers. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 16:22, 13 November 2009 (UTC)


The Egypt section claims:

The Astrologer's instruments (horologium and palm) are a plumb line and sighting instrument[clarification needed].

Now, the palm is a very good instrument usable for this and that, one can even climb in/with it and pick food from/with it, but a horologium is a chronometer/clock, not a plumb line. A plumb line has never been used for measuring time, only for measuring down. I think the sentence have confused "horologium" or "plumb line" improperly. ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 16:49, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Great jump[edit]

From Newton to modern astronomy without any intermediary is a great jump indeed, considering the vast space all preantiquity astronomy have. The following guys should also be mentioned: Huygens, Halley, Herschel, Argelander and Kapteyn to pick the most important ones. From Halley and forth, those guys introduced methods and did systematic research in a modern way. ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 17:07, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

This article is still a draft[edit]

Who discovered Titan, and the rings of Saturn ? The rotation of Jupiter? The great red spot? The phases of Venus? The parallax? The role of the telescope in this article seems insignificant The section of renaissance and enlightenment needs a lot of hard work.

Andriolo —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:21, 4 January 2011 (UTC)


The impression is given that Maria Mitchell was employed as a calculator. This seems to have been untrue. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:18, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Maria's main discovery was in 1847. This was well before Pickering started employing female calculators in 1877. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:28, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
Maria Mitchell did do some calculating, but nothing that could be said to have been stolen by a male supervisor. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:56, 24 April 2011 (UTC)

The role of astrology[edit]

The history of astronomy seem to assume that astrological divination was the main cause for the rise of early astronomy, but then there should have been myriads of astrological systems. As far as I know there are only 3 old world systems: the Chinese system with 12 two years' signs, and the Greek-Indian system with 12 one-month sign, and finally the Egyptian decan system with 36 10-days' signs, which is only used as a rare addition upon the Greek-Indian system. I think the real main usage of astronomy was the need for calendars for farming and fishing. The Mesopotamians had some 17/18 "zodiacal" constellations, until very late. Who invented the Greek-Indian system is hard to know, maybe some chaldeans or maybe some greeks in the Hellenic period, but not earlier. Earlier, the "science" of computing planet position was used for religious divinations, starts of festivities, not for astrology, as far as I know. The concept that astrology was a foundation for astronomy seems to be an unfounded modern prejudice. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 22:09, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

4! I forgot the nakshatra lunar mansion system of India. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 22:11, 2 May 2011 (UTC)


name contains
Pretelescopic astronomy Chinese pre-modern astronomy
History of astronomy Pre-modern astronomy per civilization
nothing History of astronomy, i.e. the historical path leading to the modern science of Astronomy
Archaeoastronomy Archaeoastronomy
Ethnoastronomy redirect to Archaeoastronomy
Asterism (astronomy) Amateur astronomy and links to individual asterism articles containing some ethnoastronomy
In my bumblebee's onion. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:53, 4 May 2011 (UTC)

19th century[edit]

The article speaks of spectral analysis at the end of the 19th century. Much work was earlier.

See Wollaston and Fraunhofer. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:45, 21 May 2011 (UTC)
1802 is hardly the late 19th century. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:06, 21 May 2011 (UTC)

Some points of criticism[edit]

The article lacks information in the early history section (fe. the bone of Abri Blanchard, the Skydisk of Nebra), the Islamic section is a bit bloated and onesided (btw it would be more correct to speak of the astronomy in different regions of the so called Islamic world then to call it just Islamic astronomy). And a section about astronomy in Byzantium is totally missing.-- (talk) 09:49, 30 June 2012 (UTC)

First appearance of the word Astronomy?[edit]

As we have Bio-logy, Physio-logy, Socio-logy, Microbio-logy and many other simalarly created words for scientific specialization, we had also Astrology. At some point (possibly when it was generally accepted that the Sun is in the center of our solar system) some astrologers abandoned Astro-logy and created a new scientific branch using the word "Astronomy" instead. Anyone knows when was that first appearance of this word, who suggested it and when the first Astronomers group was established? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tednat (talkcontribs) 14:54, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Layamon was the first to use the word astronomie in Middle English around 1275, which is well before the time of Copernicus. The word astrologia continued to be used in Latin with the meanings of both astronomy and astrology from Antiquity through the Middle Ages (astronomia isn't in Latham's Medieval Latin Word List). In the Renaissance, Copernicus, Kepler and Newton all used the term astronomia in their writings. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:44, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

