The Exact Sciences in Antiquity

The Exact Sciences in Antiquity

The Exact Sciences in Antiquity

The Exact Sciences in Antiquity

Synopsis

One of the foremost workers in the area of premodern science presents the standard nontechnical coverage of Egyptian and Babylonian mathematics and astronomy and their transmission into the Hellenistic world-with the especially interesting, surprising sophistication of Babylonian mathematics. 52 figures.

Excerpt

The first series of Cornell University's "Messenger Lectures on the evolution of civilization" was given by James Henry Breasted, eminent Egyptologist and founder of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Few scholars have contributed so much to our understanding of ancient civilizations and have attracted the interest of scholars and laymen alike to the study of the ancient Near East. I personally feel a great debt of gratitude towards Breasted whose "History of Egypt" was my first stimulus towards the study of ancient oriental civilizations, a field of research which has occupied me ever since and about whose role in the history of science I shall report in the following pages. That I was able to follow this road from the early days of my graduate study in Göttingen is due to the never failing encouragement and support of R. Courant. But more than that I owe him the experience of being introduced to modern mathematics and physics as a part of intellectual endeavor, never isolated from each other nor from any other field of our civilization. In dedicating these lectures to him I only acknowledge publicly a debt which has profoundly influenced my own development.

The following chapters follow closely the arrangement of six lectures which I delivered at Cornell University in the fall of 1949. I fully realize that this form of presentation forced me into many statements which actually should be qualified by many conditions and question marks. I also realize that the following pages will give ample opportunities to quote statements and to utilize them in a sense which I did not imply or did not foresee. And I have no doubts that many a conclusion will have to be modified and corrected. I am exceedingly sceptical of any attempt to reach . . .

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