Books Received | Published:

Ancient Astronomy

Nature volume 50, pages 265266 | Download Citation



THE author's previous work, “Pour l'Histoire de la Science hellène,” in which early Greek scientific ideas are treated of from the time of Thales to that of Empedocles, and which first appeared in fragments in the pages of the Revue Philosophique, leads the reader to open the present with high expectations, which its perusal will assuredly not disappoint. It in no degree trenches upon the ground occupied by the former; but its main object is to furnish an analysis of the Almagest, more accurate and complete than those given by previous writers, and also to discuss the views of those who may fairly be called the precursors of Ptolemy, and especially of Hipparchus. On this latter point M. Tannery's researches have led him to conclusions somewhat different from those which have been generally entertained. The part played by Hipparchus in the progress of astronomy he considers to have been singularly exaggerated, and the ground to have been prepared rather by the earlier writers of the Alexandrian school, particularly by Apollonius of Perga, in the invention of geometrical and trigonometrical methods, and the first systematic combination of recent with earlier Chaldean observations. To illustrate clearly his meaning, he affirms that, without these previous works, Hipparchus would have been unable to accomplish the greater part of that which has made his name immortal; whereas without that of Hipparchus, Ptolemy would have been able in great measure to have composed his Almagest; it would have been undoubtedly much more imperfect and less accurate in many numerical details, but “l'ensemble ne présenterait pas un caractère très notablement différent.”

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

About this article

Publication history




  1. Search for W. T. L. in:


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing