Democritus of Abdera posited the existence of atoms. Aristotle accurately described the embryology of the chick. Aristarchus put the sun at the center of the planetary system. Yet nothing like “science” existed before the Renaissance. When Eratosthenes measured the circumference of the Earth by comparing shadows at noon on the summer solstice, remarkable as it was, and enduring as it would prove to be, his work was singular: neither a test, nor a disproof; neither a challenge, nor an argument. It simply was. But what was it?
|St. Martin's Press, 2008.|
The Hellenistic world was very much like our own time: held in tension by science and superstition, commerce and war, ecumenism and parochialism. Nicastro spans all of that because the known facts of the life and works of Eratosthenes are so few. Much of the book is given over to calculations in various ancient stade measures (whence the modern "stadium"). Like many other technical reads for large audiences, the end notes are not keyed within the text. Keep a bookmark there so that you can flip back and forth.
|Coin from Cyrene c. 480-435.|
3.34 gr. 1.5 cm.
Zeus Ammon / Silphium.
Eratosthenes came from
Cyrene, a city in what is today Libya
near what is today . He studied philosophy in Benghazi before being appointed to the Great
Library by Ptolemy III Euergetes. Nicastro underscores the
fact that contrary to our common opinions today, Athens was not a home to learning and philosophy
until after its Golden Age and eventual downfall in the Peloponnesian Wars.
Anaxagoras, Protagoras, and Socrates all had been tried for impiety. Nicastro also argues that Eratosthenes
probably did not travel to Siwa ( Athens )
to see the sun overhead. He might have
sent an underling from the Museum to do that.
A single fragment letter from Archimedes to Eratosthenes suggests a long
correspondence between the two. Aswan
But Eratosthenes was more than a geometer. Just as most of
’s writings were not about physics, so, too, did
Eratosthenes mostly write on grammar, poetry, and history. That was apparently the attraction for
Nicastro. “[He] received a BA in English from Newton Cornell
University (1985), an MFA in
filmmaking from (1991), an
M.A. in archaeology and a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell (1996 and 2003).”
(Wikipedia). It takes one to know one. New York
ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTSIndian English: Totally Legend Like Anything
Profits and Benefits in Learning a Foreign Language