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Scientists, Philosophers, and Historians[edit]

Is this article an appropriate place to discuss the different ways that Scientists, Philosophers, and Historians approach the history of science? I sense that some of the contributors to HoS pages are not communicating well because they are not aware of / do not accept the approaches of those in different disciplines.

A quick and dirty outline (open to changes) would include:

  • Scientists
    • Tend to focus on the achievements that led to present theory
    • Tend to accept the present norms of their scientific discipline as universally valid
    • May judge past science
      • by how closely its methods follow present scientific practice
      • by how closely its results correspond with present findings
  • Philosophers
    • Tend to accept that science has a special claim to truth
      • May deal with how institutions producing this objective knowledge developed
    • May use history of science to provide examples of particular philosophical models.
    • May evaluate past science as to whether it follows particular norms of scientific method
    • Often try to distinguish science from non science (the demarcation problem)
  • Historians
    • Tend to have an inclusive definition of what is science
      • Accept scientific inquiries in other times and cultures as legitimate
      • Try to understand the results of other investigations into nature on their own terms
      • Try to understand the internal logics and social roles of other ways of knowing
    • Question special claims to truth by past (and present) scientists

These are, admittedly, stereotypes, but we could find examples for many of them. --SteveMcCluskey 15:01, 14 May 2006 (UTC)

Primary and Secondary Sources in History of Science[edit]

Since, as an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has a policy of not publishing original research. As a consequence, policy discourages reliance on primary sources and favors presenting the scholarly opinions provided in the secondary literature.

In history of science, the distinction between primary and secondary sources depends, to a certain extent, on the kind of article we are writing.

  • When writing an article about a scientific topic, the writings of Watson and Crick or Gamow are acceptable as secondary sources, since they reflect the judgements of important members of the scientific community.
  • When writing an article about the history of science, the same writings are primary sources and do not speak directly about the development of science without the same kind of problems of interpretation as any other primary source.

As a consequence, editors writing articles about the historical development of science should cite secondary historical literature in order to present the interpretations of important members of the historical community. --SteveMcCluskey 19:22, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

The places I've been[edit]

Place of birth: Flag of the United States.svg
Spent more than one year: Flag of Greece.svg Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Flag of the Philippines.svg
Spent one month or more:
Days or weeks: Flag of Austria.svg Flag of Belgium.svg Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Flag of France.svg Flag of East Germany.svg Flag of Germany.svg Flag of Ireland.svg Flag of Italy.svg Flag of the Netherlands.svg Flag of Poland.svg Flag of Sweden.svg Flag of Switzerland.svg Flag of the Vatican City.svg Flag of Egypt.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of Turkey.svg Flag of Hong Kong (1959-1997).svg Flag of Canada.svg Flag of Mexico.svg

Original Research on History Pages[edit]

Maybe I'm misreading the concept of original research, but after a few months reading a range of history articles in Wikipedia, I see that many of them only cite primary sources and fail to cite reputable historical research. An example of this problem is the History of Creationism article, which ignores the many excellent historical studies of the rise of creationism, (I found 103 entries when I searched "Creationism" in the History of Science Society online Bibliography) but instead cites books by advocates and opponents of creationism. That is the way to do original research in history; it is not the way to write an encyclopedia article.

To the extent that primary sources may be selected to advance a particular point of view, this goes beyond the No Original Research policy into the Neutral Point of View policy.

Should the History Project take the lead in drafting some standards about how the No Original Research policy applies to history?

Off the top of my head, at a minimum historical articles should cite a range of reliable secondary historical studies on the topic under study. Primary sources may be used to illustrate and document a position but should not stand alone without citation of suitable secondary literature.

Personally, I'd argue that secondary literature should play the predominant role in any historical article. Specifically, every fact that is not common knowledge should be supported by citation of at least one specific secondary source and that the secondary source may be supplemented by citation or quotation of a primary source.

Peer Review needs citations[edit]

Scientific Revolution[edit]

Rather than just gripe about it, I thought I'd put up an outline for a new article.
I've also decided to copy the present article to User:SteveMcCluskey/Scientific Revolution where everyone is invited to engage in radical revisions. I'll be away the rest of today so I won't make many changes until tomorrow.
"The desire to edit is a basic human need."
--SteveMcCluskey 15:05, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Present Outline[edit]

  • Introduction
  1. Emergence of the revolution
  2. Early and medieval views of science
  3. Infusion of classical texts
  4. New scientific developments
  5. Theoretical developments
  6. Methodological developments
    1. Mechanization
    2. Empiricism
  7. Postmodern critiques

Proposed Outline[edit]

  • Introduction
  1. Significance of the "Revolution"
  2. Ancient and medieval background
  3. Transformational developments and their reception
    1. Copernicus's De revolutionibus
    2. Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica
  4. New Approaches to Nature
    1. The Mechanical Philosophy
    2. The Chemical Philosophy
    3. Empiricism
    4. Mathematization
  5. Subsequent Developments
    1. The New Astronomy
      1. Kepler
      2. Brahe
      3. Galileo
    2. The New Physics
      1. Galileo
      2. Newton's Principia
  6. Institutional changes
    1. The changing role of patronage
    2. Networks of communication
      1. Printing
    3. Scientific societies
  7. Historiographical Critiques
    1. Continuity with Middle Ages
    2. Renaissance or Revolution?
    3. non-European influences

Logicus's contributions[edit] 17:45, 28 September 2005 (UTC) A.Bellamy, e.mail <>, 28 September 2005

I've about given up on Logicus. He is repeating the same unorthodox interpretation of Aristotle's view of inertia on Talk:Scientific Revolution that he raised a year ago on Talk:Inertia and other venues—and he seems to have been succesful in getting a line or two on the article on Inertia to present his interpretation of Aristotle. We seem to have a fringe interpreter of primary sources whose work clearly meets Jimbo Wales' criterion[9] for deletion on the grounds of NOR.

Judging from the outcome on Inertia, I don't think he's amenable to rational discourse. He expressed his frustration that he was unable to convince I. B. Cohen of his errors. I think his edits should be watched carefully and, as appropriate, deleted, reverted, or otherwise edited. It doesn't seem wise to encourage further debate by replies.

Bachmann's Law: Trolls are the driving force of Wikipedia. The worst trolls often spur the best editors into creating a brilliant article with watertight references where without the trollish ecapades we would only have a brief stub.[10]

Minority Views History[edit]

Origins of NOR Policy[edit]

At 16:10, 15 September 2006, Logicus (User: said " you apparently prefer 'authority' rather than reason in determining the truth." This reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the encyclopedic nature of Wikipedia and its No Original Research policy.

Let's try to get at the heart of the No Original Research policy by tracing its origins. It began with an e-mail on the wikien-l where Jimbo Wales expressed his reaction to an editor who was advocating an unorthodox criticism of special relativity on the article by that name. That view was generalized to cover topics other than physics and became the original version of the No Original Research policy and is still included in the much larger current version.

Here's Jimbo's view, transposed from physics to history:

What do mainstream [history] texts say on the matter? What do the majority of prominent [historians] say on the matter? Is there significant debate one way or the other within the mainstream [historical] community on this point?
If your viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts.
If your viewpoint is held by a significant [minority of historians], then it should be easy to name prominent adherents, and the article should certainly address the controversy without taking sides.
If your viewpoint is held by an extremely small minority, then whether it's true or not, whether you can prove it or not, it doesn't belong in Wikipedia, except perhaps in some ancilliary article. Wikipedia is not the place for original research.
Remember, I'm not much interested in "is it true or not" in this context. We could talk about that forever and get nowhere. I'm only interested in the much more tractable question "is it encyclopedic and NPOV or not"? And this question can be answered in the fashion I outlined above.

Since this is the official Wikipedia framework, we cannot determine whether a claim belongs in Wikipedia by debating whether it's true that Aristotle maintained a theory of inertia (or that seventeenth-century natural philosophers believed that Aristotle held a theory of inertia). Instead, our goal is to determine whether these views are held by a majority, a significant minority, or an extremely small minority of historians. To do that, we need to identify specific passages in which historians state these views and similar passages where historians state alternative views (such as that Aristotle believed that bodies are moved by some motive cause or that Galileo, Descartes, or Newton believed that their concepts of inertia or impetus contradicted the views of Aristotle).

Historians on Inertia in Aristotle[edit]

Well, lets try to tally up the views of the historical community on Aristotle having a view of inertia as reported by Logicus / A. Bellamy

Pro Isaac Newton. unspecified manuscript ca. 1690?, (Hall and Hall 1962)
Pro Thomas Heath. Mathematics in Aristotle
Con Alexandre Koyré. Galilean Studies
Con Pierre Duhem. unspecified source, perhaps his Le Systeme du Monde
Con Thomas Kuhn. unspecified source, perhaps his Copernican Revolution
Con Herbert Butterfield. The Origins of Modern Science
Con I. Bernard Cohen. Various
Con Emile Meyerson. Identity and Reality
Con Anneliese Maier. unspecified source, perhaps her Anneliese Maier, "Galileo and the Scholastic Theory of Impetus"
Con Stillman Drake. unspecified source

We could then add all the opposed views cited already in the article:

Con Edward Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, pp. 55-63, 87-104


Richard Sorabji, Matter, Space, and Motion: Theories in Antiquity and Their Sequel, (London: Duckworth, 1988), p. 227.

What [Philoponus] introduced was an alternative to Aristotle's dynamics, and he started with the motion of projectiles.
Aristotle had been puzzled as to what makes a javelin continue to move after it has left the hand. Its 'natural' motion is only downward. Its 'forced' or 'unnatural' motion onwards is produced for the first few feet by tha hand of the thrower who graps it. But after its release, Aristotle thinks another cause must be sought which like the hand is external to it, and yet in contact with it. He decides (Phys. 8.10, 267a2-12; cf. Cael. 3.2, 301b23-30) that by pushing the air, the thrower imparts to successive pockets of air behind the javelin the power to move it onwards.... In effect, the pockets of air are unmoved movers, although Aristotle does not say it that way.... Philoponus' inovation is to suggest that a force ... can be implanted by the thrower directly into the javelin, and need not remain external to it in the air. The force came to be called an impetus and was still a commonplace in the time of Galileo.
Aristotle's theory of projectiles was ripe for replacement. He does not explain sufficiently why air should sometimes help motiojn, as with projectiles, while at other times (Phys. 4.8, 215a24-216a11) it creates resistance to motion and reduces speed.


[T]he idea of unity is not only the basic presupposition of the Islamic arts and sciences: it dominates their expression as well. The portrayal of any individual object would become a "graven image," a dangerous idol of the mind, the very canon of art in Islam is abstraction.... Thus we come to the central issue. Can our minds grasp the individual object as it stands by itself? or can we do so only by understanding the individual object within the context of the universe? In other words, from the cosmological point of view, is the universe the unity, and the individual event or object a sign (phenomenon, "appearance") of ambiguous and uncertain import? Or is it the other way around? Of these alternatives, which go back to the time of Plato, the Muslim is bound to accept the first -- he gives priority to the universe as the one concrete reality, which symbolizes on the cosmic level the Divine Principle itself,... Herein one can already see why mathematics was to make such a strong appeal to the Muslim: its abstract nature furnished the bridge that Muslims were seeking between multiplicity and unity.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr has argued that there is a distintly Muslim approach to science, flowing from Islamic monotheism and the related theological prohibition against portraying graven images. In science, this is reflected in a philosophical disinterest in describing individual material objects, their properties and characteristics and instead a concern with the ideal, the Platonic form, which exists in matter as an expression of the will of the Creator. Thus one can "see why mathematics was to make such a strong appeal to the Muslim: its abstract nature furnished the bridge that Muslims were seeking between multiplicity and unity."[1]




Main article: Almagest

The Almagest is widely held to be the first systematic treatise on astronomy in antiquity. Babylonian astronomers had developed arithmetical techniques for calculating astronomical phenomena; Greek astronomers such as Hipparchus had produced geometric models for calculating celestial motions; Ptolemy, however, clearly derived his geometrical models from selected astronomical observations by his predecessors spanning more than 800 years. Ptolemy then reduced his astronomical models to tables, which could be used to compute the future or past position of the planets.[1] The Almagest also contains a star catalogue, which is probably an updated version of a catalogue created by Hipparchus. Its list of forty-eight constellations is ancestral to the modern system of constellations, but unlike the modern system they did not cover the whole sky (only the sky Ptolemy could see). Through the Middle Ages it was spoken of as the authoritative text on astronomy, with its author becoming an almost mythical figure, called Ptolemy, King of Alexandria.[2]The Almagest was preserved, like most of Classical Greek science, in Arabic manuscripts (hence its familiar name). Because of its reputation, it was widely sought and was translated twice into Latin in the 12th century, once in Sicily and again in Spain.[3] Ptolemy's model, like those of his predecessors, was geocentric and was almost universally accepted until an equally systematic presentation of a heliocentric geometrical model by Nicolaus Copernicus.

His Planetary Hypotheses went beyond the mathematical model of the Almagest to present a physical realization of the universe as a set of nested spheres[4], in which he used the epicycles of his planetary model to compute the dimensions of the universe. He estimated the Sun was at an average distance of 1210 Earth radii while the radius of the sphere of the fixed stars was 20,000 times the radius of the Earth.[5]

Ptolemy presented a useful tool for astronomical calculations in his Handy Tables, which tabulated all the data needed to compute the positions of the Sun, Moon and planets, the rising and setting of the stars, and eclipses of the Sun and Moon. Ptolemy's Handy Tables provided the model for later astronomical tables or zījes. In the Phaseis (Risings of the Fixed Stars) Ptolemy gave a parapegma, a star calendar or almanac based on the appearances and disappearances of stars over the course of the solar year.

His model and computational methods were were adopted and modified in the Arab world and in India, since they were of sufficient accuracy to satisfy the needs of astronomers, astrologers, timekeepers, calendar keepers, and navigators.

He studied this in great detail for many years.


  1. ^ Bernard R. Goldstein, "Saving the Phenomena: The Background to Ptolemy's Planetary Theory", Journal for the History of Astronomy, 28 (1997): 1-12
  2. ^ S. C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr. 1998, pp. 20-21.
  3. ^ Charles Homer Haskins, Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science, New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1967, reprint of the Camb ridge, Mass., 1927 edition
  4. ^ Dennis Duke, Ptolemy's Cosmology
  5. ^ Bernard R. Goldstein, ed., The Arabic Version of Ptolemy's Planetary Hypotheses, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 57, 4 (1967), pp. 9-12.

Medieval Impetus vs Modern Inertia[edit]

One of the first historians of medieval science, the French physicist, Pierre Duhem, saw precursors of the modern idea of inertia in the impetus theory of Jean Buridan. Duhem (1861 – 1916) wrote in his posthumously published Le Système de Monde (I will quote the French rather than make you trust my translations):

La Mécanique de Galilée, c'est, peut-on dire, la forme adulte d'une science vivant dont la Mécanique de Buridan était la larve. (VIII, 200)

Duhem spelled out the nature of Buridan's embryonic form of the new physics in the following terms:

La loi de l'inertie n'a donc pas encore reçu de Jean Buridan son énoncé complet et définitif. Mais la part de vérité que de maître a reconnue est déja bien grande, assez grande pour bouleverser les fondements mêmes de la Philosophie péripatéticienne.
Tout la Dynamique dÁristote repose sur set axiome:
« Tout ce qui est en mouvement est nécessairement mû par quelque chose....»
A cette formule. voice que Buridan substitue cette autre:
Après qu'un corps a été mis en mouvement, il n'a plus pour se mouvoir, besoin d'aucun moteur extrinsèque: l'impetus qu'il a reçu une fois pour toute y suffit....
Voilà donc que s'écroule toute la Dynamique d'Aristote. (VIII, 338-9)

In Duhem's view Buridan had not yet definitively proclaimed the law of inertia, but his ideas had overthrown the foundations of peripatetic philosophy and brought about the collapse of Aristotle's dynamics.

Anneliese Maier, who approached the same texts as Duhem from the perspective of a student of medieval philosophy, saw a different picture. She agreed with Duhem that the late scholastics "prepared the way for the law of inertia" but she insisted that "from the outset, however, we must recognize that we are dealing with an analogue to the law of inertia, not an exact parallel to it. An exact parallel is out of the question, since late scholastic thinkers assumed that uniform motion is caused by a special kind of motive force called impetus, while modern mechanics postulates that uniform motion does not require any kind of force to make it continue..." (Maier, On the Threshold of Exact Science, (1982), pp. 77-8; translation of her 1955 Die naturphilosophische Bedeutung der scholastischen Impetustheorie.)

Subsequent historians of medieval science, such as Marshall Clagett, shared Maier's view that impetus was only "a kind of analogue to inertia." (Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages, (1959), p. xxviii). In his detailed discussion, Clagett notes that Buridan

spoke of [impetus] as a motive force and as the reason for the continued movement,... One cannot help but compare Buridan's impetus with Galileo's impeto and Newton's quantity of motion (momentum), even though on the face of it they are ontologically different from impetus considered as a kind of force. But while the affirmed ontology of impetus would seem to differentiate it from later concepts, yet the terms of its measure as presented by Buridan make an analogue with momentum,... (Clagett, p. 523).

Edward Grant came to much the same conclusion, which he concisely summarized in his Physical Science in the Middle Ages (1971):

Buridan seized upon quantity of matter and speed as means of determining the measure of impetus, the same quantities which served to define momentum in Newtonian physics, although in the latter momentum is usually conceived as a quantity of motion or a measure of the effect of a body's motion, whereas impetus is a cause of motion. Indeed, impetus was viewed as an internalization of the cause of motion which Aristotle had made external. It seemed a better way of adhering to Aristotle's dictum that everything that is moved is moved by another." (p. 50).

Grant repeated his earlier judgment, in almost the same words, in his The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages, (1996), pp. 95-6.

In a nutshell, Duhem's 90-year old discovery of medieval anticipations of the principle of inertia has been greatly modified by subsequent research. The three major historians of medieval science who have looked closely at the scholastic texts that attracted Duhem's attention all come to similar conclusions. Impetus and inertia are operationally similar, in that they are measured in the same terms, but ontologically distinct, in that impetus is a cause of continued motion within an Aristotelian dynamical framework while inertial motion needs no cause.

There are signs that impetus theory may have contributed to the later development of the theory of inertia. Galileo, for example, used impetus theory in his youthful De motu. (Clagett, pp. 666-7) but the crucial step was abandoning the Aristotelian notion that "everything that is moved is moved by another." This step took place during the course of the Scientific Revolution.

Galileo on violent motion[edit]

Buridan's impetus can be made to appear as coming very close to the later inertial concept; indeed, to become identical with Newton's vis inertiae. But such a // treatment contradicts the very basis of Aristotle's physics, in which all motions were classified as either natural or violent. Natural motions were caused by an internal or intrinsic property, which in the case of terrestrial heavy bodies carried them straight down, and to speak of this property as an external force (our "force of gravity") is an unpardonable anachronism. (Stillman Drake, "Impetus Theory Reappraised", Journal of the History of Ideas, 36 (1975): 27-46, at pp. 34-5)

The distinction between natural motions, undertaken by a body merely freed from restraint, and violent motions induced by external forces, was a very useful one. Even Galileo, who was not notably influenced by the authority of Aristotle, habitually made use of that same distinction and its terminology, though he early rejected the completeness of the ancient dichotomy. For Galileo there were also neutral motions, neither natural nor violent,... (Stillman Drake, "Impetus Theory Reappraised", Journal of the History of Ideas, 36 (1975): 27-46, at p. 35)

The germ of his later inertial idea is found in the same book [De motu (1590)], but it had nothing to do with impetus theory. It started from certain" neutral motions" that he offered in contradiction to Aristotle's conception that all motions must be either natural or violent. (ibid., p. 45)

Later, in chapter 16 [of De motu], the criterion of natural place was to lead on to the concept of motions that are neither natural nor forced, but "neutral," an advanced concept added marginally in chapter 14 [I, 300n]. (Stillman Drake, "The Evolution of De motu (Galileo Gleanings XXIV)", Isis, vol. 67, No. 2, (Jun., 1976), pp. 239-250, at p. 247)

Kuhn as a Historian of Science[edit]

Discuss Kuhn, Conant, and the Case Studies...

"Kuhn had an epiphany. What had appeared wrong and absurd in the ancient texts suddenly made sense; Aristotle had not been writing bad Newtonian physics but good Greek philosophy.... The sympathetic reading of texts, the search for apparent absurdities as clues to interpretation and tests for understanding, became Kuhn's historical and pedagogical method. As he later said, intellectual historians learn this method in school; but for him, then a graduate student in physics, it came with the force of an independent solution of a deep riddle."[1]


  1. ^ Heilbron, "Thomas Samuel Kuhn", p. 507


The “new chronology” views of Academician A.T. Fomenko and his followers concerning the process of world history were discussed in the historical department of Moscow State University, chaired by its dean, Professor S.P. Karpov, on December 21, 1999. The pioneers of the “new chronology” consider it a scientific concept resting on the achievements of mathematics and their interpretation of the works of ancient astronomers. This has raised objections among many scholars. The scientific press and the mass media point out the faults and distortions in the works of Fomenko and his followers (e.g., see Vestn. Ross. Akad. Nauk, 1999, no. 12). But Fomenko and company continue to propagate their novel idea. As the growing popularity of the Fomenko group’s views and publications are a grave danger to Russia’s culture as a whole, the round table subjected them to a comprehensive critical analysis. Below is the text of the contribution by V.L. Yanin, eminent historian and archaeologist, and specifically a student of the history and culture of Ancient Russia.[1]

Review of Fomenko (1996)[edit]

It is surprising, to say the least, that a well-known (Dutch) publisher could produce an expensive book of such doubtful intellectual value, of which the only good word that can be said is that it contains an enourmous amount of factual historical material, untidily ordered, true; badly written, yes; mixed-up with conjectural nonsense, sure; but still, much useful stuff. For the rest of the book is absolutely worthless. It reminds one of the early Soviet attempts to produce tendentious science (Lysenko!), of polywater, of cold fusion, and of modern creationism. In brief: a useless and misleading book.[2]

Sidorov on Fomenko (2006)[edit]

Eurasianism is an influential ideology, and the New Chronology of Anatoly Fomenko and Gleb Nosovskii could be treated as its peculiar reincarnation....

According to the New Chronology, the first Rome was Alexandria (Egypt), the second Rome was Constantinople (a.k.a. Jerusalem),... the Third Rome as Moscow was the capital of a Great Russian Empire that embraced practically the entire world.

The New Chronology is essentially about “the true grandeur of ancient Russian history, about the strength of the Russian spirit and weaponry, about power that managed to unite the peoples of the world.[3]

Sheiko on Fomenko (2004)[edit]

Fomenko's greatest achievement is the invention of a Slav-Turk empire that allegedly dominated the first half of world history, that is, until the seventeenth century. This 'Russian Horde' as Fomenko named it, was based in the area that we normally associate with the Golden Horde founded by the Mongol khans in the thirteenth century.

Fomenko's vision is an inspiring one for those who measure Russia's greatness by the amouht of space it occupies on a map. He offers an account of the Russian state as if it were the history of all of Eurasia. Fomenko's writing is inspired, in part, by the work of the Eurasianists of the early twentieth century who first argued that Russia was neither European nor Asian but a distinctive society. (p. 5)

Conventional historians were at first unsure whether to regard Fomenko and his entourage as post-modern clowns or dangerous ethno-nationalists. For his critics in Russia, Fomenko is both an embarrassment and a potent symbol of the depths to which the Russian academy and society have generally sunk amid the economic disasters and political and military humiliations heaped upon Russia since the fall fo Communism. (p. 6)

For his critics, Fomenko's ideas are providing fuel for those who would reconstitute a Russian Empire. It is not just modern-day Mongols who are deprived of part of their heritage. In Fomenko's history, Ukraine and Belarus too have no identity outside of their connection to Russia. Pseudo-historians are unrepentant, noting that the Mongolian and Ukranian peoples are sadly mistaken in the delusion that they were ever anything other than elements of the Russian Horde. (p. 8)

Fomenko's version of history is popular among a reading public disillusioned with Communism and the broken promises of consumer capitalism. It is deliberately aimed at keeping alive an imperial consciousness and secular messianism in Russia. Thus, Fomenko's history has a practical application in modern-day Russia and confirms that an imperialist discourse is alive and well, making more difficult Russia's evolution into a nation state. (p. 13)

Fomenko's ideas are popular not because of what he claims is his main concern, that is, rewriting world chronology, but because he finds in history a simple answer to the question of who the Russians are. (p. 14)

Fomenko ... provides no fair-minded review of the historical literature about a topic with which he deals, quotes only those sources that serve his purposes, uses evidence in ways that seem strange to professionally-trained historians and asserts the wildest speculation as if it has the same status as the information common to the conventional historical literature. (p. 21)

Fomenko insists that his new dates are the result of a complex statistical-mathematical research of the so-called quantititative features of ancient texts and chronicles. What that means is not exactly clear. The calculations are difficult for the non-specialist to follow and the endless tables are no doubt designed to intimidate as much as to impress. (p. 52)

Conventional histories often describe the regional and tribal names of groups that have lived in Russia as if they were separate and unrelated peoples –Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Goths, Bulgars, then Polyane, Duleby, Severyane, Ulichi, Drevliane, Polovtsi, Pechenegs, and, much later, Cossacks, Muscovites, Ukranians, Byelorussians. Within each and every group there are often many gradations. For Fomenko, we should see a single [Russian] ethnos lurking behind mythical and historical names. (p. 56) [contra Geary et al.]

For good reason, Russian readers are deeply skeptical of much of what passed for history in the Soviet Union. (p. 75)

Fomenko was a child of the Soviet system to the point where his principal secondary sources are often Stalin-era histories and his usual way of dismissing an idea that he does not agree with it is to label it as 'anti-scientific', as a Soviet Marxist might have done in the Stalin era. Thus Fomenko described the German historian Bayer as the founder of the 'anti-scientific' Norman theory, just as his predecessors in the Stalin era did. (p. 76)


Billington on Fomenko (2004)[edit]

James Billington, formerly professor of Russian history and currently the Librarian of Congress placed Fomenko's work within the context of the political movement of Eurasianism, which sought to tie Russian history closely to that of its Asian neighbors. Billington describes Fomenko as ascribing the belief in past hostility between Russia and the Mongols to the influence of Western historians. Thus, by Fomenko's chronology, "Russia and Turkey are parts of a previously single empire."[5]

Review of Billington[edit]

L’auteur appréhende en effet le néoeurasisme comme le symbole le plus pertinent de cette mouvance autoritariste obsédée par la question de l’étaticité et de la grande puissance (gosudarstvennost´ et deržavnost´) de la Russie, même s’il mentionne également le radicalisme orthodoxe, par exemple celui du métropolite Johann, ou les conceptions fantasmagoriques de Fomenko sur la « nouvelle chronologie » mondiale.[6]

Valentin Yanin on Fomenko [1999][edit]

We live in an epoch of total non-professionalism, which spreads through the entire society fromthe power structures to the lowest levels of the educational system. The ordinary school produces dilettantes who assume that their miserable and faulty knowledge is adequate for judging professionals. A society brought up on scandals craves negativity and shock effects. It loves the sleight of hand trickery of a David Copperfield or an Anatoly Timofeevich Fomenko.[7]

Michael Gorodetsky on Fomenko[edit]


Fomenko is a respectful scientist in mathematics, though not unequivocally (see the devastating review of one of his books by Almgren). Moreover he is a member of the Russian academy of Science. But in history he is definitely a pseudo-scientist with all characteristic features of pseudoscientific activity. And his activity in history was claimed pseudoscience by the same academy. Just as an example - he with his coauthor has published in Russia more than 60(!) books for wide audience on New Chronology. Today it is even not pseudoscience but commercial enterprise. It looks he decided now to earn in wider American market.[8]


Anatoly Fomenko is just an example of pseudoscience. He is indeed a professional mathematician but in a rather peculiar area - differential geometry. I have a special site (net - means "no" in Russian) devoted to his activity. Unfortunately it is mostly in Russian. And I was an editor and author of the book "Astronomy Against New Chronology". All the papers (in Russian) are available online. His knowledge of astronomy is extremely low, but even lower is his knowledge of egyptian astronomy. He is searching planets among decans. Nowadays it is simply a commercial publishing project. It is enough to say that he has published with his active colleague Nosovsky nearly 50 (!) books. Full bibligraphy is here:

... Current activity of Fomenko is just a reflection of the totally destoyed sciencein [sic] Russia.[9]

van Gent on Fomenko (2005)[edit]

I guess that this proves that with statistics (used by the wrong people) you can make any claim seem valid.

Fomenko's weird chronological ideas have been discussed several times in the past on HASTRO (see the HASTRO archives) and it is depressing to see that he still gets media attention for his historical rubbish.

Several of his books are now also available in English and I was amused to read in the first volume of his _History: Fiction or Science_ (Delamare Publishing, 2003) how inscriptions in a medieval Dutch cathedral in Bois-le-Duc (Den Bosch - not far from Utrecht) prove that Jesus was born around the year 1000. Six more volumes of this nonsense are promised to become available in the near future.[10]

Ari Belenkiy on Fomenko (2003)[edit]

Fomenko's approach was to arrive to new dating based on systematic errors in Almagest. I see that doing this one cannot gain more than 1 degree (+-28') which gives not more than 100 year historical setback. This is clearly not enough for Fomenko himself.

In 1985-6 Fomenko told me that he contacted R.Newton trying to convince him to adopt his strategy on revising chronology rather than criticising Ptolemy. Newton did not support his aspirations (or even did not understand him fully).[11]

F. R. Stephenson on R. R. Newton (2003)[edit]

Unfortunately, Newton’s investigations suffered from two fundamental defects. The two parameters he sought to determine were highly correlated; and he also adopted a somewhat arbitrary weighting scheme in analysing suspected observations of total solar eclipses. Many of the observations he investigated were of doubtful reliability. Hence, despite the low weight he assigned them, they had a disproportionate effect on his solutions. In particular, Newton obtained discordant values for [the lunar orbital acceleration] n˙ of around –40 arcsec/cy2. More reliable investigations of ancient eclipses had to await the independent determination of n˙.

Improved values for n˙ began to be obtained from the mid-1970s. Morrison andWard (1975), from a discussion of observations of transits of Mercury, determined n˙ =–26±2 arcsec/cy2. Subsequent results were obtained using both lunar laser ranging and studies of the orbits of artificial satellites. Current results from these two methods are in good accord. Using artificial satellite observations, Christodoulidis et al. (1988) obtained n˙ =–25.27±0.61 arcsec/cy2, while Williams and Dickey (2003) have lately deduced –25.7 arcsec/cy2 from lunar laser ranging. On the basis of conservation of angular momentum in the Earth–Moon system, it may be calculated from these results that the rate of increase in the LOD due to tides alone is close to 2.3 ms/cy.

In analysing ancient observations, it has become accepted practice to assume that n˙ is accurately known and to solve only for changes in the Earth’s spin rate by enumerating the variation in ΔT. Since global sea-level changes have been minimal over the historical period, there are good reasons for assuming that tidal friction – and hence n˙ – has remained sensibly constant during that time.[12]

Gurshtein on Fomenko (1999)[edit]

A.T.Fomenko is a mathematician from Moscow University. His extremely extravagant ideas started with Robert Newton and later on were broadened. They were discussed many times in different astronomical and historico-astronomical seminars in Moscow. The common conclusion is that there are some rough astronomical errors in his calculations. There are some publications on this issue but unfortunately all of them are in Russian. The criticism of Fomenko's calculations is supported by some prominent Russian astronomers including Yuri N.Efremov, of State Astronomical Institute in Moscow. But this Russian "Robert Newton" is very aggressive and he published his book in English.[13]

Fomenko on Robert Newton[edit]

[I]n the early 70's, namely, in 1972 - 1973, I had to deal with the dates of ancient eclipses during my studies of one of the key problems in celestial mechanics (see Chron1, Chapter 2 for more details). It had to do with computing the so called coefficient D" in the Theory of Lunar Motion. The parameter characterizes acceleration and is computed as a time function on a large historical interval. The computations were performed by Robert Nerwton, a contemporary American astronomer and astrophysicist. Upon their completion, he made the undxpected discovery of parameter D" behaving in the most peculiar manner, namely, performing an inexplicable leap on the interval of VIII-X century A. (Fomenko, p. xxi)

He [Fomenko] had noticed the 1972 article of the American astrophysicist Robert Newton ([1303]), where the latter described a strange leap in lunar acceleration, and the so-called parameter D. The leap occurred around the X century A. D. (Fomenko, p. xxx) the 1970s, the author of the current book discovered the possibility of a link between the alleged gap in the value of D" (see [1303]) and the results of N. A. Mozorov's research concerning the dating of ancient eclipses ([544]). A study of the issue and a new calculation of parameter D" attains an altogether different quality; namely, one sees the complete elimination of the mysterious leap. (Fomenko, p. 96)

1303. Newton, R. R. Astronomical evidence concerning non-gravitational forces in the Earth-Moon system. Astrophys. Space Sci. Volume 16 (1972): 179-200. (Fomenko, p. 580)

Stephenson and Steele on LBAT[edit]

Critics point out that Fomenko's discussion of astronomical phenomena tends to be selective, chosing isolated examples that support the New Chronology and ignoring the large bodies of data that provide statistically supported evidence for the conventional dating. For his dating of the Almagest star catalog, Fomenko arbitrarily selected eight stars from the more than 1000 stars in the catalog only eight from which only one (Arcturus) which has a large systematic error. This star has a dominant effect on Fomenko's dating.[14] Statistical analysis using the same method for all "fast" stars points to the antiquity of the Almagest star catalog.[15][16] Rawlins points out further that Fomenko's statistical analysis got the wrong date for the Almagest because he took as constant Earth's obliquity when it is a variable that changes at a very slow, but known, rate.[17]

Fomenko's studies ignore the abundance of dated astronomical records in cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia. Among these texts is a series of astronomical diaries, which records precise astronomical observations of the Moon and planets, often dated in terms of the reigns of known historical figures extending back to the sixth century BCE. Astronomical retrocalculations for all these moving objects allow us to date these observations, and consequently the rulers' reigns, to within a single day.[18] The observations are sufficiently redundant that only a small portion of them are sufficient to date a text to a unique year in the period 750 BCE to 100 CE. The dates obtained agree with the accepted chronology.[19] In addition, F. R. Stephenson has demonstrated through a systematic study of a large number of Babylonian, Ancient and Medieval European, and Chinese records of eclipse observations that they can be dated consistently with conventional chronology at least as far back as 600 BCE.[20] In contrast to Fomenko's missing centuries, Stephenson's studies of eclipse observations find an accumulated uncertainty in the timing of the rotation of the earth of 420 seconds at 400 BCE, and only 80 seconds at 1000 CE.[21]


  1. ^ Introduction to article on Fomenko in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  2. ^ H. G. van Bueren, "Mathematics and Logic", Review of A. T. Fomenko, Empirico-Statistical Analysis of Narrative Materials and its Applications to Historical Dating, 2 vols, (Dordrecht: Kluwer) 1994, in Annals of Science, 53 (1996): 206-207. (Van Beuren is Professor Emeritus of astronomy, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands)
  3. ^ Dmitrii Sidorov, "Post-Imperial Third Romes: Resurrections of a Russian Orthodox Geopolitical Metaphor", Geopolitics, 11 (2006):317–347, at pp. 336-7 .
  4. ^ Konstantin Sheiko, "Lomonosov's Bastards: Anatolii Fomenko, Pseudo-History, and Russia's Search for a Post-Communist Identity," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, 2004.
  5. ^ James H. Billington, Russia in Search of Itself, (Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press / Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004, pp. 82-4.
  6. ^ Marlène Laruelle, Review of James H. Billington, Russia in search of itself, Washington, D.C., Woodrow Wilson Center Press / Baltimore — London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004; Cahiers du Monde Russe, 45/3-4, pp. 736-7.
  7. ^ V. L. Yanin, "Ziiaiushchie vysoty' akademika Fomenko"; translated in James H. Billington, Russia in Search of Itself, (Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press / Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004, pp. 83-4.
  8. ^ Michael L. Gorodetsky on History of Astronomy Discussion Group (HASTRO-L), Thu, 6 Dec 2007 12:14:53 -0500
  9. ^ Michael L. Gorodetsky on History of Astronomy Discussion Group (HASTRO-L), Mon, 21 Mar 2005 16:36:41 +0300
  10. ^ R. H. Gent on History of Astronomy Discussion Group (HASTRO-L), Mon, 21 Mar 2005 13:02:59 +0100
  11. ^ Ari Belenkiy on History of Astronomy Discussion Group (HASTRO-L), Sun, 2 Mar 2003 23:14:42 +0200
  12. ^ F. R. Stephenson, "Historical eclipses and Earth's rotation", Astronomy & Geophysics, 44, 2 (2003): 22-27.
  13. ^ Alexander A Gurshtein on History of Astronomy Discussion Group (HASTRO-L), Thu, 18 Feb 1999 14:13:40 -0700
  14. ^ Yu. N. Efremov, Астрономия и синдром “новой хронологии” (Astronomy and the Syndrome of "New Chronology").
  15. ^ A. K. Dambis and Yu. N. Efremov, "Dating Ptolemy's Star Catalogue through Proper Motions: The Hipparchan Epoch", Journal for the History of Astronomy, 31 (2000): 115-134;see especially note 17 (p. 134).
  16. ^ Astronomy against "New Chronology" (in Russian)].
  17. ^ Dennis Rawlins, "Recovering Hipparchos’ Last Lost Lustrous Star", DIO 4.3 (1994): 119. Rawlins provides evidence that Ptolemy's catalog was in fact written some three centuries earlier by Hipparchus.
  18. ^ Asger Aaboe, Episodes from the Early History of Astronomy, (New York: Springer, 2001) pp. 39-40 ISBN 0-387-95136-9.
  19. ^ F. R. Stephenson and J. M. Steele, "Astronomical Dating of Babylonian Texts Describing the Total Solar Eclipse of S.E. 175", Journal for the History of Astronomy, 37 (2006): 55-69. This study showed that either the details of the description of the solar eclipse or of a set of conjunctions of the slow planets Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars were sufficient to equate S.E. 175 with 137/6 BCE. Additional details provided further confirmation of this dating.
  20. ^ F. Richard Stephenson, "Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation", Astronomy & Geophysics, 44 (2003): 2.22-2.27.
  21. ^ Fred Espenak, Eclipse Predictions and Earth's Rotation

Book Publishers and Conflict of Interest[edit]

I'm curious about how to deal with what appears to be the use of an article page that while describing the ideas presented in a set of (probably self-published) books, seems to be an advertisement for those books. There is a real tension here between Wikipedia's encyclopedic commitment to the dissemination of ideas and its refusal to be used for commercial purposes. Before deciding whether to go forward to the Wikipedia:Conflict of interest/Noticeboard, I'm deliberately being general and not naming specific articles or editors.

In the case I have in mind I have been informed by a reliable source on an academic discussion list that the author of the books in question has moved from scholarly research to commercial publication.

Just as an example - he with his coauthor has published ... more than 60(!) books for wide audience.... Today it is even not pseudoscience but commercial enterprise. It looks he decided now to earn in wider American market.

The publisher of the books in question only publishes books by this author and they are widely advertised on the web. Advocates for them have posted PR materials on various open sites including videos on Youtube and suspicious looking rave notices on I suspect that the original editors of the article may be engaging in similar PR activity on Wikipedia. These editors take a strong proprietary attitude towards "their" article and strongly challenge on the talk page anyone who disputes the ideas presented in the article.

The article could be an encyclopedic description of a pseudoscientific activity if it were not for some editors who push this fringe point of view in violation of WP:UNDUE, are Single Purpose Accounts dedicated to advancing this fringe point of view in this and other articles, and appear, by circumstantial evidence, to be associated with the publisher of the books advocating this Point of view in violation of WP:COI. Do any members of the community have any ideas as to how to deal with this?

The editors involved with this page have been:

Mithec and the French Connection[edit]

The ISBNs of various editions of History: Fiction or Science? provide an interesting overlap. Although the publisher code remains the same (913621), the publisher is listed variously as Mithec under one set of ISBNs, and Delamere Resources under the other. Although the book is in English, in both cases the language group identifier is 2, indicating the publisher is in the French speaking area.

  • ISBN 2-913621-07-4 Fomenko, T., Anatoly History: Fiction or Science? New Chronology. City: Delamere Resources, 2007.
  • ISBN 2-913621-06-6 Fomenko, Anatoly. History: Fiction or Science? Chronology 2. City: Delamere Resources LLC, 2005.
  • ISBN 2-913621-08-2 Fomenko, Anatoly. History: Fiction or Science? Chronology 3. City: Delamere Resources LLC, 2007.
  • ISBN 2-913621-10-4 Tamdhu, Franck and Polina Zinoviev. Russia.Britain.Byzantium.Rome.History:Fiction or Science? Chronology Vol.IV. City: Delamere Resources LLC, 2008.
  • ISBN 2-913621-01-5 Fomenko, Anatoly. History: Fiction or Science?. City: Mithec, 2003.
  • ISBN 2-913621-02-3 Fomenko, T., Anatoly History: Fiction or Science?. City: Mithec, 2003.
  • ISBN 2-913621-03-1 Fomenko, Anatole History: Fiction or Science?. City: Mithec, 2003.
  • ISBN 2-913621-05-8 Fomenko, Anatoly. History: Fiction or Science?. City: Mithec, 2004.

The title page of Volume 1 of History: Fiction or Science? provides the web address of History: Fiction Or Science? is distributed in the US by Mithec Distribution Services of Ashland, OH[13]. lists MITHEC as the publisher of History: Fiction or Science?.

There is also a user named Mithec who has posted over 100 short videos on YouTube that are ads emphasizing various aspects of Fomenko's new chronology, complete with price, web link, and toll free telephone number. A few of them have French titles despite their English language narration. Mithec's user pageon YouTube provides the following information about the source of this coordinated public relations operation:


  • joined: April 21 2006
  • Age: 58
  • Country: France

If the French editor(s) on Wikipedia are closely related to the French publishers and to the Mithec on YouTube, we have an unacceptable conflict of interest.

Account of NC actions[edit]

I was drawn to look at New Chronology (Fomenko), and related articles, by a recent discussion on the History of Astronomy Discussion List (HASTRO-L) about Fomenko's misuse of astronomy. The Russian astronomer, Michael Gorodetsky, recently (6 Dec 2007) said this about Fomenko:

Fomenko is a respectful scientist in mathematics, though not unequivocally (see the devastating review of one of his books by Almgren). Moreover he is a member of the Russian academy of Science. But in history he is definitely a pseudo-scientist with all characteristic features of pseudoscientific activity. And his activity in history was claimed pseudoscience by the same academy. Just as an example - he with his coauthor has published in Russia more than 60(!) books for wide audience on New Chronology. Today it is even not pseudoscience but commercial enterprise. It looks he decided now to earn in wider American market.

Gorodetsky's comments made me sensitive to the spam-like qualities of the article, with links to advertising sites (since removed)and a large image of Fomenko's books (since rescaled).

The main advocates of the New Chronology appear to be closely related to each other and to the publisher. They are:

The advocates of Fomenko's New Chronology have engaged in several actions

  • In July 2005 one of the anonymous editors User: posted a link[16] to a bookpage selling Fomenko's books on the New Chronology at the head of the list of external links, which I recently removed.[17]
  • Two years later in July 2007 Poggio Bracciolini added links to advertising videos (described below) directly below the link to the sale of Fomenko's books to the list of external links[18] and in the related article Anatoly Fomenko.[19] I recently removed both links.
  • Various advocates of the New Chronology have engaged in extensive defenses of the ideas of the New Chronology and attacks on its critics, peppered with occasional sarcastic comments on other editors.[20]

What we are seeing on Wikipedia may be related to the wider use of the internet to advertise Fomenko's books. On YouTube a French user named mithec has, since April 2006, posted over 100 short videos that are ads linking Fomenko's new chronology to a wide range of searchable topics, and providing price, web address, and toll free telephone number. A few of them have French titles despite their English language narration. These appear to be connected to the publisher since the name Mithec also appears in the web address of the publisher on the copyright page of History: Fiction or Science?,; Mithec Distribution Serveces is the name of the US distributor; and Mithec is listed on as the publisher.

If the French editor(s) on Wikipedia are closely related to the French Mithec on YouTube, we have an unacceptable conflict of interest that needs to be monitored carefully. In any event, we have a long-term ongoing activity to use Wikipedia to sell Fomenko's books on the New Chronology; a caution to the users mentioned above about WikiSpam and Conflict of Interest seems appropriate. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:02, 28 December 2007 (UTC)


In our view Kepler's decision to base his causal explanation of planetary motion on a distance-velocity law, rather than on uniform circular motions of compounded spheres, marks a major shift from ancient to modern conceptions of science. Kepler's discussion of the distance-velocity law as a physical principle appears in his Astronomia Nova, Chapter 39, and his first attempt to quantify it for planetary motion appears in Chapter 40. We know of no one prior to Kepler who tried to apply this physical principle quantitatively to planetary motion. On several occasions Kepler claimed to have constructed an astronomical system 'without hypotheses' as Petrus Ramus (d. 1572) had advocated. Such models as eccentrics and epicycles were understood as 'hypotheses'. What Kepler meant was that he had begun with physical principles and had then derived a trajectory from it, rather than simply constructing new models. In other words, even before discovering the area law, Kepler had abandoned uniform circular motion as a physical principle, and Ptolemy's equant (as well as variations of it) then became a useful device to be kept or discarded depending on whether it could be harmonized with an underlying principle.[1]
The transition from models to trajectories also underlies Kepler's claim to have met Ramus's challenge. Kepler equates the models of previous astronomers with Ramus's 'hypotheses'. His own trajectory-based astronomy may therefore be seen as an 'astronomy without hypotheses'. Kepler's New Astronomy is indeed a new and radical departure from the tradition he inherited.[2]

Wilson in Cambridge History of Science[edit]

In 1700 planetary astronomy was scarcely yet touched by Newton's mathematical discoveries. The ellipticity of the planetary orbits (Kepler's first law) had come to be widely accepted, although it was never verified empirically with precision. Kepler's so-called second law -- the equable sweeping out of area by the Sun-planet vector -- was not so much an empirical law as a consequence of Keplerian dynamics; it had been generally rejected early because of mathematical difficulties it entailed. Substitute rules were proposed, but as Nicholas Mercator (ca. 1619-1687) pointed out in 1670, any viable substitute must closely approximate the Keplerian area rule. In the Principia, Newton presented the areal rule as logically equivalent to a central force, and the ellipse with Sun in the focus as derivable from an inverse-square central force.
Kepler's third law, unlike the first two, stood on its own feet as an empirical law: the squares of the planetary periods varied as the cubes of their mean solar distances. It, too, Newton now showed, was a consequence of the inverse-square law.[3]


  1. ^ Peter Barker and Bernard R. Goldstein, "Distance and Velocity in Kepler's Astronomy", Annals of Science, 51 (1994): 59-73, at p. 60.
  2. ^ Peter Barker and Bernard R. Goldstein, "Distance and Velocity in Kepler's Astronomy", Annals of Science, 51 (1994): 59-73, at p. 73.
  3. ^ Curtis Wilson, "Astronomy and Cosmology," pp. 328-353 in Roy Porter, ed., The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 4, Eighteenth-Century Science, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), at p. 329.

Thoughts on Defining a University[edit]

A History of the University in Europe (1991)[edit]

The university is a European institution, indeed it is the European institution par excellence. There are various reasons for this assertion.
As a community of teachers and taught, accorded certain rights, such as administrative autonomy and the determination and realization of curricula (courses of study) and of the objectives of research as well as the award of publicly recognized degrees, it is a creation of medieval Eurpoe, which was the Europe of papal Christianity. this is shown in the first volume of our history.
It is, moreover, the only European institution which has preserved its fundamental patterns and its basic social role and functions over the course of its history; it has indeed strengthened and extended in these respects....
No other European institution has spread over the entire world in the way in which the traditional form of the European university has done. The degrees awarded by European universities – the bachelor's degree, the licentiate, the master's degree, and the doctorate – have been adopted in the most diverse societies throughout the world. The four medieval faculties of artes – variously called philosophy, letters, arts, arts and sciences and humanities – law, medicine, and theology have survived and have been supplemented by / numerous disciplines, particularly the social sciences and technological studies, but they remain none the less at the heart of universities throughout the world. Even the name of the universitas, which in the Middle Ages was applied to corporate bodies of the most diverse sorts and was accordingly applied to the corporate organization of teachers and students, has in the course of centuries been given a more particular focus: the university, as a universitas literarum, has since the eighteenth century been the intellectual institution which cultivates and transmits the entire corpus of methodically studied intellectual disciplines.[1]
The origin of the first universities is a very complex process,... Bologna or Paris may be called the oldest university depending on the weight which one attributes to one or another of the various elements which make up a university. If one regards the existence of a corporate body as the sole criterion, then Bologna is the oldest, but only by a slight margin. It was in Bologna that, towards the end of the twelfth century, the foreign students of law grouped themselves together as 'nations' and therewith developed a basic organizational form of the medieval European university. If one regards the association of teachers and students of various disciplines into a single corporate body as the decisive criterion, then the oldest university would be Paris, dating from 1208.[2]

Ferruolo, The Origins of the University (1985)[edit]

Three basic characteristics were thought to distinguish this new educational institution from other types of schools. First, it was an enduring and autonomous corporate body. As a formal association with a significant degree of legal autonomy and the right of self-governance, the corporation exercised control over its membership and could make and enforce its own statutes. In this sense, the university was like any other medieval guild or communia. In its specific function, the university was a community engaged in study, a studium.... The second basic characteristic of the university was an emphasis on the sharing and the transmission of knowledge. The professional identity of the university consisted in teaching or being taught. Third, in contrast to other schools, the university was not narrowly specialized in its constitution or in its goals. From early in its history, the university was intended to subsume the specialization of academic disciplines and division of faculties within a broader institutional structure defined by common educational goals and purposes....
Given how the university came to be defined, the decisive step in its development came when masters and scholars of various subjects and with diverse professional objectives first joined together to form a single guild or community.[3]

Colish, Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition (1997)[edit]

Imperial Culture: Byzantium[edit]

In the mid 1040s the higher schools of Byzantium were reformed by imperial order. Two subjects, law and philosophy, were taught. Both the curricula and the teaching staff were subject to imperial scrutiny. The law school had its own buildings, including a library, and offered free tuition, making law the chief career open to men of talent.... Philosophical education did require tuition fees and appears to have been less centrally organized, but it was equally under official control.[4]


  1. ^ Hilde de Ridder-Symoens, ed., Walter Rüegg, General Editor, A History of the University in Europe, vol. 1, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1991) pp. xix-xx ISBN 0-521-54113-1.
  2. ^ Walter Rüegg, "Themes", pp. 3-34 in Hilde de Ridder-Symoens, ed., Walter Rüegg, General Editor, A History of the University in Europe, vol. 1, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1991) p. 6 ISBN 0-521-54113-1.
  3. ^ Stephen C. Ferruolo, The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics, 1100-1215, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1985) pp. 4-5 ISBN 0-8047-1266-2
  4. ^ Marcia Colish, Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 400-1400, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997) p. 127 ISBN 0-300-07852-8

Radiocarbon Precision[edit]

Calibration methods[edit]

The raw radiocarbon dates, in BP years, are therefore calibrated to give calendar dates. Standard calibration curves are available, based on comparison of radiocarbon dates of samples that can be independently dated by other methods such as examination of tree growth rings (dendrochronology), ice cores, deep ocean sediment cores, lake sediment varves, coral samples, and speleothems (cave deposits).

The calibration curves can vary significantly from a straight line, so comparison of uncalibrated radiocarbon dates (e.g., plotting them on a graph or subtracting dates to give elapsed time) is likely to give misleading results. There are also significant plateaus in the curves, such as the one from 11,000 to 10,000 radiocarbon years BP, which is believed to be associated with changing ocean circulation during the Younger Dryas period. Over the historical period from 0 to 10,000 years BP, the average width of the uncertainty of calibrated dates was found to be 335 years, although in well-behaved regions of the calibration curve the width decreased to about 113 years while in ill-behaved regions it increased to a maximum of 801 years. Significantly, in the ill-behaved regions of the calibration curve, increasing the precision of the measurements does not have a significant effect on increasing the accuracy of the dates.[1]

The 2004 version of the calibration curve extends back quite accurately to 26,000 years BP. Any errors in the calibration curve do not contribute more than ±16 years to the measurement error during the historic and late prehistoric periods (0 - 6,000 yrs BP) and no more than ±163 years over the entire 26,000 years of the curve, although its shape can reduce the accuracy as mentioned above.[2]


  1. ^ These results were obtained from a Monte Carlo analysis using simulated measurements of varying precision using the 1993 version of the calibration curve. The width of the uncertainty represents a 2σ uncertainty (that is, a likelihood of 95% that the date appears between these limits. T. R. Niklaus, G. Bonani, M. Sutr, and W. Wölfli, "Systematic investigation of uncertainties in radiocarbon dating due to fluctuations in the calibration curve." Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 92 (1994): 194-200.
  2. ^ Paula J. Reimer et al., "INTCAL04 Terrestrial Radiocarbon Age Calibration, 0–26 Cal Kyr BP", Radiocarbon 46 (2004): 1029-1058; data online at .

Fringe Archaeoastronomy[edit]

Archaeoastronomy owes something of its poor reputation among scholars to its occasional misuse to advance pseudo-historical accounts of the antiquity of certain cultures in certain regions. Since the Nineteenth Century numerous scholars have sought to use archaeoastronomical calculations to demonstrate the antiquity of Ancient Indian Vedic culture, computing the dates of astronomical observations ambiguously described in ancient poetry to as early as 4500 BCE.[citation needed] David Pingree, a historian of Indian astronomy, condemned "the scholars who perpetrate wild theories of prehistoric science and call themselves archaeoastronomers." [1]

A similar example was the attempt by Gallagher,[2] Pyle,[3] and Fell[4] to interpret inscriptions in West Virginia as a description in Celtic Ogham of the supposed winter solstitial marker at the site. The controversial translation was supposedly validated by a problematic archaeoastronomical indication in which the winter solstice Sun shined on an inscription of the Sun at the site. Subsequent interpretations criticized its cultural inappropriateness, as well as its linguistic and archeaoastronomical claims, to describe it as an example of "cult archaeology."[5]


  1. ^ David Pingree, "Hellenophilia versus the History of Science," Isis, 83(1982):554-563, esp. p. 556; reprinted in Michael H. Shank, ed., The Scientific Enterprise in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000), pp.30-39.
  2. ^ Ida Jane Gallagher, "Light Dawns on West Virginia History", Wonderful West Virginia, 47(1983): 7-11.
  3. ^ Robert L. Pyle, "A Message from the Past", Wonderful West Virginia, 47(1983):3-6.
  4. ^ Barry Fell, "Christian Messages in Old Irish Script Deciphered from Rock Carvings in W. Va.", Wonderful West Virginia, 47(1983):12-19.
  5. ^ W. Hunter Lesser, "Cult Archaeology Strikes Again: A Case for Pre-Columbian Irishmen in the Mountain State?", West Virginia Archeologist, 35(1983): 48-52.

Archaeoastronomy and its relations to other disciplines[edit]

"...[O]ne of the the most endearing characteristics of archaeoastronomy is its capacity to set academics in different disciplines at loggerheads with each other." [1]

Reflecting Archaeoastronomy's development as an interdisciplinary subject, research in the field is conducted by investigators trained in a wide range of disciplines. Authors of recent doctoral dissertations have described their work as concerned with the fields of archaeology and cultural anthropology; with various fields of history including the history of specific regions and periods, the history of science and the history of religion; and with the relation of astronomy to art, literature and religion. Only rarely did they describe their work as astronomical, and then only as a secondary category.[2]

Both practicing archaeoastronomers and observers of the discipline approach it from different perspectives. George Gummerman and Miranda Warburton view archaeoastronomy as part of an archaeology informed by cultural anthropology and aimed at understanding a "group’s conception of themselves in relation to the heavens', in a word, its cosmology.[3] Todd Bostwick argued that "archaeoastronomy is anthropology – the study of human behavior in the past and present."[4] Paul Bahn has described archaeoastronomy as an area of cognitive archaeology.[5] Other researchers relate archaeoastronomy to the history of science, either as it relates to a culture's observations of nature and the conceptual framework they devised to impose an order on those observations[6] or as it relates to the political motives which drove particular historical actors to deploy certain astronomical concepts or techniques.[7][8] Art historian Richard Poss took a more flexible approach, maintaining that the astronomical rock art of the US Southwest be read employing "the hermeneutic traditions of western art history and art criticism"[9] Astronomers, however, raise different questions, seeking to provide their students with identifiable precursors of their discipline, and are especially concerned with the important question of how to confirm that specific sites are, indeed, intentionally astronomical.[10]

The reactions of professional archaeologists to archaeoastronomy have been decidedly mixed. Some expressed incomprehension or even hostility, varying from a rejection by the archaeological mainstream of what they saw as an archaeoastronomical fringe to an incomprehension between the cultural focus of archaeologists and the quantitative focus of early archaeoastronomers.[11] Yet archaeologists have increasingly come to incorporate many of the insights from archaeoastronomy into archaeology textbooks[12] and, as mentioned above, some students wrote archaeology dissertations on archaeoastronomical topics.

Since archaeoastronomers disagree so widely on the characterisation of the discipline, they even dispute its name. All three major international scholarly associations relate archaeoastronomy to the study of culture, using the term Astronomy in Culture or a translation. Michael Hoskin sees an important part of the discipline as fact-collecting, rather than theorizing, and proposed to label this aspect of the discipline Archaeotopography.[13] Ruggles and Saunders proposed Cultural Astronomy as a unifying term for the various methods of studying folk astronomies.[14] Others have argued that astronomy is an inaccurate term, what are being studied are cosmologies and people who object to the use of logos have suggested adopting the Spanish cosmovisión.[15]

When debates polarise between techniques, the methods are often referred to by a colour code, based on the colours of the bindings of the two volumes from the first Oxford Conference, where the approaches were first distinguished.[16] Green (Old World) archaeoastronomers rely heavily on statistics and are sometimes accused of missing the cultural context of what is a social practice. Brown (New World) archaeoastronomers in contrast have abundant ethnographic and historical evidence and have been described as 'cavalier' on matters of measurement and statistical analysis.[17] Finding a way to integrate various approaches has been a subject of much discussion since the early 1990s.[18][19]

Further Reply[edit]

I have little to add to AlunSalt's comments, except perhaps to note as background that, as the title of Todd Bostwick's introductory essay to the Oxford 7 proceedings, ""Archaeoastronomy at the Gates of Orthodoxy," implies, Archaeoastronomy has always been trying to establish its credentials as a reputable academic discipline. That makes its practitioners sensitive to fringe elements within the field. The repeated instances where Breadh20 "rail[s] against academic archaeologists" (numerous examples are easily found by searching on "archaeolog") has intimations of the kind of anti-establishment fervor often associated with pseudoarchaeology.
On two specific examples, Breadh2o took exceptional offense when I introduced two examples of "Fringe archaeoastronomy" assuming they were directed at him. In fact, I chose one concerning Vedic Archaeoastronomy because I had seen discussions of the topic elsewhere on Wikipedia and felt it would contribute to those discussions by putting them in a larger context. The other one I chose for the simple reason that I had used the example before in a lecture and had the material conveniently at hand. Breadh2o took that as an opportunity to spring to the defense of Barry Fell against the archaeological establishment.
Breadh2o also asserted that AlunSalt elevated Heinrich Nissen to the pedestal of the first archaeoastronomer because Nissen's work on Greek Temples matched Salt's. In fact, a check of the edit history reveals that AlunSalt's original major revision of the article credited Lockyer as the first archaeoastronomer; only later in response to complaints did he replace Lockyer with Nissen. The accusation was patently false.
The general tenor of Breadh2o's intemperate comments and repeated edits without reliable sources comes close to disruptive editing, but I hope we do not have to ask for the sanctions mentioned there.
A nice quote[edit]

Subject: Re: Ancients Celts in Colorado?
From: Neil Alasdair McEwan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 00:37:21 -0300


It's funny, you don't see Native Americans going about claiming to have put up Stonehenge, do you? We owe them at least the same forbearance in return.



A Place for trans-Atlantic diffusionism[edit]

Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact

Disruptive Editing on Archaeoastronomy[edit]

I am asking admin assistance in dealing with User:Breadh2o's edits since late December on Archaeoastronomy and its talk page, which have constituted a clear case of Disruptive Editing. Let me begin with a little background. The article was highly undocumented until April 2006, when User:Alunsalt performed a major rewrite. As a personal aside, that fine revision was one of the things that drew me to move from being an anonymous editor to editing under my own name. Among my other edits I continued to contribute to Archaeoastronomy, which developed to provide a solidly documented account of the growth, development and content of that complex interdisciplinary field.

Near the end of December, Breadh2o first appeared on Wikipedia (he occasionally edited under the IP[21]. He opened his discussion on the Archaeoastronomy talk page with criticisms of the article's content, criticisms of the alleged suppression of archaeoastronomy by archaeologists, and ad hominem attacks on Alunsalt. Those of us who had been actively involved in the article first thought we would "give him time and space" to improve the article, but it soon became apparent that this was not leading to productive edits, so on 21 March Alunsalt posted an informal request for comments on the five Wikiprojects associated with the article to establish a consensus on POV. Shortly thereafter, on 24-25 March, Breadh2o posted a formal RfC for Science-related articles, questioning abuse by "two academics". As the discussion became increasingly personal, on 30 March Alunsalt tried to address the subject matter of the article by posting a notice on the No Original Research/Noticeboard. In order to get a wide range of comments, friendly notices of these actions were posted on the Talk pages of the five Wikiprojects associated with the article. Despite these friendly notices, only a few editors: User:Alunsalt, User:SteveMcCluskey, User:Breadh2o, and User:DougWeller have participated actively in the discussion. In addition, a few other people have commented, [22] [23] and with the exception of Breadh2o all have endorsed the position of Alunsalt and SteveMcCluskey on the editing of the article. Despite this apparent consensus, Breadh2o repeats the same arguments for his unorthodox thesis.

On 13 April admin User:Kathryn NicDhàna posted a notice on the Administrators' noticeboard / Incidents pointing out, among other things, Breadh2o's OR, POV pushing, and insistence on unencyclopedic tone and questionable sources. On Breadh2o's talk page, another admin, User:Blueboy96, cautioned him against personal attacks and attempting to use Wikipedia as a soapbox; about a week later Kathryn NicDhàna added a warning to the talk page about WP:CIVIL and WP:OWN. A few days afterwards, Breadh20 had dismissed Kathryn NicDhàna's warnings as a case of her choosing "to side with Alun Salt's and Steve McCluskey's [alleged] carte blanche to revert any edit I might attempt."

In the course of the discussion, Breadh2o identified himself as as Scott Monahan, who has "edited for over a decade" an off-wiki site to which he provided a link in the article (see footnote 3), who operates another website, OldNews, concerned with demonstrating that "Plains Indians had visitors from the far side of the Atlantic a thousand years before Columbus," and that he makes his living in internet, broadcast and cable video media, in which he advances these ideas.

Our substantive concern was that Breadh2o's edits were intent upon pushing his own point of view, by using the archaeoastronomy article as a vehicle to propagate the marginally related fringe hypothesis that Celtic people left inscriptions in the Colorado/Oklahoma region and which involves a hostile opposition to the archaeological establishment. Examples of this process included:

  • In his earliest posts on the talk page he made clear his open hostility to archaeology "which looks downward" and his perception that "the agenda of archaeologists or anthropologists" was being used "to summarily veto legitimate inquiry."
  • He presented an original research account of the origins of archaeoastronomy, which sought to place pyramidologists at the origins of the discipline and would conveniently remove archaeologists from any significant role in its establishment.
  • He repeatedly insisted[24][25][26][27][28]that critiques of the archaeological establishment for its refusal to accept diffusionist and other unorthodox ideas was an essential part of the article, placing it successively in two different places.[29][30]
  • He responded to a discussion under fringe archaeoastronomy of a site in West Virginia which was claimed to associate Ogham inscriptions with claimed archaeoastronomical indications, by adding a defense of diffusionism and an attack on the archaeological establishment for stifling dissent.
  • He associated archaeoastronomy with the unorthodox hypothesis that Celtic inscriptions describing astronomical phenomena provide evidence of early trans-Atlantic contact.
  • He engaged in repeated ad hominem attacks against editors who challenged his point of view, Alunsalt, SteveMcCluskey, User:Dougweller at the No Original Research/Noticeboard, against the archaeological community as a group,[31][32] and against the academic system in general.
  • He provided a link to his off-wiki site on which we find an extensive bibliography and long history of disputes going back to 1977 between advocates of Celtic influence in the Southwest and members of the archaeological establishment.
  • He refused to accept an attempt at consensus and in the course of his refusal did not assume good faith, accusing User:Bwwm, a new, but active, editor in articles on the History of Science, of being sockpuppet.

Breadh2o's edits have concentrated almost exclusively on archaeoastronomy; as of 7 April, 277 of his 301 edits have been on archaeoastronomy or its talk page, the other 24 have been on user pages and the No Original Research noticeboard. In contrast, only 104 of Alunsalt's 393 edits have been on archaeoastronomy or its talk page and only 120 of SteveMcCluskey's 4480 edits have been on the archaeoastronomy pages. His pattern of edits suggest that Breadh2o wishes to use Wikipedia as a vehicle to continue his long-running conflict with the academic establishment. This conflict is one of the identifying characteristics of Pseudoarchaeology and the hostile method he employs is characteristic of Disruptive editing. Given the decade-long history of this conflict, the lack of resolution at either the RfC or the No Original Research/Noticeboard, Breadh2o's continued insistence that his unorthodox POV, that "pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact" and claimed "Ogham archaeoastronomy in Colorado and Oklahoma" has something to do with archaeoastronomy, and his repeated expressions of hostility, I doubt that it can be resolved by any of Wikipedia's conflict resolution procedures.

Either Breadh2o should agree to voluntarily refrain from editing on archaeoastronomy and its talk page, or he should be permanently banned from the article and its talk page.

Calling for Closure[edit]

This discussion has been going on, in various venues, for quite some time and we have pretty well reached the point where the same thing is being said over and over again. It is time now to see if we can arrive at consensus. Thus far only a few editors: User:Alunsalt, User:SteveMcCluskey, User:Breadh2o, and User:DougWeller have participated actively in the discussion. In addition, a few other people have commented, [33] [34] [35] and with the exception of Breadh2o all have endorsed the position of Alunsalt and SteveMcCluskey on the editing of the article. Despite this apparent consensus, Breadh2o repeats the same arguments for his unorthodox thesis.

As I read the discussion, Breadh2o stands by himself against the other members of the Wikipdeia community who have expressed their position on these debates. It is time for us to move on and resume editing the article in a productive fashion in accordance with the consensus expressed here.

{{subst:ANI-notice|topic|reason=possible [[WP:DE|Disruptive Editing]] at [[Archaeoastronomy]] and its [[Talk:Archaeoastronomy|talk page]]}} --~~~~

I'm out of here and you are on notice. Breadh2o (talk) 21:34, 24 March 2008 (UTC) [36]
RfC Draft

AN/I Tabulation[edit]

There seems to be something close to a consensus here, but no one has volunteered to summarize the discussion and advise Bradh2o of the consensus. One reason for this reluctance may be the complexity of the discussion so far. Since I called this AN/I it would not be appropriate for me to draft the consensus, but as a step to clarify matters I am tabulating the opinions expressed so far regarding the requested ban. When editors made multiple proposals, I tabulated the most recent one.

Of course, this does not close discussion and there is always time to add further comments.

User / Date Ban Duration Comments
SteveMcCluskey 16:12, 21 April 2008 archastr & talk permanent alternate: voluntary suspension
Breadh2o 16:39, 21 April 2008 (UTC) none n/a
Alun Salt 19:19, 21 April 2008 (UTC) archastr & talk indefinite until shows productive edits
Haemo 22:10, 21 April 2008 (UTC) topic ban some time time to dilute personal conflict
ThuranX 03:54, 24 April 2008 (UTC) topic ban
EdJohnston 20:26, 24 April 2008 (UTC) article apparent consensus
ThuranX 11:40, 25 April 2008 (UTC) topic ban
llywrch 21:35, 25 April 2008 (UTC) article and talk page voluntary for some time
Kathryn NicDhàna 03:30, 26 April 2008 (UTC) topic/article uncertain perhaps indef petition good behavior; bad behavior block

AN/I Ban Archive[edit]

Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive408#Disruptive Editing on Archaeoastronomy


  1. ^ C.L.N. Ruggles. 'Ancient Astronomies - Ancient Worlds', Archaeoastronomy (25): Supplement to the Journal for the History of Astronomy (31), 2000, S86
  2. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, "The Study of Astronomies in Cultures as Reflected in Dissertations and Theses", Archaeoastronomy, 16(2004): 20-25.
  3. ^ George J. Gummerman and Miranda Warburton, "The Universe in Cultural Context: An Essay", pp. 15-24 in John W. Fountain and Rolf M. Sinclair, ed., Current Studies in Archaeoastronomy: Conversations Across Time and Space, (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005), pp. 15-16 ISBN 0-89089-771-9.
  4. ^ Todd W. Bostwick, "Archaeoastronomy at the Gates of Orthodoxy...", pp. 1-10 in Todd Bostwick and Bryan Bates, ed. Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures; Selected Papers from the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, , Pueblo Grande Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15, City of Phoenix, 2006, p. 3. ISBN 1-882572-38-6
  5. ^ P. Bahn. Archaeology: A Very Short introduction, OUP, 1996, 49
  6. ^ Stephen McCluskey, "Etnoscienza dei Pueblo," pp. 1002-1009 in Storia della Scienza, vol. 2, Cina, India, Americhe, Sec. 3, "Le Civilta Precolombiane," (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2001).
  7. ^ Johanna Broda, "Zenith Observations and the Conceptualization of Geographical Latitude in Ancient Mesoamerica: A Historical Interdisciplinary Approach", pp. 183-212 in in Todd Bostwick and Bryan Bates, ed. Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures; Selected Papers from the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, Pueblo Grande Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15, City of Phoenix, 2006. ISBN 1-882572-38-6
  8. ^ Gerardo Aldana, The Apotheosis of Janaab' Pakal: Science, History, and Religion at Classic Maya Palenque," (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2007), pp. 14-15. ISBN 0-87081-855-X
  9. ^ Richard L. Poss, "Interpreting Rock Art: European and Anasazi Representations of Spirituality", pp. 81-98 in John W. Fountain and Rolf M. Sinclair, ed., Current Studies in Archaeoastronomy: Conversations Across Time and Space, (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2005), p. 97. ISBN 0-89089-771-9
  10. ^ Bradley E. Schaefer, "Case Studies of the Three Most Famous Claimed Archaeoastronomical Alignments in America", pp. 27-56 in Todd Bostwick and Bryan Bates, ed. Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures; Selected Papers from the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, Pueblo Grande Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15, City of Phoenix, 2006, p. 30. ISBN 1-882572-38-6
  11. ^ C. L. N. Ruggles, Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), pp. 3-9.
  12. ^ Victor B. Fisher, "Ignoring Archaeoastronomy: A Dying Tradition in American Archaeology", pp. 103-112 in Todd Bostwick and Bryan Bates, ed. Viewing the Sky Through Past and Present Cultures; Selected Papers from the Oxford VII International Conference on Archaeoastronomy, Pueblo Grande Museum Anthropological Papers No. 15, City of Phoenix, 2006, p. 30. ISBN 1-882572-38-6
  13. ^ Michael Hoskin, Tombs, Temples, and Their Orientations: A New Perspective on Mediterranean Prehistory, (Bognar Regis, UK: Ocarina Books, 2001), pp. 13-14. ISBN O-9540867-1-6
  14. ^ C.L.N. Ruggles & N.J. Saunders. 'The Study of Cultural Astronomy',Astronomies and Cultures eds. Clive L.N. Ruggles and Nicholas J. Saunders, University Press of Colorado, 1993. 1-31
  15. ^ C.L.N. Ruggles, Ancient Astronomy, ABC-Clio, 2005, 115-117, ISBN 1851094776
  16. ^ A.F. Aveni. 'Archaeoastronomy: Past, Present and Future', Sky and Telescope 72 (1986): 456
  17. ^ M.A. Hoskin. Tombs, Temples and Their Orientations, Ocarina Books, 2001. 2. ISBN 0-9540867-1-6
  18. ^ C.L.N. Ruggles & N.J. Saunders. 'The Study of Cultural Astronomy',Astronomies and Cultures eds. Clive L.N. Ruggles and Nicholas J. Saunders, University Press of Colorado, 1993. 1-31
  19. ^ S. Iwanisewzski. 'Time and space in social systems - further issues for theoretical archaeoastronomy', Astronomy, Cosmology and Landscape: Proceedings of the SEAC 98 Meeting, Dublin, Ireland, eds Clive Ruggles, Frank Prendergast and Tom Ray. Ocarina Books, 2001. 1-7

Topic Ban Sources[edit]

This is a work in progress, trying to find out where the various tools, lists, and policies are hidden


Article Pages
User Pages

Lists of Banned Users

(see also Wikipedia:General sanctions)

Western Europe in the Middle Ages[edit]

After the significant contributions of Greek scholars to the development of astronomy, it entered a relatively static era in Western Europe from the Roman era through the Twelfth century. This lack of progress has led some astronomers to assert that nothing happened in Western European astronomy during the Middle Ages.[1] Recent investigations, however, have revealed a more complex picture of the study and teaching of astronomy in the period from the Fourth to the Sixteenth centuries.[2]

Western Europe entered the Middle Ages with great difficulties that affected the continent's intellectual production. The advanced astronomical treatises of classical antiquity were written in Greek, and with the decline of knowledge of that language, only simplified summaries and practical texts were available for study. The most influential writers to pass on this ancient tradition were Macrobius, Pliny, Martianus Capella, and Calcidius.[3] In the Sixth Century Bishop Gregory of Tours noted that he had learned his astronomy from reading Martianus Capella, and went on to employ this rudimentary astronomy to describe a method by which monks could determine the time of prayer at night by watching the stars.[4]

In the Seventh Century the English monk Bede of Jarrow published an influential text, On the Reckoning of Time, providing churchmen with the practical astronomical knowledge needed to compute the proper date of Easter using a procedure called computus. This text remained an important element of the education of Clergy from the Seventh Century until well after the rise of the Universities in the Twelfth Century.[5]

The range of surviving ancient Roman writings on astronomy and the teachings of Bede and his followers began to be studied in earnest during the revival of learning sponsored by the emperor Charlemagne.[6] By the Ninth Century rudimentary techniques for calculating the position of the planets were circulating in Western Europe; medieval scholars recognized their technical flaws, but texts describing these techniques continued to be copied, reflecting an interest in the motions of the planets and in their astrological significance.[7]

Building on this astronomical background, in the Tenth Century European scholars such as Gerbert of Aurillac began to travel to the Spain and Sicily to seek out learning which they had heard existed in the Arabic speaking world. Their they first encountered various practical astronomical techniques concerning the calendar and timekeeping, most notably those dealing with the astrolabe. Soon scholars such as Hermann of Reichenau were writing texts in Latin on the uses and construction of the astrolabe and others, such as Walcher of Malvern, were using the astrolabe to observe the time of eclipses in order to test the validity of computistical tables.[8]

By the Twelfth century, scholars were traveling to Spain and Sicily to seek out more advanced astronomical and astrological texts, which they translated from Arabic and Greek to further enrich the astronomical knowledge of Western Europe. The arrival of these new texts coincided with the rise of the universities in medieval Europe, in which they soon found a home.[9] Reflecting the introduction of astronomy into the universities, John of Sacrobosco wrote a series of influential introductory astronomy textbooks: the Sphere, a Computus, a text on the Quadrant, and another on Calculation.[10]

In the 14th century, Nicole Oresme, later bishop of Liseux, showed that neither the scriptural texts nor the physical arguments advanced against the movement of the Earth were demonstrative and adduced the argument of simplicity for the theory that the earth moves, and not the heavens. However, he concluded "everyone maintains, and I think myself, that the heavens do move and not the earth: For God hath established the world which shall not be moved."[11] In the 15th century, cardinal Nicholas of Cusa suggested in some of his scientific writings that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and that each star is itself a distant sun. He was not, however, describing a scientifically verifiable theory of the universe.


  1. ^ Henry Smith Williams, The Great Astronomers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1930), pp. 99-102 describes "the record of astronomical progress" from the Council of Nicea (325 AD) to the time of Copernicus (1543 AD) on four blank pages.
  2. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) ISBN 0-521-77852-2.
  3. ^ Bruce S. Eastwood, Ordering the Heavens: Roman Astronomy and Cosmology in the Carolingian Renaissance, (Leiden: Brill, 2007) ISBN 979-90-04-16186-3.
  4. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 101-110 ISBN 0-521-77852-2.
  5. ^ Faith Wallis, ed. and trans., Bede: The Reckoning of Time, (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004), pp. xviii-xxxiv ISBN 0-85323-693-3
  6. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 131-164 ISBN 0-521-77852-2.
  7. ^ David Juste, "Neither Observation nor Astronomical Tables: An Alternative Way of Computing the Planetary Longitudes in the Early Western Middle Ages," pp. 181-222 in Charles Burnett, Jan P. Hogendijk, Kim Plofker, and Michio Yano, Studies in the Exact Sciences in Honour of David Pingree, (Leiden: Brill, 2004)
  8. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 171-187 ISBN 0-521-77852-2.
  9. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 188-192 ISBN 0-521-77852-2.
  10. ^ Olaf Pedersen, "In Quest of Sacrobosco", Journal for the History of Astronomy, 16(1985): 175-221
  11. ^ Nicole Oresme, Le Livre du ciel et du monde, xxv, ed. A. D. Menut and A. J. Denomy, trans. A. D. Menut, (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Pr., 1968), quotation at pp. 536-7.

Islamic astronomy[edit]

Main article: Islamic astronomy

The Arabic world under Islam had become highly cultured, and many important works of knowledge from ancient Greece were translated into Arabic, used and stored in libraries throughout the area. The late 9th century Persian astronomer al-Farghani wrote extensively on the motion of celestial bodies. His work was translated into Latin in the 12th century.

In the late 10th century, a huge observatory was built near Tehran, Iran, by the astronomer al-Khujandi who observed a series of meridian transits of the Sun, which allowed him to calculate the obliquity of the ecliptic, also known as the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the Sun. In Persia, Omar Khayyám compiled many tables and performed a reformation of the calendar that was more accurate than the Julian and came close to the Gregorian. An amazing feat was his calculation of the year to be 365.24219858156 days long, which is accurate to the 6th decimal place.

Muslim advances in astronomy included the construction of the first observatory in Baghdad during the reign of Caliph al-Ma'mun,[1] the collection and correction of previous astronomical data, resolving significant problems in the Ptolemaic model, the development of universal astrolabes,[2] the invention of numerous other astronomical instruments, the beginning of astrophysics and celestial mechanics after Ja'far Muhammad ibn Mūsā ibn Shākir discovered that the heavenly bodies and celestial spheres were subject to the same physical laws as Earth,[3] the first elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena and the first semantic distinction between astronomy and astrology by Abū al-Rayhān al-Bīrūnī,[4] the use of exacting empirical observations and experimental techniques,[5] the separation of natural philosophy from astronomy by Ibn al-Haytham,[6] the first non-Ptolemaic models by Ibn al-Haytham and Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi, and the first empirical observational evidence of the Earth's rotation by Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī and Ali al-Qushji.[7]

Several Muslim astronomers also considered the possibility of the Earth's rotation on its axis and perhaps a heliocentric solar system.[8][9] It is known that the Copernican heliocentric model in Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus was adapted from the geocentric model of Ibn al-Shatir and the Maragha school (including the Tusi-couple) in a heliocentric context,[10] and that his arguments for the Earth's rotation were similar to those of Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī and Ali al-Qushji.[7] Some have referred to the achievements of the Maragha school as a "Maragha Revolution", "Maragha School Revolution", or "Scientific Revolution before the Renaissance".[11]


  1. ^ Nas, Peter J (1993). Urban Symbolism. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 350. ISBN 9-0040-9855-0. 
  2. ^ Krebs, Robert E. (2004). Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Greenwood Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-3133-2433-6. 
  3. ^ George Saliba (1994). "Early Arabic Critique of Ptolemaic Cosmology: A Ninth-Century Text on the Motion of the Celestial Spheres", Journal for the History of Astronomy 25, p. 115-141 [116].
  4. ^ S. Pines (September 1964). "The Semantic Distinction between the Terms Astronomy and Astrology according to al-Biruni", Isis 55 (3), p. 343-349.
  5. ^ Toby Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science, p. 326. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521529948.
  6. ^ Roshdi Rashed (2007). "The Celestial Kinematics of Ibn al-Haytham", Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 17, p. 7-55. Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ a b F. Jamil Ragep (2001), "Tusi and Copernicus: The Earth's Motion in Context", Science in Context 14 (1-2), p. 145–163. Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1964), An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, (Cambridge: Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press), p. 135-136
  9. ^ Dr. Kasem Ajram (1992). Miracle of Islamic Science, Appendix B. Knowledge House Publishers. ISBN 0911119434.
  10. ^ George Saliba (1999). Whose Science is Arabic Science in Renaissance Europe? Columbia University.
    The relationship between Copernicus and the Maragha school is detailed in Toby Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science, Cambridge University Press.
  11. ^ George Saliba (1994), A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam, p. 245, 250, 256-257. New York University Press, ISBN 0814780237.

Epoch of the Day[edit]

In addition to its usual application to the beginning of the year, the term Epoch can also refer to the beginning of the day. In ordinary usage, the civil day is reckoned by the midnight epoch, that is, the day begins at midnight. In modern astronomical usage, it was common until 1925 to reckon by the noon epoch, in which the day begins when the mean sun crosses the meridian.

In traditional cultures and in antiquity other epochs were used. In ancient Egypt days were reckoned from sunrise to sunrise, following the morning epoch. It has been suggested that this may be related to the fact that the Egyptians regulated their year by the heliacal rising of the star Sirius, a phenomenon which occurs in the morning before dawn.[1]

In cultures following a lunar or lunisolar calendar, in which the beginning of the month is determined by the the appearance of the New Moon in the evening, the beginning of the day was reckoned from sunset to siunset, following the evening epoch. This practice was followed in the Jewish and Islamic calendars[2] and in Medieval Western Europe in reckoning the dates of religious festivals.[3]


  1. ^ Otto Neugebauer, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, (New York: Springer, 1975), p. 1067. ISBN 0-387-06995-X
  2. ^ Otto Neugebauer, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, (New York: Springer, 1975), pp. 1067-1069. ISBN 0-387-06995-X
  3. ^ Bede, The Reckoning of Time, 5, trans. Faith Wallis, (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004), pp. 22-24. ISBN 0-85323-693-3

Second phase[edit]

The second stage in the Easter controversy centres round the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). Granted that the great Easter festival was always to be held on a Sunday, and was not to coincide with a particular age of the moon, which might occur on any day of the week, a new dispute arose as to the determination of the Sunday itself. Shortly before the Nicean Council, in 314, the Provincial council of Arles in Gaul had maintained that the Lord's Pasch should be observed on the same day throughout the world and that each year the Bishop of Rome should send out letters setting the date of Easter.[1]

The Syrian Christians always held their Easter festival on the Sunday after the Jews kept their Pesach. On the other hand at Alexandria, and seemingly throughout the rest of the Roman Empire, the Christians calculated the time of Easter for themselves, paying no attention to the Jews. In this way the date of Easter as kept at Alexandria and Antioch did not always agree. The Jewish communities in some places, possibly including Antioch, used methods of fixing their month of Nisan that sometimes put the 14th day of Nisan before the spring equinox. The Alexandrians, on the other hand, accepted it as a first principle that the Sunday to be kept as Easter Day must necessarily occur after the vernal equinox.

The Council of Nicaea ruled that all churches should follow a single rule for Easter, which should be computed independently of the Jewish calendar, as at Alexandria. However, it did not make any explicit ruling about the details of the computation, and in the subsequent periods various local methods of reckoning the date of Easter were used in Christendom.

One of the most atypical methods is reported in Gaul in the sixth century. This method ignored the relation of Easter to the Lunar Calendar and instead celebrated Easter on a fixed date in the Julian Calendar. According to this reckoning the Crucifixion took place on 25 March, the Equinox in the Roman calendar, and Easter fell two days later celebrating the Resurrection on 27 March.[2]


  1. ^ Charles Jones, Bedae Opera de temporibus, (Cambridge, Mediaeval Academy of America), 1943, p. 25.
  2. ^ Luce Pietri, 1983, pp. 451-3.

Martianus Capella[edit]

De Nuptiis[edit]

This single encyclopedic work, De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii ("On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury"), sometimes called De septem disciplinis ("On the seven disciplines") or the Satyricon[1] , is an elaborate didactic allegory written in a mixture of prose and elaborately allusive verse, a mixture of forms in the manner of the Menippean satires of Varro. The style is wordy and involved, loaded with metaphor and bizarre expressions. The book was of great importance in defining the standard formula of academic learning from the Christianized Roman Empire of the fifth century until the Renaissance of the 12th century. This formula included a medieval love for allegory (in particular personifications) as a means of presenting knowledge, and a structuring of that learning around the seven Liberal Arts.

The book, embracing in résumé form the narrowed classical culture of his time, was dedicated to his son. Its frame story in the first two books relates the courtship and wedding of Mercury (intelligent or profitable pursuit), who has been refused by Wisdom, Divination and the Soul, with the maiden Philologia (learning, but literally "word-lore") who is made immortal, under the protection of the gods, the Muses, the Cardinal Virtues and the Graces. The title refers to the allegorical union of the intellectually profitable pursuit (Mercury) of learning by way of the art of letters (Philology).

Among the wedding gifts are seven maids who will be Philology's servants: they are the seven Liberal Arts: Grammar (an old woman with a knife for excising children's grammatical errors), Dialectic, Rhetoric (a tall woman with a dress decorated with figures of speech and armed in a fashion to harm adversaries), Geometry, Arithmetic, Astronomy and (musical) Harmony. Frances Yates commented that these images correspond closely to the rules for the creation of images for artificial memory.[2] As each art is introduced, she gives an exposition of the principles of the science she represents, thereby providing a summary of the seven liberal arts. Two other arts, Architecture and Medicine, were present at the feast, but since they care for earthly things, they were to keep silent in the company of the celestial deities.

Each book is an abstract or a compilation from earlier authors. The treatment of the subjects belongs to a tradition which goes back to Varro's Disciplinae, even to Varro's passing allusion to architecture and medicine, which in Martianus Capella's day were mechanics' arts, material for clever slaves, but not for senators. The classical Roman curriculum, which was to pass— largely through Martianus Capella's book— into the early medieval period, modified but scarcely revolutionized by Christianity. The verse portions, on the whole correct and classically constructed, are in imitation of Varro.

The eighth book describes a geo-heliocentric astronomical model, in which the Earth is at rest in the center of the universe and circled by the stars and most planets, while Mercury and Venus circle the Sun.[3] This view of Capella's was singled out for praise by Copernicus in Book I of his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.


Martianus Capella can best be understood in terms of the reputation of his book[4]. The work was read, taught, and commented upon throughout the Early Middle Ages, and continued to shape European education during the early medieval period and the Carolingian renaissance.

As early as the end of the fifth century, another African, Fulgentius, composed a work modeled on it. About 534, its dense and convoluted text had already become hopelessly corrupted by scribal errors, according to a note, found in numerous manuscripts, by a certain rhetorician Securus Felix, who was intending to produce an edition.[5] Another sixth century writer, Gregory of Tours, tells that it became virtually a school manual.[6] It was commented upon copiously: by John Scotus Erigena, Hadoard, Alexander Neckham, and Remigius of Auxerre. In the eleventh century the German monk Notker Labeo translated the first two books into Old High German. Martianus continued to play a major role as transmitter of ancient learning until the rise of a new system of learning founded on scholastic Aristotelianism. As late as the thirteenth century Martianus was still credited as having been the efficient cause of the study of astronomy.[7]

Modern interpreters have less interest in Martianus's ideas, "except for the light his work throws on what men in other times and places knew or thought it was important to know about the artes liberales.[8] C. S. Lewis, in his The Allegory of Love, states that "the universe, which has produced the bee-orchid and the giraffe, has produced nothing stranger than Martianus Capella."