Medieval Islamic world[edit]

The warning advice at the top of the section about medieval islamic article is distracting and unhelpful. Either someone add "citation" needed in the appropriate sentences so we know exactly what is the problem OR just get rid of the warning. People should just edit what they think is the issue! or at least add words to the effect " it is thought that...." or what ever. Ot just get rid of sentences that are wrong or misleading. IF they are misleading just say they are misleading in the article itself. Just say " it is disputed that such and such occurred ". User: 23:45, 19 February 2013‎

Took a stab at cleaning up the section[1]. Several things rm'ed to talk.
  • Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Kathir al-Farghani claim was single source
  • Views about Ibn al-Haytham are single sourced/opinion presented as fact and miss attributed, its a review of a book, Matthias Schramm is the actual source of the claims. It was reviewed by Toomer, G. J..
  • Fakhr al-Din al-Razi was talking about "Multiverse", not astronomy/solar systems.
  • Claim "first empirical" for Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī, Ali Qushji, Al-Birjandi single sourced.
  • rm last paragraph because "It is known" and "Some have referred" is WP:WEASEL. Needs cleanup.
Some other factual cleanups. Left up tags for now. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 03:06, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
Section is much improved; I removed the tags.--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 13:55, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

Not true[edit]

Under "Modern astronomy" it says that Henrietta Swan Leavitt was the first to measure distances outside our solar system. She wrote in 1908 and 1912. Distances outside the solar system were measured by Bessel and others in 1838 or soon after 1838. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:04, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

Prehistoric (Central) Europe[edit]

The recently added section formerly titled Prehistoric Central Europe tilts the balance of this article, giving undue weight to a few sites and artifacts from Central Europe. I've changed the title, added a link to the main article on Archaeoastronomy, and propose to reduce the size of this section while mentioning other well-documented European sites (among them Newgrange and Stonehenge).

A second problem with this section is that it exclusively cites web pages, some of them promotional, rather than serious studies of the sites and artifacts. I propose shifting the citations to more reliable sources.

Assistance on this project is welcome. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 12:17, 14 July 2014 (UTC)

The Ancients recognized the 7 moving objects in the heavens known since antiquity as the '7 Classical planets'[edit]

I added the following to the opening paragraph... (They recognized the 7 moving objects in the heavens known since antiquity as the 7 Classical planets.) - Benjamin Franklin (talk) 12:16, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

Astral theology needs an article of its own[edit]

Astral theology, which gave planetary gods an important role in Mesopotamian mythology and religion, began with the Sumerians. Astral theology needs an article of its own. - Benjamin Franklin (talk) 12:28, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

The heliacal rising of Sirius was first observed by the ancient Egyptians and much later aligned with January 1 - New Year's[edit]

"The heliacal rising of Sirius (Egyptian: Sopdet, Greek: Sothis) at the beginning of the inundation was a particularly important point to fix in the yearly calendar. (This was later aligned with January 1 and became New Year's Day with the Gregorian Calendar.)" I tweaked this. - Benjamin Franklin (talk) 12:40, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

7 Classical Planets and 4 Lunar Phases[edit]

All the ancients - Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and even the Hebrews with their One God, etc. - observed the 7 moving objects in the heavens known as the 7 Classical planets. Everyone also observed the 4 lunar phases of a little over 7 days (~7.4 days) each. They became aware of the lunar year of 354 days + 7 day week + 4 days = 365 day solar year. - Benjamin Franklin (talk) 19:43, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

Benjamin I've noticed you've made a number of edits recently, without citing proper sources to support your claim. Since you are apparently new to Wikipedia, may I suggest that you read Wikipedia policies on the use of reliable sources to verify the material you add to articles.
May I also suggest that you consider joining Wikipedia by creating an account. This would help as you apparently don't mind being known by a user name (I just checked and there isn't currently a user known as Benjamin Franklin so if you act fast, you might be able to get the name you're already using). --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 19:54, 11 September 2014 (UTC)

Galileo discovered a 7th planet (Neptune) while observing Jupiter's 4 large moons[edit]

On December 29, 1612 while he was observing the 4 large moons of Jupiter, Galileo sketched what was a 7th planet: Neptune. After further observation, he either didn't recognize this 'wandering star' as a planet or feared that announcing this discovery would bring the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church's Inquisition on him. - Benjamin Franklin (talk) 20:38, 11 September 2014 (UTC)