Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science-From the Babylonians to the Maya

Article excerpt

Dick Teresi. Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science-from the Babylonians to the Maya. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Many ancient civilizations left behind surprising contributions to the fields of mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, chemistry, and technology. Dick Teresi's book, Lost Discoveries, examines some of these diverse and little-known scientific and technological insights from the past. For example, in mathematics, the ancient Egyptians worked on the idea of the lowest common denominator and formulated a fraction table that required 28,000 calculations to develop. The Babylonians devised the first written math and used a place-value number system. Ancient East Indians invented the numerals 0 through 9 and made important contributions to geometry and trigonometry.

In the field of astronomy, the ancient Indians also correctly identified the relative distances of the known planets from the sun; the Chinese reported and recorded eclipses between 1400 and 1200 BCE; and the Arabs built the first observatories (most of the names of our stars and constellations are Arabic). …