The work was edited by Franciscus Vitalis Bodianus and first printed in Vicenza, 1499; its comparatively late date in print, and the modest number of later editions[9] are a marker of its slide in popularity, save as an elementary educational primer in the liberal arts.[10] A modern introduction, focusing on the mathematical arts, is William Harris Stahl, Richard Johnson and E. L. Burge, Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts, Vol. 1: The Quadrivium of Martianus Capella: Latin Traditions in the Mathematical Sciences 50 B.C.-A.D. 1250 Records of Civilization: Sources and Studies, 84, (New York: Columbia University Press), 1971.


  1. ^ On the title see William Stahl, Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts, vol. 1, pp. 21-22.
  2. ^ The Art of Memory, Frances Yates, London 1966
  3. ^ Bruce S. Eastwood, Ordering the Heavens: Roman Astronomy and Cosmology in the Carolingian Renaissance, (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 238-9.
  4. ^ "The most eludicating approach to Martianus is through his fortuna. (Stahl 1965:105).
  5. ^ Stahl 1965:104.
  6. ^ "Our Martianus has instructed us in the seven disciplines" (History of the Franks X, 449, 14)
  7. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1999), p. 159.
  8. ^ M. P. Cunningham, review of Stahl, Johnson and Burge, Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts, Vol. 1: The Quadrivium of Martianus Capella: Latin Traditions in the Mathematical Sciences 50 B.C.-A.D. 1250 in Classical Philology (72.1 (January 1977, pp. 79-80) p. 80.
  9. ^ One, edited and emended by a sixteen-year-old Hugo Grotius, is a tour de force, "one of the more prodigious feats of Latin scholarship", as it was noted by Stahl 1965:104.
  10. ^ Stahl 1965:102.

Misc References[edit]

Laudan, Larry (1983), "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem", in Cohen, R.S.; Laudan, L., Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Essays in Honor of Adolf Grünbaum, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 76, Dordrecht: D. Reidel, pp. 111–127, ISBN 90-277-1533-5 

Logicus Siteban[edit]

Found at WP:AN Archive 206.

Logicus has been editing disruptively at various articles since 2006 (original research, refusal to accept consensus, tendentious editing). Basically he has unorthodox ideas about the history of science and insists upon interpreting primary sources. Similar problems recur wherever he edits. He refuses to engage in dispute resolution; he just ignores it or raises nonexistent procedural objections.

Ample diffs of disruptive editing are available at the second conduct RfC, which is unanimously supported by all involved and uninvolved editors other than Logicus himself. A review of the dispute resolution attempts and User talk:Logicus demonstrates that the problem is much worse than usual for a short block log: when warned for NPA, edit warring, etc. he just switches tactics. His posts are classic Wikipedia:Chunk o' text defense, so since he rebuffs all attempts at engagement am proposing a siteban.

  1. Durova386 22:40, 20 December 2009 (UTC)
  2. LessHeard vanU (talk) 23:27, 20 December 2009 (UTC)
  3. Finell 23:23, 20 December 2009 (UTC)
  4. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 02:05, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
  5. Saddhiyama (talk) 10:35, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
  6. David Wilson (talk · cont) 16:49, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
  7. Guy (Help!) 17:22, 21 December 2009 (UTC)
  8. Georgewilliamherbert (talk) 01:13, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  9. 日本穣? · 投稿 · Talk to Nihonjoe 01:43, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  10. Johnuniq (talk) 07:14, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  11. dave souza, talk 16:03, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  12. Abecedare (talk) 19:22, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  13. Atama 23:15, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
  14. Enric Naval (talk) 14:25, 24 December 2009 (UTC)
  15. Bradjamesbrown (talk) 19:06, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a research university[edit]

Wikipedia has quite different standards than the academic world, and experienced academics (and even those who have only gone through some advanced academic training) can find it hard to internalize these very different standards. I keep coming across things in articles and think, gee, if I took some time to do a little digging into the primary sources I could straighten out this article — WRONG! That's prohibited in Wikipedia.

In part this problem arises from the ways academics are trained. In graduate seminars budding academics are taught to:

  • Prefer primary sources to secondary sources, which is directly prohibited by WP:PRIMARY.
  • Challenge the interpretation of secondary sources by providing one's own interpretation of the evidence, which is directly prohibited by WP:NOR.
  • Strongly advocate ones own findings, which is directly prohibited by WP:NPOV.
  • Challenge the alternative interpretations presented by other members of the seminar, which can conflict with WP:CIVIL.

In Wikipedia we're not engaging in original research, what we do is similar to something that is familiar to most academics: putting together a lecture for beginning students. There, as here, we try to present an overview of the state of knowledge of a particular topic. Of course, in preparing lectures for our own courses we:

  • Emphasize our own favorite take on a topic, which is directly prohibited by WP:NPOV.
  • Incorporate bits of our own latest research, which is directly prohibited by WP:NOR.

Even in this area, the habits of academics can lead us into problems. Acquiring the habit of following Wikipedia's norms takes time but it's worth the effort.

Spheres and Orbs[edit]

I was just reading Pierre Duhem's Le Système du Monde, vol. 2, p. 123, where he presents the following text from Alhazen (in French translation of a Latin translation of the original Arabic): "Les sphères des trois planètes supérieures... sont absolument semblables entre elles, et par le nombre des orbes que les composent...."
Perhaps Duhem's use of these two different synonyms suggests a way out of our problem of counting spheres. Why not consider the planets spheres as made up of numerous consitutuent orbs. This terminological distinction will limit the number of spheres to the seven planetary spheres, the stellar sphere, and the other spheres mentioned in the introductory section, in Grant, and elsewhere. Each planet would then have its constituent orbs resulting in the different totals found for Eudoxus, Callipus, Aristotle, Ptolemy, etc.
The purpose of this suggestion is to adopt terminology that would make a complicated system clearer to a reader.

Reality of Spheres[edit]

"Where does this leave the much disputed question of the reality of the spheres? Everyone [All sixteenth century writers on mathematical astronomy agree] agrees that there are spheres. These may be more precisely described as non-overlapping shells inside which individual planets move. [End Page 252] Such spheres are almost universally accepted features of physics, cosmology, and astronomy. Most people also agree that it is the substance of the heavens confined within these shells that moves a planet from one place to another within its sphere. The boundaries of a planet's sphere may be calculated using eccentric or epicyclic circles to define its maximum and minimum distance from the center of motion. The devices by which the substance of the heavens moves the planet may be visualized by reifying the eccentric or epicyclic circles as partial orbs of various different patterns. Most people also agree that it is impossible, in this life, to discover which pattern of orbs actually exists in the heavens."[1]

Spheres in Copernicus[edit]

"VI. Nicolaus Copernicus, another Ptolemy of our days, has rejected the ninth and tenth orbs, and retains as many of the first eight celestial orbs as our eyes show to us. And he retains the order of that part of the world, except that, leaving the Moon in its orb, he transfers the orb of the Moon enclosing the globe of the elements from the middle of the world to the orb of the Sun, and, in turn, the body of the Sun itself out of its orb, to the middle of the world. And this is the order of the parts of the world according to Copernicus. The Sun is placed in the middle of the world, the orb of Mercury follows, [and] next the orb of Venus. In fourth place [is] the Great Orb, as he calls it himself, now the vehicle of the globe of the elements and the orb of the moon. Above [these] four orbs, from there in order follow the orbs of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and last [the orb] of the fixed stars that for Copernicus is unmoving. This order [End Page 242] is wonderful (mirificus), [but] I will say no more about it now, following the customary order of the parts of the world in these propositions."
"VI. Nicolaus Copernicus nostrae aetatis alter Ptolomaeus, orbes nonum et decimum reijcit, et tantum priores octo orbes coelestes, quot oculi nobis monstrant, retinet, retinet et eundem ordinem partium mundi, nisi quod orbem Lunae cum globo elementari incluso, Luna in suo orbe relicta, transfert ex medio mundi ad orbem Solis, et vicissim ipsum Solis corpus ex suo orbe ad medium mundi. Ut hic sit ordo partium mundi iuxta Copernicum. In medio mundi ponitur Sol, sequitur orbis Mercurii, inde orbis Veneris, Quarto loco orbis magnus, ut ipse vocat, iam vehiculum globi elementaris, et orbis Lunae. Supra quartum orbem, deinde ordine sequuntur orbes Martis, Iovis, Saturni, et ultimus stellarum fixarum Copernico immobilis. Mirificus hic est ordo, de quo iam plura non dicam, sequens in his propositionibus usitatum partium mundi ordinem." (Hildericus 1576, A2v)[2]


  1. ^ Peter Barker and Bernard R. Goldstein, "Realism and Instrumentalism in Sixteenth Century Astronomy: A Reappraisal, Perspectives on Science 6.3 (1998): 232-258, pp. 252-3.
  2. ^ Cited in Peter Barker and Bernard R. Goldstein, "Realism and Instrumentalism in Sixteenth Century Astronomy: A Reappraisal, Perspectives on Science 6.3 (1998): 232-258, pp. 242-3.

Some interesting edits[edit]

Controversies involving Jagged 85[edit]

Other comments about Jagged 85's edits

Presentism / Whig history[edit]

Jagged has been repeatedly cautioned to avoid Presentism -- the tendency to discuss historical actions in modern terms and Whig history -- which leads to a presentist principle of selection in which the editor selects topics to discuss because they can be interpreted as anticipations of modern discoveries.

Despite these repeated discussions, Jagged closed the most recent discussion as if the concept were new to him and took refuge in the notion that he "largely attempted to avoid making claims about medieval scholars that go beyond what the sources suggest." Even if he were citing his sources accurately, which in many cases it has been shown that he did not, he actively chose to select those topics from the many in his sources precisely because they were the ones that made his medieval Islamic scholars sound modern.

A Viral Image[edit]

In January 2008, Jagged 85 added an image of a sundial in Sevilla to the article Astronomy in medieval Islam. As a reading of the Spanish text on the face of the sundial would show, it is neither medieval nor Islamic, but was associated with the Exposicion Hispanoamericana, which was first proposed in 1909 and held in Sevilla in 1929-30.

Jagged added this image at a total of three articles:

Subsequently, the image was added in similar contexts:

This illustrates the way in which misleading information can spread, once it is introduced to Wikipedia. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 13:48, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

In the News[edit]

The campaign to inflate the contributions of Islamic scholars was discussed by James Hannam in The Spectator of 31 Oct. 2009, in an article entitled "Did al-Farabi really invent sociology?" The article was summarized briefly in the Wikipedia Signpost.

Links to this issue[edit]

  1. Talk:List of inventors#Misleading items
  2. Talk:Physics in medieval Islam#Edit war? Article removal/gutting
  3. Talk:Science in the Middle Ages#Unreliable source - material
  4. Talk:Age of the Earth#Misuse of sources
  5. Talk:Women's rights#Women's rights in Islamic law and culture
  6. Talk:Economics#Misuse of sources

Islamic science[edit]

The achievements of Islamic science–and particularly of Islamic astronomy with which I am most familiar–have been recognized for centuries since the publication of Delambre's classic Histoire de l'astronomie du moyen-âge (Paris, 1819). Delambre and his successors have repeatedly chronicled the mathematical sophistication and observational precision of the astronomers who lived and worked in the Muslim world. The assumption that it is somehow legitimate to misinterpret sources in order to further inflate these substantial achievements is deeply insulting to anyone who recognizes the nature and extent of the Islamic contribution to the sciences.

For some, the desire to restore balance by inserting discussions of Islamic achievements, especially of achievements in the sciences, into Wikipedia rests on the assumption that, in the past, European scholars have ignored these achievements. That assumption needs to be critically evaluated. In addition to Delambre's study, mentioned above, more popular studies have continued his pattern, with their discussions of medieval astronomy focusing almost exclusively on the astronomy of the Islamic world.[1][2] Further serious treatments on the sciences in Islam can be found in such sources as the Dictionary of Scientific Biography and the Encyclopedia of Islam.

Turning to more specialized works, I was recently looking at a study of the works of al-Zarqāli. It was published in 1998 as volume 40 of the series of reprints on Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy published by the Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science at the University of Frankfurt. This volume was a collection of more than a century's articles on al-Zarqāli and his influences that had been published by Moritz Steinshneider in Rome, Gustav Eneström in Stockholm, Armin Wittstein in Leipzig, Maxmilian Curtze in Leipzig, Paul Tannery in Montpellier and Paris, Eilhard Wiedemann in Erlangen, José María Millás-Vallicrosa in Rome, Madrid, and Paris, and Toni Schmid in Copenhagen. A cursory examination of the University of Frankfurt Institute's list of publications shows that the reprint series Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy reached to 113 volumes, Islamic Medicine to 99, and Natural Sciences in Islam to 90.

The evidence indicates that for almost two centuries European historians of science have been presenting both the details and the broad overview of the sciences in Islam. Wikipedia articles should be founded on these serious historical sources, which continue to be published by reputable scholars from all continents and with a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The misinterpretation of one's sources has no place in Wikipedia; given the abundance of serious historical scholarship on Islamic science, neither is there any need to turn to unreliable sources.


  1. ^ Arthur Berry, A short history of astronomy, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons), 1910
  2. ^ Anton Pannekoek, A history of astronomy Dover Publications, 1989, ISBN 0486659941

Shape of the Earth Merger Proposal[edit]

It might be worthwhile to consider merging Flat Earth, Spherical Earth, and Shape of the Earth into a single article discussing the development of concepts of the shape of the Earth in different cultures and historical periods. From its earliest versions, the Flat Earth article was involved with nineteenth-century claims that medieval people believed the earth was flat, but that discussion was wisely moved into the article Myth of the Flat Earth. However, as a consequence of these discussions, the article Flat Earth still contains extensive discussions of ancient and medieval discussions of the spherical earth, which were soon duplicated in the article Spherical Earth. More recently, Shape of the Earth was created an extended disambiguation page was created which has come to discuss various interpretations of the Shape of the Earth.

Since these pages are have come increasingly to overlap, I suggest that we consider consolidating all the material in Flat Earth and Spherical Earth (omitting duplications) into the existing article on the Shape of the Earth, reducing the old articles to redirects. The non-historical material in Spherical Earth can be deleted as it duplicates (in abbreviated form) a discussion already found in Earth radius.

Before merging these articles, we should also consider how such an article should be structured. My preference is to arrange it historically as the present articles are, with further divisions into cultural areas. Some may prefer to separate out discussions of the flat earth models from discussions of the spherical earth models, but I think the historical / cultural organization would allow for better discussions of how advocates of these models interacted at specific times and places.

Kepler's Knowledge of Gravity[edit]

The Introductory discussion of how a moving earth could cohere, without an Aristotelian motion of heavy bodies towards the center as its natural place has comments on an attractive force similar to magnetism, which may have been known by Newton.

"Gravity is a mutual affection between cognate bodies towards union or conjunction (similar in kind to the magnetic virtue), so that the earth attracts a stone much rather than the stone seeks the earth. ...If two stones were placed in any part of the world near each other, and beyond the sphere of influence of a third cognate body, these stones, like two magnetic needles, would come together in the intermediate point, each approaching the other by a space proportional to the comparative mass of the other.... If the attractive virtue of the moon extends as far as the earth, it follows with greater reason that the attractive virtue of the earth extends as far as the moon and much farther; and, in short, nothing which consists of earthly substance anyhow constituted although thrown up to any height, can ever escape the powerful operation of this attractive virtue."[1]

Kepler considered that this attraction was mutual and was proportional to the size of the bodies, but he considered it to have a limited range and he did not consider whether or how this force may have varied with distance. Furthermore, this attraction only acted between "cognate bodies"—bodies of a similar nature.[2][3] Kepler's idea differed significantly from Newton's later concept of gravitation and it can be "better thought of as an episode in the struggle for heliocentrism than as a step toward universal gravitation.[4]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Stephenson, Bruce (1994), Kepler's Physical Astronomy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 4–6, ISBN 0-691-03652-7 
  3. ^ Koyré, Alexandre (1973), The astronomical revolution: Copernicus, Kepler, Borelli, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 194–5, ISBN 0-8014-0504-1 
  4. ^ Stephenson, Bruce (1994), Kepler's Physical Astronomy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 5, ISBN 0-691-03652-7 

Greek demarcation[edit]

An early attempt at demarcation can be seen in the efforts of Greek natural philosophers and medical practitioners to distinguish their methods and their accounts of nature from the mythological or mystical accounts of their predecessors and contemporaries.[1] G. E. R. Lloyd notes that there was a sense in which the groups engaged in various forms of inquiry into nature set out to "legitimate their own positions,"[2] laying "claim to a new kind of wisdom ... that purported to yield superior enlightenment, even superior practical effectiveness." Medical writers in the Hippocratic tradition maintained that their discussions were based on necessary demonstrations, a theme developed by Aristotle in his Posterior Analytics.[3] One element of this polemic for science was an insistence on a clear and unequivocal presentation of arguments, rejecting the imagery, analogy, and myth of the old wisdom.[4] Some of their claims to provide valid naturalistic explanations of phenomena do not stand up to close scrutiny.[5]

Revision of Ancient higher-learning institutions[edit]

At present, the article opens with the following introduction:

Ancient higher-learning institutions which give learning an institutional framework date back to ancient times and can be found in many cultures. These ancient centres were typically institutions of philosophical education and religious instruction. They are to be distinguished from the modern Western-style university which is an organizational form originating in medieval Europe and adopted in other world regions since the onset of modern times (see list of oldest universities in continuous operation).[6]

This article, and the related ones concerning universities, have been the source of recurring disputes -- primarily about the exclusion of non western institutions that do not meet the accepted definition of a unity as a self-governing corporate body. I suggest rewriting the lede as follows:

Ancient higher-learning institutions which give learning an institutional framework date back to ancient times and can be found in many cultures. These ancient centres were sponsored and overseen by courts; by religious institutions, for example cathedral schools, monastic schools, and madrasas; by scientific institutions, such as museums, hospitals, and observatories; and by individual scholars. They are to be distinguished from the Western-style university which is an autonomous organization of scholars that originated in medieval Europe[7] and was adopted in other world regions since the onset of modern times (see list of oldest universities in continuous operation).[8]

This section probably still needs some citations, but does it seem to go in the right direction?


  1. ^ Lloyd, G. E. R. (1983), Science, Folklore and Ideology: Studies in the Life Sciences in Ancient Greece, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 79–80, ISBN 0-521-27307-2, Faced with ... competition from a variety of more or less exploitative rival healers, the doctors responsible for many or most of the Hippocratic treatises unite, at least, in their desire to turn the practice of healing into a τἐχνη.... [N]ot only do they reject interference in most cases from priests and prophets, they also criticise many current practices and assumptions. 
  2. ^ Lloyd, G. E. R. (1983), Science, Folklore and Ideology: Studies in the Life Sciences in Ancient Greece, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 215, ISBN 0-521-27307-2 
  3. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1986), The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practice of Ancient Greek Science, Sather Classical Lectures, 52, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 117–118, 141–147, ISBN 0-520-06742-8 
  4. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1986), The Revolutions of Wisdom: Studies in the Claims and Practice of Ancient Greek Science, Sather Classical Lectures, 52, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 213–214, ISBN 0-520-06742-8 
  5. ^ Lloyd, G.E.R. (1979), Magic Reason and Experience: Studies in the Origin and Development of Greek Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–27, ISBN 0-521-29641-2 
  6. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX
  7. ^ Stephen C. Ferruolo, The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics, 1100-1215, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1985) pp. 4-5 ISBN 0-8047-1266-2
  8. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX


The study of scholarship in Islam does not have the depth of the study of medieval universities, but what has emerged is that most scholarship in Islam did not take place in teaching institutions. The texts in the area which I study (the history of astronomy) were produced by scholars who were associated with courts or with religious institutions. David King has pointed out the important role of Muwaqqits (religious timekeepers) in Arabic astronomy, as is reflected in these Wikipedia biographies of Arabic astronomers.[1][2][3][4][5] Sayili, The Observatory in Islam, pointed out another site of research under the patronage of rulers. Perhaps there is modern historical research detailing a similar kind of scholarly research at early Arabic-speaking educational institutions, but it has not been presented in the recurring Wikipedia debates over the University and its origins.


Editor and translator fields for historical sources[edit]

The editor field does not appear to function appropriately for editions of historical (and literary) texts. In such publications a single work is published, but with two creators. One is the author (who lived in the past and had no direct connection with the modern publication) and the editor or translator, who is considered the creator of the modern published work – often because of the interpretative commentaries and notes added to the published edition or translation. The appropriate citation format differs, depending on the information of the title page of the published edition.

When the authors name appears as part of the title (e.g., Bede: The Reckoning of Time, the Chicago style manual recommends that the translator's name should appear in the place of the author (e.g. Wallis, Faith, tr.) which is similar to the usage of the present editor field. Things become stickier when the author and editor (or translator) both appear on the title page: Then the recommended citation format would be: Isidore of Seville, Etymologiarum sive originum, ed. W. M. Lindsay,...

The present editor field seems to be designed for editions which are collected works, with editor(s) and title for the collected work and with different authors and titles for each chapter or section. It apparently can't deal with scholarly editions of historical works where a work with a single title has both an author and an editor. A translator field is also needed to deal with the same situation for translated works.

Can something be done to deal with entries for such edited or translated sources.

Catholic Church and science[edit]

Early Middle Ages[edit]

Skellig Michael, Ireland. Following the Fall of Rome monastic settlements systematically maintained knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages and texts of classical learning.

