Saturday, April 3, 2010

Were Hypatia's astrolabes among the first working models?

As I wait eagerly for the release of the movie "Agora" later this year about the efforts of one of the last academicians of Alexandria, Hypatia, to save its library, I noticed the Smithsonian. just published an interesting article on Hypatia. It mentioned some facts about Hypatia's family and scholarly work that I had not read before.

[Image: Hypatia by Charles William Mitchell, 1885]

I knew she was a mathematician but I didn't realize that she was also a skilled astronomer and actually collaborated with her father, Theon, on several treatises.

"It is thought that Book III of Theon’s version of Ptolemy’s Almagest—the treatise that established the Earth-centric model for the universe that wouldn’t be overturned until the time of Copernicus and Galileo—was actually the work of Hypatia." - Hypatia, Ancient Alexandria's Great Female Scholar,

 [Image: Front of  an astrolabe created by Frenchman Jean Fusoris.  Photo courtesy of the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum , Chicago, IL.  The Adler Planetarium houses the largest collection of astrolabes in North America]
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