After the Fall of Rome, while an increasingly Hellenized Roman Empire and Christian religion endured as the Byzantine Empire in the East, the study of nature endured in monastic communities. On the fringes of western Europe, where the Roman tradition had not made a strong imprint, monks engaged in the study of Latin as a foreign language, and actively investigated the traditions of Roman learning.[1]

The leading scholars of the Early Middle Ages were clergymen, for whom the study of nature was but a small part of their scholarly interest. They lived in an atmosphere which provided opportunity and motives for the study of aspects of nature. Some of this study was carried out for explicitly religious reasons. The need for monks to determine the proper time to pray led them to study the motion of the stars,[2] the need to compute the date of Easter led them to study and teach rudimentary mathematics and the motions of the Sun and Moon.[3] Modern readers may find it disconcerting that sometimes the same works discuss both the technical details of natural phenomena and their symbolic significance.[4]

Among these clerical scholars were Bishop Isidore of Seville, who wrote a comprehensive encyclopedia of natural knowledge, the monk Bede of Jarrow, who wrote treatises on The Reckoning of Time and The Nature of Things, Alcuin of York, abbot of the Abbey of Marmoutier, who advised Charlamagne on scientific matters, and Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mainz and one of the most prominent teachers of the Carolingian Age, who, Like Bede, wrote treatises on computus and On the Nature of Things. Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham, who is known mostly for his Old English sermons, wrote a book on the astronomical time reckoning in Old English based on the writings of Bede. Abbo of Fleury was a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. Byrhtferth of Ramsey is credited with the writing of several scientific works.

The first monastery in Western Europe was founded near Poitiers around AD 361. Women also began congregating in groups for religious worship and many learned to read - a rare skill for women in the Roman world - eventually binding as nuns and forming convents.[5] These institutions were to become important centres of scholarship. From Medieval cathedrals and monasteries, many hospitals and universities would later spring.[6]

According to the historian Blainey, Irish monasteries flourished while continental ones struggled following the Fall of Rome. Irish monks like Gallech and Colombanus later set out from centres like Bangor, Ireland to found monasteries across Western Europe which "created libraries at a time when a few hundred handwritten manuscripts of some length constituted a treasure house of learning".[7]


  1. ^ Blainey, Geoffrey (2011), A Short History of Christianity, Camberwell, Vic.: Penguin Group Australia, p. 103, ISBN 9780670075249 
  2. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, "Gregory of Tours, Monastic Timekeeping, and Early Christian Attitudes to Astronomy," Isis, 81(1990):9–22; reprinted in M. H. Shank, ed., The Scientific Enterprise in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000).
  3. ^ Stephen C. McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1998), pp. 149–57.
  4. ^ Faith Wallis, "'Number Mystique' in Early Medieval Computus Texts," pp. 179–99 in T. Koetsier and L. Bergmans, eds. Mathematics and the Divine: A Historical Study (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005).
  5. ^ Geoffrey Blainey; A Short History of Christianity; Penguin Viking; 2011 pp. 96-98.
  6. ^ Geoffrey Blainey; A Short History of Christianity; Penguin Viking; 2011
  7. ^ Geoffrey Blainey; A Short History of Christianity; Penguin Viking; 2011 pp. 103-104.

Math Formatting[edit]

Version one:
<math>1;24,51,10=1+\frac{24}{60}+\frac{51}{60^2}+\frac{10}{60^3}=\frac{30547}{21600}\approx 1.414212\ldots</math>
Version two:
{{math|1;24,51,10 {{=}} 1 + {{sfrac|24|60}} + {{sfrac|51|60<sup>2</sup>}} + {{sfrac|10|60<sup>3</sup>}} {{=}} {{sfrac|30547|21600}} ≈ 1.414212…}}
1;24,51,10 = 1 + 24/60 + 51/602 + 10/603 = 30547/21600 ≈ 1.414212…

Astronomical Unit[edit]

The IAU 1976 System of Astronomical Constants listed the astronomical unit as a derived constant, using the symbol A:

"The astronomical unit of length is that length (A) for which the Gaussian gravitational constant (k) takes the value of 0.01720209895 when the units of measurements are the astronomical unit of length, mass and time. The dimensions of k2 are those of the constant of gravitation (G), i.e., L3M-1T-2. The term 'unit distance' is also used for the length A." It then went on to list among the Derived constants:

"Unit distance cτA = A = 1.495 978 70 x 1011", where τA is the light-time for unit distance.

(Transactions of the International Astronomical Union - Volume VXIB, Proceedings of the Sixteenth General Assembly, Grenoble 1976).

In 1977, the BIPM did not endorse any abbreviation for the astronomical unit:

"This unit does not have an international symbol; abbreviations are used, for example AU in English, UA in French, AE in German, a.e.Д in Russian, etc." (The International System of Units (SI) (Translation approved by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures of its publication Le Système Intermational d'Unités [3rd ed., 1977]), NBS Special Publication 330, 1977).

19th Century[edit]

In 1834, a few years after the publication of Irving's book, Jean Antoine Letronne, a French academic of strong antireligious ideas, misrepresented the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers.[1] Then, in 1837, the English philosopher of science William Whewell first identified, in his History of the Inductive Sciences,Lactantius (245–325, also mocked by Copernicus in De revolutionibus of 1543, as someone who speaks quite childishly about the Earth's shape, when he mocks those who declared that the Earth has the form of a globe) and the minimally significant Cosmas Indicopleustes, who wrote his "Christian Topography" in 547–549. Whewell pointed to them as evidence of a medieval belief in a Flat Earth, and other historians quickly followed him, although they could identify few other examples.[2]

After Whewell, the American chemist John William Draper wrote a History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874), employing the claim that the early Church fathers thought the earth was flat as evidence of the hostility of the Church to the advancement of science.[3] Draper's conflict thesis was transformed in 1896 by Andrew Dickson White's two-volume History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, which exaggerated the number and significance of medieval flat earthers to support White's model of warfare between dogmatic theology and scientific progress.[4] As Draper and White's metaphor of ongoing warfare between the scientific progress of the Enlightenment and the religious obscurantism of the "Dark Ages" became widely accepted, it spread the idea of medieval belief in the flat earth.[5]

The widely circulated engraving of a man poking his head through the firmament surrounding the Earth to view the Empyrean, executed in the style of the 16th century was published in Camille Flammarion's L'Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888, p. 163).[6] The engraving illustrates the statement in the text that a medieval missionary claimed that "he reached the horizon where the Earth and the heavens met". In its original form, the engraving included a decorative border that places it in the 19th century; in later publications, some claiming that the engraving did, in fact, date to the 16th century, the border was removed. Flammarion, according to anecdotal evidence, had commissioned the Flammarion engraving himself.


Infinite Earth[edit]

The texts from which you are apparently drawing this inference of a flat earth are as follows
"Others, who incln'd more to cosmographical reason, said that the world was so prodigous great, that it was incredible three years sail would bring him to the end of the east, whither he design'd his voyage, and to corroborate their opinion, they brought the authority of Seneca, who in one of his works, by way of argument, said, that many wise men among them disagreed about this question, whether the earth were infinite, and doubted whether it could be sail'd, and tho' it were navigable, whether habitable lands would be found on the other side, and whether they could be gone to. They added, that of this lower globe of earth and water...." (Ferdinand Columbus, p. 520).
"Others concluded, that either he would find the ocean to be of infinite extent, according to the opinion of some ancient philosophers; of, if he should persist in steering towards the west beyond a certain point, that the convex vigure of the globe would prevent his return, and that he must inevitably perish,in the vain attempt to open a communication between the two opposite hemispheres,..." (Robertson, The History of America, p. 88).
Although both of these texts introduce the argument that some philosophers (F. Columbus mentions Seneca) maintained that the earth was infinite
  • infinity does not necessarily imply flatness, philosophers discussed infinite spheres.
  • the discussions of infinity are directly coupled with discussions of the sphericity of the earth.
To infer from these texts that they were arguments for a flat earth smacks of original research, especially without testimony from modern historians who have examined these texts and find them to support a flat earth cosmology.

Newton on his precursors[edit]

Many of the important figures of the scientific revolution, however, shared in the Renaissance respect for ancient learning and cited ancient pedigrees for their innovations. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543),[1] Kepler (1571–1630),[2] Newton (1642–1727),[3] and Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)[4][5][6][7] all traced different ancient and medieval ancestries for the heliocentric system. In the Axioms Scholium of his Principia, Newton said its axiomatic three laws of motion were already accepted by mathematicians such as Huygens (1629–1695), Wallace, Wren, and others. While preparing a revised edition of his Principia, Newton attributed his law of gravity and his first law of motion to a range of historical figures.[8][9] Although intimations of the concept of of inertia are suggested counterfactually in Aristotle's discussion of motion,[10][11] the salient point is that Newton's understanding differed in key ways, such as an external force being a requirement for violent motion in Aristotle's theory.[12]

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── This discussion raises two related issues.

  • First, it refers to Newton's "unpublished notes", which have since been published by Hall and Hall. Since they have now been published and are widely available they do not fall under Wikipedia's policy against using Unpublished materials.
  • The other issue concerns the use of primary sources. We have two primary sources here, Newton's claim that his law of inertia can be found in Aristotle and Aristotle's Physics itself. Here we come up against Wikipedia's policy about using primary sources, which says:
primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia; but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them. Any interpretation of primary source material requires a reliable secondary source for that interpretation. (my emphasis)

The overall consensus of historians of science is that Aristotle's Physics does not maintain anything like the principal of inertia but requires the continual action of a motive power of some sort to keep a body in motion. The overall thrust of the discussion in Physics IV.viii (214b29-215a24) is to demonstrate the falsity of the hypothesis that a void exists. One of Aristotle's arguments is that if a void existed (which it does not) motion would continue indefinitely (which is absurd).

Drawing on that, Newton's claim that his principle of inertia can be found in the ancients is a part of his practice of "poring over the fragments of the ancients and elaborating dubious genealogies for his doctrines" (McGuire and Rattansi, p. 127). As his modern editors, Hall and Hall (p. 309) said, "Newton was prepared to find antecedents for the First Law of Motion not merely in the moderns, Galileo and Descartes, but in the ancients, Lucretius and Aristotle--an historical impulse which he later overcame."

These (and other) secondary sources indicate that we should not take Newton's historical interpretations of his ancient predecessors at face value.


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference copernican was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference revolutionibus was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference rattansi was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference Galileo was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ Cite error: The named reference Espinoza was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference Moody was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference Clagett was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ J. E. McGuire and P. M. Rattansi, "Newton and the 'Pipes of Pan'," Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 21, No. 2. (Dec., 1966), pp. 108-143
  9. ^ Cite error: The named reference Unpublished_Scientific_Papers_of_Isaac_Newton was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  10. ^ Cite error: The named reference Sorabji2005 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ Thomas L. Heath, Mathematics in Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949), pp. 115-6.
  12. ^ Stillman Drake (1964). "Galileo and the Law of Inertia", American Journal of Physics 32 (8), p. 601-608.

Historians' Perspectives[edit]

Many historians of science are concerned with the development of science from its primitive origins; consequently they define define science in sufficiently broad terms to include early forms of natural knowledge. In the article on science in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, the scientist and historian William Cecil Dampier Whetham defined science as "ordered knowledge of natural phenomena and of the relations between them."[1] In his study of Greek science, Marshall Clagett defined science as "first, the orderly and systematic comprehension, description and/or explanation of natural phenomena and, secondly, the [mathematical and logical] tools necessary for the undertaking."[2] A similar definition appeared more recently in David Pingree's study of early science: "Science is a systematic explanation of perceived or imaginary phenomena, or else is based on such an explanation. Mathematics finds a place in science only as one of the symbolical languages in which scientific explanations may be expressed." [3] These definitions tend to focus more on the subject matter of science than on its method, and under such definitions the philosophical concern with the demarcation problem almost vanishes.


  1. ^ Dampier Whetham, William Cecil (1911), "Science", Encyclopædia Britannica, New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 
  2. ^ Clagett, Marshall (1963), Greek Science in Antiquity, New York: Collier Books, p. 4 
  3. ^ Pingree, David (1992), "Hellenophilia versus the History of Science", Isis, 83: 554–563 

Bruno's Cosmology[edit]

Here are a few passages from Bruno on his cosmology:

"True stars are not fixed to epicycles, but each is fixed to its very own center and is driven by its own soul where it pleases." (De immenso)

"Since the Earth is a kind of divine animal, and has its own soul as a principle, it is truly appropriate that the daily motion, which appears to be a universal motion, should have its motor in its center than be in any other thing at the circumference." (Acrostismus)

"Make then your forecasts, my lords astrologers, with your slavish physicists, by means of those astrolabes with which you seek to discern the fantastic nine moving spheres.... We know that the Supreme Ruler cannot have a seat so narrow, so miserable a throne, so straight a tribunal, so scanty a court,... He is glorified not in one, but in countless suns; not in a single earth, a single world, but in a thousand thousand, I say in an infinity of worlds." (De l'infinito universo e mondi)

Diamond's Notability?[edit]

I added the template raising the question of notability. The subject's main career is that of an attorney, and from the description given he seems to have had a successful, but not out of the ordinary career. There are no specific guidelines for that career and the basic criteria for Notability address the adequacy of sourcing, but say nothing about what constitutes notability within his profession. However, when we consider two areas where specific guidance is given, the subject seems to fall short.

  • He has held public office, and so fits under the Notability Guidelines for politicians. However, he has only held local office and does not seem to meet the criterion of being a "Major local political figure"; rather he falls under the caution that "Just being an elected local official ... does not guarantee [political] notability."

I would like to see some evidence showing the subject has been recognized for notable activity in his principal profession.

This article is troubling as it seems to be a promotional piece written by the subject, thereby violating the guidelines of WP:Autobiography and self promotion It was properly submitted and approved under the Articles for creation process, but a search does not indicate any discussion of the submitted article before its approval.

A review of User contributions to the article indicates that 87% of the edits were made by the User:jamesdaviddiamond, the subject of the article (the percentage becomes higher if we delete bot edits) and conversely, 128 of jamesdaviddiamond's 164 edits (i.e., 78%) were to his autobiographical article. This looks suspiciously like a Single Purpose Account.

When one considers the question of notability, there are three categories to consider. The subject is an attorney, a political figure, and an educator.

  • There are no formal notability criteria for attorneys and similar professionals, and therefore he falls under the general notability guidelines which caution that "significant coverage in reliable sources creates an assumption, not a guarantee, that a subject should be included." Examination of the content of the subject's documented activities indicate that has held what looks like a standard career of a professional attorney. There seems no sign of any out of the ordinary distinctions that would make him a notable attorney; the reference to his designation as a “Connecticut Superlawyer”[1] links to what looks like a directory of attorneys deemed to be qualified in certain specialties, rather than a noteworthy attorney.
  • He has held public office, and so fits under the Notability Guidelines for politicians. However, he has only held local office and does not seem to meet the criterion of being a "Major local political figure"; rather he falls under the caution that "Just being an elected local official ... does not guarantee [political] notability."

As the guideline about autobiographies cautions, "People will write overly positive impressions of themselves." This article seems to suffer from such inflation of perceptions.


  1. ^ "". 2014-02-15. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 

Prehistoric Europe[edit]

Main article: Archaeoastronomy

In the forty years since the joint Royal Society / British Academy conference on the place of astronomy in the ancient world, our understanding of the astronomical practices of prehistoric Europe has been radically changed. New interpretations of the astronomical significance of ancient sites and artifacts have strengthened the case that observations of the rising and setting of the Sun and Moon played important roles in prehistoric cultures.

The Thaïs Bone, dated as early as 12,000 BP and marked with what appear to be lunar tallies, provides some of the earliest European evidence for early concern with keeping track of the phases of the moon in something like a lunar calendar.[1]

in Central Europe. Bronze Age Central Europeans had a sophisticated grasp of mathematics and astronomy. According to Berlin archaeologist Klaus Goldmann, "European civilization goes further back than most of us ever believed." [2]

Among these recent discoveries is the world's oldest observatory. Located in Germany, it is known as the Goseck circle, and discovered in 1991. The enclosure is one of hundreds of similar wooden circular Henges built throughout Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic during a 200-year period around 4,900 BC. While the sites vary in size--the one at Goseck is around 220 feet in diameter--they all have the same features: A narrow ditch surrounds a circular wooden wall, with a few large gates equally spaced around the outer edge. While scholars have known about the enclosures for nearly a century, they were puzzled by their exact function within the Stroke-Ornamented Pottery culture (known by its German acronym, STK) that dominated Central Europe at the time. The Goseck Henge is currently the oldest official 'Solar observatory' in the world. On the winter solstice, the sun can be seen to rise and set through the Southern gates from the centre. It has been observed that the entrances get progressively smaller the closer to the centre one gets, which would have concentrated the sun's rays into a narrow path.

Being on the same latitude as Stonehenge means that 'astronomers' would have also benefited from viewing the extremes of the sun and moon at right angles to each other. The Goseck circle is also sitting on one of two unique latitudes in the world at which the full moon passes directly overhead on its maximum Zeniths. [3] [4] [5]

The Nebra sky disk Germany 1600 BC

The Nebra sky disk dates from 1600 BCE. Found in 1999, not far from the Goseck circle, it is one of the most important archaeological finds of the past century. It displays the world's oldest known concrete depiction of astronomical phenomena [6][7] and was used as an advanced astronomical clock.

According to astronomer Wolfhard Schlosser of the Ruhr University Bochum, the Bronze Age Europeans already knew what the Babylonians would describe a thousand years later.[8]

Also in Germany is the Magdalenenberg moon calendar discovered in 2011, under the Royal Tomb at Magdalenenberg, in Germany’s Black Forest. It is the largest Hallstatt tumulus grave in central Europe, measuring over 320ft (100m) across and (originally) 26ft (8m) high. Its central grave was robbed in antiquity. More recent excavations have recovered the locations of numerous secondary burials placed around the edges of the mound and of various timber structures, including rows of wooden posts. There is nothing random about the secondary graves, which might be those of relatives or retainers, buried as they died during the years that followed their leader’s funeral. The order of the burials around the central royal tomb fits exactly the pattern of the constellations visible in the northern hemisphere at Midsummer in 618 BC, while the timber alignments mark the position not of the sunrise and sunset but of the moon, and notably the Lunar Standstill. It is the earliest and most complete example of a Celtic calendar focused on the moon, and that following Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, Gallic culture was destroyed and these types of calendar were completely forgotten in Europe, to be replaced by the Roman sun-based calendar. [9][10]


Carahunge Investigations[edit]

File:The change of Earth Axis Incline and Eras evolution (The Carahunge Period).png
The change of Earth Axis Incline and Eras evolution (The Carahunge Period) - Paris Herouni

Investigation by radiophysicist Paris Herouni and his research team during 1994-2001 concluded that Carahunge is the world's oldest astronomical observatory.[1]

Zorats Karer was investigated in 2000 by archaeologists from the Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie, University of Munich, as part of a field survey of prehistoric sites in southern Armenia. They identified the site as a necropolis dating mainly from the Middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age, finding enormous stone tombs from those periods within the area. Team leader Stephan Kroll also concluded that the lines of stones were actually the remains of a city wall, possibly from the Hellenistic-period, that had been constructed mostly of rubble and loam, and in which the upright stones had acted as reinforcements.[2][3]

Archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles wrote that 'Inevitably there have been other claims—more speculative and less supportable—relating to the astronomical significance of the site. One is that it can be astronomically dated to the sixth millennium BCE and direct comparisons with Stonehenge, which few now believe was an observatory, are less than helpful.'[4]

A recent critical assessment found several problems with the archaeoastronomical interpretations of the site. The northeast avenue, which extends about 50 meters from the center, has been variously claimed to be associated with the summer solstice, the major northern lunistice, or the rising of Venus.[5] Harouni had claimed that in order to use the holes in the megaliths for astronomical observations, it would have been necessary to restrict the field of vision by inserting a narrow tube in the existing perforations. Without these modifications, for which there is no archaeological evidence, the claimed astronomical significance of the orientations of the holes vanishes. As a consequence, González-Garcia concluded that the archaeoastronomical claims for the site are untenable.[6]


  1. ^ Paris Herouni, Armenians and Old Armenia, Yerevan, 2004.
  2. ^ "2000 Survey in Southern Armenia". 
  3. ^ "2000 Survey in Southern Armenia". Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. 
  4. ^ Ruggles (2005), pp. 65–67.
  5. ^ González-Garcia, A. César (2014), "Carahunge - A Critical Assessment", in Ruggles, Clive L. N., Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, New York: Springer Science+Business Media, p. 1455, doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6141-8_140, ISBN 978-1-4614-6140-1 
  6. ^ González-Garcia, A. César (2014), "Carahunge - A Critical Assessment", in Ruggles, Clive L. N., Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, New York: Springer Science+Business Media, pp. 1453–1460, doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6141-8_140, ISBN 978-1-4614-6140-1 

History of Math Refs[edit]

Pingree, David (1992), "Hellenophilia versus the History of Science", Isis, 83 (4): 562, JSTOR 234257, One example I can give you relates to the Indian Mādhava's demonstration, in about 1400 A.D., of the infinite power series of trigonometrical functions using geometrical and algebraic arguments. When this was first described in English by Charles Whish, in the 1830s, it was heralded as the Indians' discovery of the calculus. This claim and Mādhava's achievements were ignored by Western historians, presumably at first because they could not admit that an Indian discovered the calculus, but later because no one read anymore the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, in which Whish's article was published. The matter resurfaced in the 1950s, and now we have the Sanskrit texts properly edited, and we understand the clever way that Mādhava derived the series without the calculus; but many historians still find it impossible to conceive of the problem and its solution in terms of anything other than the calculus and proclaim that the calculus is what Mādhava found. In this case the elegance and brilliance of Mādhava's mathematics are being distorted as they are buried under the current mathematical solution to a problem to which he discovered an alternate and powerful solution.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

Bressoud, David (2002), "Was Calculus Invented in India?", College Mathematics Journal, 33 (1): 12, There is no evidence that the Indian work on series was known beyond India, or even outside Kerala, until the nineteenth century. Gold and Pingree assert [4] that by the time these series were rediscovered in Europe, they had, for all practical purposes, been lost to India. The expansions of the sine, cosine, and arc tangent had been passed down through several generations of disciples, but they remained sterile observations for which no one could find much use. 

Plofker, Kim (2001), "The 'Error' in the Indian "Taylor Series Approximation" to the Sine", Historia Mathematica, 28 (4): 293, doi:10.1006/hmat.2001.2331, It is not unusual to encounter in discussions of Indian mathematics such assertions as that 'the concept of differentiation was understood [in India] from the time of Manjula (... in the 10th century)' [Joseph 1991, 300], or that 'we may consider Madhava to have been the founder of mathematical analysis' (Joseph 1991, 293), or that Bhaskara II may claim to be 'the precursor of Newton and Leibniz in the discovery of the principle of the differential calculus' (Bag 1979, 294).... The points of resemblance, particularly between early European calculus and the Keralese work on power series, have even inspired suggestions of a possible transmission of mathematical ideas from the Malabar coast in or after the 15th century to the Latin scholarly world (e.g., in (Bag 1979, 285)).... It should be borne in mind, however, that such an emphasis on the similarity of Sanskrit (or Malayalam) and Latin mathematics risks diminishing our ability fully to see and comprehend the former. To speak of the Indian 'discovery of the principle of the differential calculus' somewhat obscures the fact that Indian techniques for expressing changes in the Sine by means of the Cosine or vice versa, as in the examples we have seen, remained within that specific trigonometric context. The differential 'principle' was not generalized to arbitrary functions—in fact, the explicit notion of an arbitrary function, not to mention that of its derivative or an algorithm for taking the derivative, is irrelevant here  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

User template test[edit]

Jrb416 (talk · contribs · deleted contribs · blacklist hits · what links to user page · count · COIBot · user page logs · x-wiki · status · Edit filter search · Google · StopForumSpam)

According to the X! Edit counter Jrb416's edits have concentrated almost exclusively on four articles related to the Tradition, Family, and Property movement. Examination of the Page Histories for those four articles indicates that Jrb416 is the most important editor for the articles on the American TFP and America Needs Fatima, contributed the most edits to the article on Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, and the second greatest number of edits to the article on Tradition, Family and Property. Since it has been previously suggested twice that Jrb416 (talk · contribs) may be associated with TFP and have a conflict of interest, this use of a Single Purpose Account and the dominant role of this editor on these four articles reflects advocacy for the TFP movement and approaches the boundaries of Wikipedia policy on ownership of articles. It should be monitored carefully.

According to the X! Edit counter your edits have concentrated almost exclusively on four articles related to the Tradition, Family, and Property movement. Examination of the Page Histories for those four articles indicates that you are the most important editor for the articles on the American TFP and America Needs Fatima, contributed the most edits to the article on Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, and the second greatest number of edits to the article on Tradition, Family and Property. Since it has been previously suggested here and elsewhere that you may be associated with TFP and have a conflict of interest, this use of a Single Purpose Account and your dominant role on these four articles reflects advocacy for the TFP movement and approaches the boundaries of Wikipedia policy on ownership of articles. I suggest you read WP:COI regarding the limits on editing by editors with a conflict of interest.

Independent Sources[edit]

This article (and related articles concerning the TFP movement) have been flagged for being based on web sites and other sources closely related to the subject. A previous editor defended this practice with the comment "The best practice for analysis is drawn from what an organization says about itself." This, however, violates Wikipedia policy that requires that "topics must be verifiable with independent, third-party sources." Wikipedia's verifiability policy spells out that self published sources may be used for information about the subject itself, as long as these claims are not self-serving or make claims about third parties.

A recent edit changed a description of TFP's "protests against films and plays that it views as blasphemous" to "protests against blasphemous films and plays", thereby accepting the assertions of TFP and its sources as factual. I have reverted this edit, since no evidence has been presented that there is a general acceptance by independent reliable sources that these films and plays were, in fact, blasphemous.

Bologna School[edit]

The Bologna School is a historical school of ecclesiastical history that produced an "international, multiauthored, and respected" 5-volume history of the Second Vatican Council, that "has become the standard for a complex and international history of an ecumenical council." which largely supportive of the so-called hermeneutic of rupture, creating a pre-Conciliar and post-Conciliar period. The leading minds of this historical school have been Alberto Melloni and Giuseppe Alberigo. The term "Bologna School" was applied polemically to the work of this group by neo-conservative critics.

LCWR Closure Refs[edit]

Here are a few recent publications from the religious media (or from religious writers for the mainstream media) that provide a range of takes on the closure of the inquiry by the CDF into the LCWR. I've arranged them roughly from those that favor the LCWR to those that favor the CDF's investigation.

History [of the University][edit]

The University of Bologna is the oldest University in history, founded in 1088.


The original Latin word "universitas" refers in general to "a number of persons associated into one body, a society, company, community, guild, corporation, etc."[1] At the time of the emergence of urban town life and medieval guilds, specialised "associations of students and teachers with collective legal rights usually guaranteed by charters issued by princes, prelates, or the towns in which they were located" came to be denominated by this general term. Like other guilds, they were self-regulating and determined the qualifications of their members.[2]

In modern usage the word has come to mean "An institution of higher education offering tuition in mainly non-vocational subjects and typically having the power to confer degrees,"[3] with the earlier emphasis on its corporate organization considered as applying historically to Medieval universities.[4]

The original Latin word referred to degree-granting institutions of learning in Western and Central Europe, where this form of legal organisation was prevalent, and from where the institution spread around the world.

Academic freedom[edit]

An important idea in the definition of a university is the notion of academic freedom. The first documentary evidence of this comes from early in the life of the first university. The University of Bologna adopted an academic charter, the Constitutio Habita,[5] in 1158 or 1155,[6] which guaranteed the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education. Today this is claimed as the origin of "academic freedom".[7] This is now widely recognised internationally - on 18 September 1988 430 university rectors signed the Magna Charta Universitatum,[8] marking the 900th anniversary of Bologna's foundation. The number of universities signing the Magna Charta Universitatum continues to grow, drawing from all parts of the world.

Medieval universities[edit]

European higher education took place for hundreds of years in Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools (Scholae monasticae), in which monks and nuns taught classes; evidence of these immediate forerunners of the later university at many places dates back to the 6th century AD.[9] The earliest universities were developed under the aegis of the Latin Church by papal bull as studia generalia and perhaps from cathedral schools. It is possible, however, that the development of cathedral schools into universities was quite rare, with the University of Paris being an exception. (See Leff, Paris and Oxford Universities.) Later they were also founded by Kings (University of Naples Federico II, Charles University in Prague, Jagiellonian University in Kraków) or municipal administrations (University of Cologne, University of Erfurt). In the early medieval period, most new universities were founded from pre-existing schools, usually when these schools were deemed to have become primarily sites of higher education. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries.[10]

The first universities in Europe with a form of corporate/guild structure were the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (c. 1150, later associated with the Sorbonne), the University of Oxford (1167), the University of Modena (1175), the University of Palencia (1208), the University of Cambridge (1209), the University of Salamanca (1218), the University of Montpellier (1220), the University of Padua (1222), the University of Naples Federico II (1224), and the University of Toulouse (1229).[11][12]

The University of Bologna began as a law school teaching the ius gentium or Roman law of peoples which was in demand across Europe for those defending the right of incipient nations against empire and church. Bologna's special claim to Alma Mater Studiorum[clarification needed] is based on its autonomy, its awarding of degrees, and other structural arrangements, making it the oldest continuously operating institution[6] independent of kings, emperors or any kind of direct religious authority.[13][14]

Meeting of doctors at the University of Paris. From a medieval manuscript.

The conventional date of 1088, or 1087 according to some,[15] records when Irnerius commences teaching Emperor Justinian's 6th century codification of Roman law, the Corpus Iuris Civilis, recently discovered at Pisa. Lay students arrived in the city from many lands entering into a contract to gain this knowledge, organising themselves into 'Nationes', divided between that of the Cismontanes and that of the Ultramontanes. The students "had all the power … and dominated the masters".[16][17]

In Europe, young men proceeded to university when they had completed their study of the trivium–the preparatory arts of grammar, rhetoric and dialectic or logic–and the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

All over Europe rulers and city governments began to create universities to satisfy a European thirst for knowledge, and the belief that society would benefit from the scholarly expertise generated from these institutions. Princes and leaders of city governments perceived the potential benefits of having a scholarly expertise develop with the ability to address difficult problems and achieve desired ends. The emergence of humanism was essential to this understanding of the possible utility of universities as well as the revival of interest in knowledge gained from ancient Greek texts.[18]

The rediscovery of Aristotle's works - more than 3000 pages of it would eventually be translated - fuelled a spirit of inquiry into natural processes that had already begun to emerge in the 12th century. Some scholars believe that these works represented one of the most important document discoveries in Western intellectual history.[19] Richard Dales, for instance, calls the discovery of Aristotle's works "a turning point in the history of Western thought."[20] After Aristotle re-emerged, a community of scholars, primarily communicating in Latin, accelerated the process and practice of attempting to reconcile the thoughts of Greek antiquity, and especially ideas related to understanding the natural world, with those of the church. The efforts of this "scholasticism" were focused on applying Aristotelian logic and thoughts about natural processes to biblical passages and attempting to prove the viability of those passages through reason. This became the primary mission of lecturers, and the expectation of students.

Sapienza University of Rome is the largest university in Europe and one of the most prestigious European University.[21]

The university culture developed differently in northern Europe than it did in the south, although the northern (primarily Germany, France and Great Britain) and southern universities (primarily Italy) did have many elements in common. Latin was the language of the university, used for all texts, lectures, disputations and examinations. Professors lectured on the books of Aristotle for logic, natural philosophy, and metaphysics; while Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna were used for medicine. Outside of these commonalities, great differences separated north and south, primarily in subject matter. Italian universities focused on law and medicine, while the northern universities focused on the arts and theology. There were distinct differences in the quality of instruction in these areas which were congruent with their focus, so scholars would travel north or south based on their interests and means. There was also a difference in the types of degrees awarded at these universities. English, French and German universities usually awarded bachelor's degrees, with the exception of degrees in theology, for which the doctorate was more common. Italian universities awarded primarily doctorates. The distinction can be attributed to the intent of the degree holder after graduation – in the north the focus tended to be on acquiring teaching positions, while in the south students often went on to professional positions.[22] The structure of northern universities tended to be modeled after the system of faculty governance developed at the University of Paris. Southern universities tended to be patterned after the student-controlled model begun at the University of Bologna.[23] Among the southern universities, a further distinction has been noted between those of northern Italy, which followed the pattern of Bologna as a "self-regulating, independent corporation of scholars" and those of southern Italy and Iberia, which were "founded by royal and imperial charter to serve the needs of government."[24]

Their endowment by a prince or monarch and their role in training government officials made these Mediterranean universities similar to Islamic madrasas, although madrasas were generally smaller and individual teachers, rather than the madrasa itself, granted the license or degree.[25] Scholars like Arnold H. Green and Hossein Nasr have argued that starting in the 10th century, some medieval Islamic madrasahs became universities.[26][27] George Makdisi and others,[28] however, argue that the European university has no parallel in the medieval Islamic world.[29] Other scholars regard the university as uniquely European in origin and characteristics.[30][31]

Many scholars (including Makdisi) have argued that early medieval universities were influenced by the religious madrasahs in Al-Andalus, the Emirate of Sicily, and the Middle East (during the Crusades).[32][33][34] Other scholars see this argument as overstated.[35] Lowe and Yasuhara have recently drawn on the well-documented influences of scholarship from the Islamic world on the universities of Western Europe to call for a reconsideration of the development of higher education, turning away from a concern with local institutional structures to a broader consideration within a global context.[36]

Misc from elsewhere[edit]

Talk:University/Archive 1[edit]

I recently came across a useful discussion of the origins of the university in a source provided by User VR in the article Madrasah. In this discussion, Darleen Pryds challenges Hastings Rashdall's use of internal organic origins as the defining criterion of the university. Let me quote:

In his magisterial work on European universities, Hastings Rashdall made little effort to hide his dissatisfaction with the studia of southern Europe, specifically those in southern Italy in Spain. He judged these studia to be artificial creations of despots and compared them negatively to the evolving development of the independent corporations of scholars in the north.... For Rashdall the integrity of a university is preserved only when the institution evolved into an internally regulated corporation of scholars, be they students or masters. (p. 83)
Yet this model of the independently evolving studium, internally governed by scholars and protected from external intervention, is rare in the Mediterranean regions of Europe, namely southern Italy and the Iberian peninsula. In organization and function the southern studia differ from their counterparts in the north. At most southern universities we find a close interaction of academic and royal spheres, which in at least one case—Naples—comes close to being a fusion of the two domains. Mediterranean universities are royal institutions that train bureaucrats and supply local officials; extend the political influence of monarchs, and periodically promote the / reputations of these rulers as learned monarchs. (pp. 84-5)

Pryds reminds us of the importance of Rashdall's focus on the institutional structure of the universities of northern Europe to the accepted definition of the university and takes issue with his approach. This is clearly a minority point of view, but it is the view of an established scholar and published in a respectable publication:[37]

However, finding a substitute for Rashdall's paradigm would require a lot of research into the history of earlier (and later) educational institutions and their varied and changing patterns of governance. We can't do that here, as Wikipedia isn't the place for original research. We can look into the scholarly literature, however, to see what kind of work has been done to answer the questions that concern many people here. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 04:45, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

Talk:List of oldest universities in continuous operation[edit]

…Some time ago I noted at Talk:University#Evolving_definition_of_the_University that the OEDs definition of a university had undergone change, dropping the traditional emphasis on the university as a self governing corporate body. In the ensuing discussion it was pointed out that a change to a dictionary definition wasn't sufficient to change Wikipedia's usage, and the discussion dropped.

I subsequently came across an article in the Oxford series, History of Universities, that raises the same issue in a more scholarly context.[38]

Lowe and Yasuhara raise some important issues that should be considered here. They propose a historiographical shift that moves from the traditional "accounts which have focused on the institution of the university or on what it was that characterized a university as a functioning organization" to a historical approach that is broadened both geographically and conceptually to include both the knowledge that was developed and disseminated at institutions of higher learning and the many social, cultural, technological, and economic elements that allowed this activity to take place. As I read their essay, it seems to be very much a work in progress at the time it was written (2013) and its influence so far is limited (Google Scholar does not indicate any citations of it). However its appearance is another sign (along with the changing OED definition) that the traditional understanding of the nature of the university, which dates back to Heinrich Denifle in 1885 and Hastings Rashdall in 1893, is facing serious scholarly challenge. Questioning the established definition can no longer be ignored as fringe scholarship. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 20:40, 30 May 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (1966) [1879], A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press 
  2. ^ Marcia L. Colish, Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 400-1400, (New Haven: Yale Univ. Pr., 1997), p. 267.
  3. ^ "university, n.", OED Online (3rd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, retrieved 27 August 2013 
  4. ^ "university, n.", OED Online (3rd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, retrieved 27 August 2013, …In the Middle Ages: a body of teachers and students engaged in giving and receiving instruction in the higher branches of study … and regarded as a scholastic guild or corporation.  Compare "University", Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, The whole body of teachers and scholars engaged, at a particular place, in giving and receiving instruction in the higher branches of learning; such persons associated together as a society or corporate body, with definite organization and acknowledged powers and privileges (esp. that of conferring degrees), and forming an institution for the promotion of education in the higher or more important branches of learning…. 
  5. ^ Malagola, C. (1888), Statuti delle Università e dei Collegi dello Studio Bolognese. Bologna: Zanichelli.
  6. ^ a b Rüegg, W. (2003), Mythologies and Historiogaphy of the Beginnings, pp 4-34 in H. De Ridder-Symoens, editor, A History of the University in Europe; Vol 1, Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ Watson, P. (2005), Ideas. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, page 373
  8. ^ "Magna Charta delle Università Europee". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  9. ^ Riché, Pierre (1978): "Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth through the Eighth Century", Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 0-87249-376-8, pp. 126-7, 282-98
  10. ^ Johnson, P. (2000). The Renaissance : a short history. Modern Library chronicles (Modern Library ed.). New York: Modern Library, p. 9.
  11. ^ "The Origin Of Universities". Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  12. ^ Medieval Universities And the Origin of the College
  13. ^ Makdisi, G. (1981), Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  14. ^ Daun, H. and Arjmand, R. (2005), Islamic Education, pp 377-388 in J. Zajda, editor, International Handbook of Globalisation, Education and Policy Research. Netherlands: Springer.
  15. ^ Huff, T. (2003), The Rise of Early Modern Science. Cambridge University Press, p. 122
  16. ^ Kerr, C. (2001), The Uses of the University. P Harvard University Press.p.16 and 145
  17. ^ Rüegg, W. (2003), Mythologies and Historiogaphy of the Beginnings, pp 4-34 in H. De Ridder-Symoens, editor, A History of the University in Europe; Vol 1, Cambridge University Press.p. 12
  18. ^ Grendler, P. F. (2004). "The universities of the Renaissance and Reformation". Renaissance Quarterly, 57, pp. 2.
  19. ^ Rubenstein, R. E. (2003). Aristotle's children: how Christians, Muslims, and Jews rediscovered ancient wisdom and illuminated the dark ages (1st ed.). Orlando, Fla: Harcourt, pp. 16-17.
  20. ^ Dales, R. C. (1990). Medieval discussions of the eternity of the world (Vol. 18). Brill Archive, p. 144.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Grendler, P. F. (2004). "The universities of the Renaissance and Reformation". Renaissance Quarterly, 57, pp. 2-8.
  23. ^ Scott, J. C. (2006). The mission of the university: Medieval to Postmodern transformations. Journal of Higher Education, 77(1), p. 6.
  24. ^ Pryds, Darleen (2000), "Studia as Royal Offices: Mediterranean Universities of Medieval Europe", in Courtenay, William J.; Miethke, Jürgen; Priest, David B., Universities and Schooling in Medieval Society, Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 10, Leiden: Brill, pp. 84–85 
  25. ^ Pryds, Darleen (2000), "Studia as Royal Offices: Mediterranean Universities of Medieval Europe", in Courtenay, William J.; Miethke, Jürgen; Priest, David B., Universities and Schooling in Medieval Society, Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 10, Leiden: Brill, pp. 96–98 
  26. ^ Arnold H. Green. "The History of Libraries in the Arab World: A Diffusionist Model". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 23 (4): 459. 
  27. ^ Hossein Nasr. Traditional Islam in the modern world. Taylor & Francis. p. 125. 
  28. ^ Daniel, Norman (1984). "Review of "The Rise of Colleges. Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West by George Makdisi"". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 104 (3): 586–8. JSTOR 601679. The first section, typology of institutions and the law of waqf, is crucial to the main thesis, since the college is defined in terms of the charitable trust, or endowment, as in Europe: it is admitted that the university, defined as a corporation, has no Islamic parallel. 
  29. ^ George Makdisi: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255-264 (264):

    Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the middle ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.

    Toby Huff, Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West, 2nd ed., Cambridge 2003, ISBN 0-521-52994-8, p. 133-139, 149-159, 179-189; Encyclopaedia of Islam has an entry on the "madrasa" but lacks notably one for a medieval Muslim "university" (Pedersen, J.; Rahman, Munibur; Hillenbrand, R. "Madrasa." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010, retrieved 21 March 2010)
  30. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX
  31. ^ Nuria Sanz, Sjur Bergan. The heritage of European universities, Volume 548. Council of Europe. p. 121. 
  32. ^ Nuria Sanz, Sjur Bergan. The heritage of European universities, Volume 548. Council of Europe. p. 28. 
  33. ^ Makdisi, George (April–June 1989). "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West". Journal of the American Oriental Society. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 109, No. 2. 109 (2): 175–182 [175–77]. doi:10.2307/604423. JSTOR 604423. ; Makdisi, John A. (June 1999). "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law". North Carolina Law Review. 77 (5): 1635–1739. 
  34. ^ Goddard, Hugh (2000). A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Edinburgh University Press. p. 99. ISBN 0-7486-1009-X. 
  35. ^ Daniel, Norman (1984). "Review of "The Rise of Colleges. Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West by George Makdisi"". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 104 (3): 586–8. JSTOR 601679. Professor Makdisi argues that there is a missing link in the development of Western scholasticism, and that Arab influences explain the "dramatically abrupt" appearance of the "sic et non" method. Many medievalists will think the case overstated, and doubt that there is much to explain. 
  36. ^ Lowe, Roy; Yasuhara, Yoshihito (2013), "The origins of higher learning: time for a new historiography?", in Feingold, Mordecai, History of Universities, 27 (1), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–19 
  37. ^ Pryds, Darleen (2000), "Studia as Royal Offices: Mediterranean Universities of Medieval Europe", in Courtenay, William J.; Miethke, Jürgen; Priest, David B., Universities and Schooling in Medieval Society, Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 10, Leiden: Brill, pp. 83–99 
  38. ^ Lowe, Roy; Yasuhara, Yoshihito (2013), "The origins of higher learning: time for a new historiography?", in Feingold, Mordecai, History of Universities, 27 (1), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–19 

Collegiality in the Catholic Church[edit]

In the Roman Catholic Church, collegiality refers to "the Pope governing the Church in collaboration with the bishops of the local Churches, respecting their proper autonomy."[1] In the early church the pope's authority was relatively limited, and regional churches elected their own bishops, resolved disputes in local synods, and only felt the need to appeal to the Pope under special circumstances.[2]

Historical development[edit]

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the papacy amassed considerable power as monastic reformers saw it as a way to counter corrupt bishops while bishops saw it as an ally against the interference of secular rulers.[3] As early as the fourteenth century, opposition to this centralization of papal authority had developed, with Bishop Guillaume Durand proposing at the Council of Vienne that local hierarchies and regional synods be strengthened.[4] This opposition to centralization was tested when a group of cardinals, allied with secular rulers, called a council to resolve the Great Schism of the Western Church (1378 – 1417), in which several rivals had claimed to be pope. The Councils of Pisa and Constance claimed authority to judge the popes, deposed various claimants, and elected Pope Martin V.[5] The Council of Constance also claimed that all Christians, including the Pope, were bound to obey councils "in matters pertaining to faith, the ending of the schism, and the reform of the church".[6] This claim was short-lived and the conciliar movement soon ran out of steam.

The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a period some church historians have called the "long nineteenth century",[7] saw a further consolidation of papal authority. In 1870 the First Vatican Council decreed the infallibility of the Pope's teachings,[8] although during the council Cardinal Filippo Maria Guidi, O.P. of Bologna objected that the Pope teaches in consultation with other bishops.[9] A further addition to papal power took place in 1917, with the publication of a new Code of Canon Law which gave the pope universal power to appoint bishops, ignoring the traditional principle of free election of bishops.[10][11] This system of appointments, coupled with modern communications and the system of papal nuncios who could override local decisions, reduced the power of bishops and made the popes the "last absolute monarchs".[12]

Vatican II and after[edit]

Bishops who objected to this recent consolidation of papal authority proposed at the Second Vatican Council to use the traditional collegial model to limit the centralizing tendencies of the Roman Curia; unlike the conciliarists, who had maintained that an ecumenical council was superior to the pope, the advocates of collegiality proposed that the bishops only act with and under the pope (cum et sub Petro).[1] Collegiality became one of the principal elements of the reform agenda and one of the primary points of conflict with the traditionalist minority at the Council.[13] The reformers did not see this as undermining church tradition, but as going back to the original practice of Peter and the college of the Apostles.[14] The traditionalist minority, however, opposed collegiality as undermining the authority of the Pope and changing the church from monarchical to episcopalian.[15] In 1964 the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, set forth the general principle that the bishops formed a college, which succeeds and gives continuing existence to the college of the apostles.[16] The next year Pope Paul VI issued a letter on his own initiative, Apostolica Sollicitudo,[17] which established the synod of bishops[18] while the Council's Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops, Christus Dominus, established general rules for national and regional conferences of bishops, urging their formation where they did not already exist.[19]

Since Vatican II there has been an ongoing debate about the authority of bishops' conferences between advocates of centralization of authority in the Vatican, who play down the importance of bishops' conferences, and supporters of decentralization, who emphasize their importance. In 1998, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued a decree[specify] under the authority of Pope John Paul II, stating that bishops' conferences have no standing to teach authoritatively, on the grounds that "truth is not arrived at by a majority vote."[20] in the same year Pope John Paul II issued a letter On the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences, which has been described as "probably the most important post-Conciliar papal document on episcopal collegiality."[21] He stated that the declarations of such conferences "constitute authentic magisterium" when approved unanimously by the conference; otherwise the conference majority must seek "the recognitio of the Apostolic See", which they will not receive if the majority "is not substantial".[22]

From the beginning of his papacy Pope Francis, who had twice been elected head of the Argentine Bishops' Conference, has advocated increasing the role of collegiality and synodality in the development of Church teachings.[1] He put this concern into practice when he urged the Synod of Bishops to speak with parrhesia, that is candidly, boldly, and without fear, unlike the situation in earlier synods where officials of the curia would rule out discussion of contentious issues.[23] A further example is the unprecedented degree to which he drew on the teaching documents of fifteen national bishops' conferences and two larger regional conferences from Latin America and Asia for his encyclical on the environment, Laudato si'.[20][24]


  1. ^ a b c "Synodality, collegiality: two keys to the coming Francis reform", Catholic Voices Comment, London: Catholic Voices, 28 August 2013, retrieved 21 June 2015 
  2. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 880-882, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  3. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 2392-2405, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  4. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 3093-3096, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  5. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 3147-3154, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  6. ^ Oakley, Francis (2008), The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church 1300-1870, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 40, ISBN 978-0-19-954124-9 
  7. ^ O'Malley, John W., S. J. (2008), "The Long Nineteenth Century", What Happened at Vatican II (Kindle ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (published 2010), locations 1060-1873, ISBN 978-0-674-03169-2 
  8. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 5462-5471, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  9. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 5428-5439, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  10. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 5856-5861, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  11. ^ O'Malley, John W., S. J. (2008), What Happened at Vatican II (Kindle ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (published 2010), locations 1305-1311, ISBN 978-0-674-03169-2 
  12. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2014), Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (fourth (Kindle) ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, locations 6053-6056, ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0 
  13. ^ O'Malley, John W., S. J. (2008), What Happened at Vatican II (Kindle ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (published 2010), locations 6024-6060, ISBN 978-0-674-03169-2 
  14. ^ O'Malley, John W., S. J. (2008), What Happened at Vatican II (Kindle ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (published 2010), locations 3622-3624, ISBN 978-0-674-03169-2 
  15. ^ O'Malley, John W., S. J. (2008), What Happened at Vatican II (Kindle ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (published 2010), locations 4000-4004, ISBN 978-0-674-03169-2 
  16. ^ Second Vatican Council (21 November 1964), Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; Lumen Gentium, §22, retrieved 24 June 2015, Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together.… The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. 
  17. ^ Paul VI (15 September 1965), Apostolic letter issued motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, retrieved 23 June 2015 
  18. ^ O'Malley, John W., S. J. (2008), What Happened at Vatican II (Kindle ed.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (published 2010), locations 5038-5041, ISBN 978-0-674-03169-2 
  19. ^ Second Vatican Council (28 October 1965), Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops; Christus Dominus, §36-38, retrieved 24 June 2015 
  20. ^ a b Allen, John L. Jr. (20 June 2015), "The encyclical's footnotes say a lot about this pope", Crux, Boston: Boston Globe Media 
  21. ^ McAleese, Mary (2012), Quo Vadis?: Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law (Kindle edition ed.), Blackrock, Ireland: The Columba Press, locations 2472-2474, ISBN 978-1-85607-786-6 
  22. ^ John Paul II (21 May 1998), Apostolos suos; On the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, retrieved 25 June 2015 
  23. ^ Reese, Thomas, S.J. (17 October 2014), How the synod process is different under Pope Francis, Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter, retrieved 21 June 2015 
  24. ^ Peppard, Michael (18 June 2015), "Pope Francis's Earthquake", dotCommonweal, Commonweal Foundation, retrieved 21 June 2015 

Augustine and the Flat Earth[edit]

Ferrari's view and its reception[edit]

I have obtained copies of the following articles, which are not freely available on the web, and am providing a detailed review.

Here is a brief summary:

Neither I nor Nothaft find Ferrari's argument that Augustine maintained a Flat Earth Cosmography to be convincing. As Nothaft concluded his critique:

"Ferrari is certainly correct in insisting that Augustine does not go out of his way to defend [the spherical conception of heaven and earth]. But neither is he able to show conclusively that Augustine committed himself to any other cosmological model. The important point to make is that Augustine's works were written for purposes other than furthering insight into the structure of the natural world. Any attempt to construct a single unified “cosmography” from these works is thus open to serious criticism."

From my reading, Nothaft's summary seems too restrained.

For further details, click show →

Almost twenty years ago the philosopher and student of Augustine, Leo Ferrari, of St. Thomas University (New Brunswick), Canada published an article proposing a fundamental reinterpretation of Augustine's cosmography — his understanding of the physical world. At the core of Ferrari's reinterpretation was the claim that Augustine cosmography was based on a flat earth model which Augustine based on the authority of scripture. According to Google Scholar it had little scholarly impact; it was seldom cited over the subsequent years.

In 2011, the historian of science, C.P.E. [Philipp] Nothaft, of the Warburg Institute of the University of London, whose research includes the study of late antique and medieval astronomy and calendars, published a detailed reply to Ferrari's reinterpretation.

Ferrari's reinterpretation[edit]

The element that does most of the heavy lifting in Ferrari's reinterpretation centers on a translation. At several places Augustine speaks of how scripture says that God made heaven and earth in two immense parts (in duas maximas partes). (Other translators make it "chief parts", "great parts", or omit the phrase entirely) Ferrari notes that the correct translation is "in the two greatest parts" and therefore the heaven and earth must be the two largest parts of the universe, which rules out the traditional cosmography in which the small earth is at the center of an immense universe.

Ferrari attributes these "persistent mistranslations" to a false assumption by the translators that Augustine was using a geocentric universe so they made the only translations that made sense in that context. Ferrari assumes here that greatest must mean greatest in size, which ignores the fact that maximus, like its English equivalent "greatest", does not necessarily refer to size. When a pagan Roman refers to Jupiter Optimus Maximus or Muhammad Ali spoke of himself as "the greatest", they have another kind of greatness in mind. Once we admit this likely alternative, much of Ferrari's argument falls apart.

A recurring theme is that Ferrari suggest that in attributing a spherical earth (and surrounding spherical universe) to Augustine, scholars were attributing modern concepts to him, thus accusing the advocates of the conventional view of historical anachronism. This ignores the fact that the dominant cosmological model of his contemporaries was the Aristotelian / Ptolemaic model of a spherical earth in a spherical universe, widely disseminated in Augustine's Latin-speaking milieu by the Roman encyclopedists.

Ferrari wishes to show that Augustine used scripture to arrive at "supplementary knowledge of certain aspects of that external world". As evidence he notes Augustine's frequent citation of Romans 1:20, that God's "eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." St. Paul seems to be saying here that the external world leads insights into God's nature, not that scripture leads to insights into the material world. But that's not the way Ferrari wants to portray Augustine. As to scriptural interpreters, Ferrari associates Augustine with his fellow North African, Lactantius, a well-known advocate of the flat earth, rather than with Ambrose, who took a more moderate approach to secular knowledge. Ferrari doesn't mention the important connection that Augustine recounts how he was drawn to Christianity by Ambrose's sermons and ultimately was baptized by him.

Augustine associates the two greatest bodies with the teachings of Plato (apparently referring to Timaeus 31-33), and Ferrari fits them neatly into a layered flat universe. There are two problems here: First, in Timaeus 32 Plato is discussing the two corporeal elements, earth and fire, not the two cosmographic entities, earth and sky. Secondly, for Plato, the "cosmic animal" formed by the elements is a sphere (see Timaeus 33), a point which Ferrari briefly notes in a footnote, "Augustine seems to be ignoring".

There are many more examples I could present, but I'll leave those to Nothaft's discussion, which follows.

From my reading, I find that Ferrari tends to cherry pick his evidence to make his points, presenting more of a lawyer's brief than a historian's argument.

Nothaft's critique[edit]

Nothaft places Ferrari's discussion of Augustine's flat earth cosmography in the context of earlier "passionate accounts of the eternal 'warfare' between science and religion". He suggests that Ferrari's interpretation "owes more to the mental imagery created by nineteenth»-century 'flat earthers' and enlightenment polemicists than to the actual views of Augustine and other late antique Church fathers." This relation of the warfare thesis to the myth of medieval belief in the flat Earth shapes his concern with Ferrari.

He is concerned that "although the article has failed to generate much scholarly echo, Ferrari’s views are in a good position to become received wisdom, seeing how they provide the basis for the corresponding entry in the standard encyclopedia for Augustinian studies. This situation is all the more remarkable considering that other recent writers on the subject treat Augustine’s acceptance of the earth’s spherical shape as a well-established fact." Nothaft follows the scholarly consensus and seeks to demonstrate that Augustine's model is closer to the spherical model of Greek astronomy and natural philosophy.

As a historian, Nothaft discusses the Christian attitudes toward Greek natural philosophy, and the sphericity of the Earth. He identifies two chief traditions. Opposing the sphrericity of the Earth was the Greek speaking Antioch school, typified by Diodore of Tarsus (fl. ca. 378), Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 350 - 428/9), John Chrysostom (ca. 345 - 407), Severianus of Gabala (d after 408), and much later Cosmas Indicopleustes (ca. 550). An alternative tradition, more open to the use of Greek natural philosophy in interpreting scripture, was represented by Basil of Caesarea (329-379) and Ambrose of Milan (339-397), who baptized Augustine in 387.

Nothaft places Augustine in the latter tradition, as he told readers of his Literal Interpretation of Genesis that he intended to show that the teachings of the philosophers about nature are not contrary to scripture. Augustine's point is that "scripture should not be misused as a textbook on natural philosophy".

Augustine's classical pagan education and his attraction to Platonic philosophy insured he was familiar with the dominant picture of the universe in Roman North Africa, that of Plato's Timaeus and Aristotle's On the Heavens, as transmitted by the Roman encyclopedists.

Nothaft shows that the division of the universe into duo corpora maxima can be accomodated with the spherical Earth. Similarly, Augustine's picture of the earth at the "bottom" of a vertically layered universe is also consistent with a spherical universe, in which "down" is toward the center and "up" is toward the periphery, as it was in Plato's Timaeus from whom Augustine adopts his model.

Nothaft points out that Augustine's discussion of the Earth as surrounded by the great Oceanus is a common usage to describe the inhabitaed world, the oikoumene, as surrounded by water. This model was used by Augustine's North African contemporary, Martianus Capella, who explicitly endorsed a spherical Earth.

Tracing elements where Augustine appears to have endorsed a spherical Earth, Nothaft notes that Ferrari reinterprets them in terms of a flat earth model, rather than using more economical interpretations of Augustine's texts that also conform to the common spherical model of his contemporaries. The most striking example is when Ferrari interpreted Augustine's account of the Sun circling the world in twenty-four hours as being some kind of horizontal circle where the Sun stays above the flat surface but causes night when it goes to visit distant lands. Nothaft notes the context of this text, where Augustine is drawing on "the common cosmological knowledge of his readers", that of the spherical model, to explain a difficult passage in Genesis. Nothaft also points out that Ferarri ignores a subsequent passage where Augustine explicitly described the earth (and water) as a globular mass.

He concludes that Augustine's "neutral presentation of the spherical model as 'hypothetical' is best understood as part of his effort to liberate the exegesis of Genesis from … any particular cosmological theory.… Any attempt to construct a single unified 'cosmography' from them is thus open to serious criticism."

Ferrari's cosmographical publications[edit]

Ferrari spent many years publishing stuff about Augustine's cosmology. So your comment that 20 years ago he published "an article" is misleading. I haven't read the entire collapse box yet, but I should point out, it seems telling that Philipp Nothaft of UCL (the poor relation of Imperial) waited until after Ferrari's death in 2010 before mustering the courage to publish his criticism, in 2011. zzz (talk) 04:12, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for providing the above. Nothaft's assumption of Ferrari's ideological subscription to the long-since publicly-discredited warfare thesis, a century late, rings hollow. Does it not occur to him that this would have been thoroughly and repeatedly exposed long before Ferrari had managed to complete his highly successful academic career? Apparently not... Since by his own admission, Nothalf frames his arguments on this facile assertion, it is impossible to take his (non-expert) views seriously. For Wikipedia's purposes, the fact that Ferrari's conclusions "provide the basis for the corresponding entry in the standard encyclopedia for Augustinian studies", is, by far, the most pertinent part of the thesis. Thanks once again for providing the above commendably thorough summary, apologies for yet again seeming to use your words against you, and I can only urge strongly that Nothalf does give up his day job. Although, UCL does certainly seem to have settled on a business model of employing third-rate academics who are willing to cynically claim to believe provocative ideas, safe in the knowledge that serious academics won't give their "theories" the time of day. I wonder how common this particular "wait 'til the guy's dead" variation is. zzz (talk) 11:45, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
The snarky tone of your comments about Philipp Nothaft and UCL push the limits of civility. The Warburg Institute, which is Nothaft's academic home, has long been the premier place for studying the many expressions of Ancient and Renaissance cosmology. Nothaft's publications are very impressive for a younger (PhD Munich, 2011) scholar (2 books, 37 articles, 14 book reviews). Scan his publication list and you can see the range of his expertise in ancient and medieval astronomy and calendars. The assertion that Nothaft is a "third-rate academic" who waited until Ferrari died in 2010 is not only uncalled for but is totally belied by a casual look at Nothaft's academic career, which was barely underway in 2010. I should also note that Nothaft's rebuttal to Ferrari has already gained the acceptance of his peers, having been reprinted within two years of its first publication in Augustine and Science, edited by John Doody, Adam Goldstein, and Kim Paffenroth (Lexington, Md: Lexington Books, 2013), 99-113.
Unlike Nothaft, Ferrari was an expert in the narrow field of Augustinian studies, teaching at a provincial Catholic university. He is certainly an expert on Augustine, having published extensively on him, including three early articles on the astronomical influences on Augustine's abandonment of Manichaeism:
  • Ferrari, Leo Charles, "Astronomy and Augustine’s Break with the Manichees", Revue d' Etudes Augustiniennes Et Patristiques, 19(1973):263-276
  • Ferrari, Leo Charles, "Halley's Comet of 374 AD: new Light upon Augustine's Conversion to Manicheism", Augustiniana, 27(1977):139-150
  • Ferrari, Leo Charles, "Augustine and Astrology", Laval théologique et philosophique, 33(1977): 241-251.
These early articles present a very different picture of Augustine's understanding of the heavens than in Ferrari's later "flat earth" cosmography; the first pages of "Augustine and Astrology" quote this passage from Augustine:
"God ... by whose laws the poles revolve, the stars fulfill their courses, the sun vivifies the day, the moon tempers the night: and all the framework of things, day after day by vicissitude of light and gloom, month after month by waxings and wanings of the moon, year after year by orderly successions of spring and summer and fall and winter, cycle after cycle by accomplished concurrence of the solar course, and through the mighty orbs of time, folding and refolding upon themselves, as the stars still recur to their first conjunctions, maintains, so far as this merely visible matter allows, the mighty constancy of things."
Augustine's praise of the ordered cosmos is typical of Early Latin Christian attitudes to astronomy, most famously reflected later by Boethius in his Consolation of Philosophy.
Some twenty years later Ferrari published the article and two encyclopedia pieces in which he sought to demonstrate that Augustine's religious writing -- some of them written not that long after his move to Christianity -- embodied a flat earth cosmography that totally abandoned the astronomical principles that had led him from Manicheanism. The intellectual inconsistency of these two phases of Ferrari's career is striking; at one point he sees Augustine employing astronomy to understand the created order and to motivate his spiritual move form Manicheanism to Christianity, in his later works Ferrari sees Augustine (even in his early commentary on Genesis) condemning secular learning and advancing a literal interpretation of scripture.
In sum, Nothaft's view of Augustine as using his commentary to "show that whatever {the philosophers] have been able to demonstrate from reliable sources about the world of nature is not contrary to our literature" (Ferrari, p. 40, citing Augustine, De Gen. lit. l.21.41) is much more consistent than Ferrari's and reflects Nothaft's broad familiarity with the relations between natural philosophy and religion around the time of Augustine.


Mediaeval / Medieval[edit]

It has been argued that this article was originally written using mediaeval following British usage and so should remain that way. Setting aside the question of whether mediaeval is British usage, a check of WikiBlame finds that mediaeval was first added to the article on 11 Aug 2014. However, medieval had already been added to a historical section on 13 Feb 2011, where it remained to the present. The argument for following the style in which the article was originally written calls for medieval.

E.G.H. Publishing[edit]

The article Espen Gaarder Haug raises questions about the reliability of a source used to support a presentation of Haug's physical theory, which itself seems to be a fringe theory. The source in question is Haug's book Unified Revolution: New Fundamental Physics. Oslo: E.G.H. Publishing. 2014. ISBN 978-829-99703-03. . The book is not found at all in WorldCat's listing of books by Haug, who has published chiefly on quantitative economics. The web page of the publisher (E.G.H. Publishing) does not mention any books other than that one by the author. It seems that E.G.H. Publishing is named for Espen Gaarder Haug and has only published his book.

I recently that section and the reference from the article; subsequently these edits were reverted with the comment "Please could someone else than Mr Steve McCluskey consider this, he thinks he has monopoly on wikipedia." I agree that there should be other eyes on this, so would we have some comments on the reliability of this source as documentation of discussion of Haug's physical theory.

"… cause" or "… explanation"[edit]

I disagree with the change from "… cause" to "… explanation". The introduction of the neologisms "Material explanation", etc. does nothing to improve the article, particularly since discussions of the four causes by name has long been the standard form in philosophical or historical scholarship. A Google NGram search shows that these neologisms are seldom found in the published literature, in contrast to the well established names of the four causes. The neologism that is most commonly found is "final explanation", and a cursory search of the examples shows it is used in the common meaning of the last (or final) explanation, not the Aristotelian final cause.

Clicking on one of the first linked footnotes in this article (Falcon, Andrea. Aristotle on Causality. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2008), yields the following use of the common names:

"In Physics II 3 and Metaphysics V 2, Aristotle offers his general account of the four causes. This account is general in the sense that it applies to everything that requires an explanation, including artistic production and human action. Here Aristotle recognizes four types of things that can be given in answer to a why-question:
  • The material cause: “that out of which”, e.g., the bronze of a statue.
  • The formal cause: “the form”, “the account of what-it-is-to-be”, e.g., the shape of a statue.
  • The efficient cause: “the primary source of the change or rest”, e.g., the artisan, the art of bronze-casting the statue, the man who gives advice, the father of the child.
  • The final cause: “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”, e.g., health is the end of walking, losing weight, purging, drugs, and surgical tools."

Rather than allow restoration to become impractical as further changes are added, I propose to restore the article to its state before the transformation from "… cause" to "… explanation". --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 17:29, 3 September 2016 (UTC)

I also have some concerns about the switching away from the traditional terminology. I do see that it can be considered important (as often with Aristotelian terminology) to point out that this was not originally a "technical" word but just an every day Greek word. You could argue that even that is not relevant to the article which actually is about a technical word in English. But I would counter argue that philosophical discussion often needs to get in touch with its roots to examine where a concept came from. Its arguments span centuries and some are maybe more about the examination of a concept than any search for a "solution".--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:14, 4 September 2016 (UTC)
Since I posted my original note, I've done some more thinking about what disturbed me about the change from "… cause" to "… explanation". I found a nice description of Greek concepts of cause in G. E. R. Lloyd's Magic Reason and Experience (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1978). Lloyd quotes this passage from the Hippocratic author of the text On Ancient Medicine:
"We must, therefore, consider the causes (αίτια) of each [medical] condition to be those things which are such that, when they are present, the condition necessarily occurs, but when they change to another combination, it ceases."
The point here is that it was common in Greek thought to consider a cause as effective in "producing" (in some sense of the word) an effect – in this case a medical condition. Substituting "explanation" for "cause" misses that point; an explanation may describe how an effect is produced but it does not produce an effect.
That's my main reason for wanting to make some change.
I've also been reading through some new sources that I've found on the web. I've only had time to skim a comparatively new book Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought, by R. J. Hankinson which raises the issues of cause vs. explanation. He notes the relation between explanation and cause this way:
"Explanation standardly takes the form of stating the causes of something" (p. 3).

He has this interesting comment about Aristotle's four csuaes:

"Aristotle famously distinguishes four 'causes' (or causal factors in explanation), the matter, the form, the end, and the agent" (p. 159).
Two points, Hankinson clearly considers that causes are a standard part of explanation; secondly, he offers a way around the … cause / … explanation dilemma by using the simple nouns "matter", etc. to describe that causal factors in explanation. This suggests a simple way to resolve our editorial problem (although it will require some care to insure the syntax of the text is not damaged at the many places where changes are necessary).


Miscellaneous Labels[edit]

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