A. Name: A. Student
B. Secondary Source: Evan Hadingham, "Ancient Astronomy and the Roots of Science"
C. Description of the Event: This article describes astronomy in ancient empires.
D. The Thesis: Hadingham argues that, while many civilizations watched the sky and developed ery sophisticated forms of obseervational astronomy, only the Greeks were interested in the reason why the planets moved through the sky.
E. The Argument: Hadingham writes about many of the scientific advances made by early civilizations. Theses advancements include the development of the Babylonian number system based on sixty which we use for our clocks, the ancient Egyptian invention of a twenty-fiour-hour day and a 365-day year, and the division of the calendar into the weeks and months we use, which is from the calendar the Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans, and Hebrews used. These achievements are due to the ancient sky watchers of the early civilizations. The sky watchers kept careful data which they used to predict the movements of the planets, stars, sun, moon, and other obiects they observed in the sky. Hadingham argues that, while many civilizations watched the sky, only the Greeks were interested in the reason why the planets moved through the sky. He exp]ains that this curiosity was limited to the Greeks because they were the only civilization of that time which used a form of democracy for govemment. The other civilizations were not interested because "any urge to inquire and explain was paralyzed" (pg 18) by the strict authorities that governed their societies.
F. The Evidence: The evidence he presents includes the clay tablets used by the Babylonians around 389 to 374 BC to calculate the timing of eclipses and the movements of the moon and other planets. Hadingham incluces a picture of the first Chinese astronomers. These astronomers were the brothers Hsi and Hso. The drawing shows them receiving commission from the Emperor Yao to organize the calendar and observe the heavens. For the Mayan civilization the evidence he cites includes documents and inscriptions on tahlets, temple walls, free standing pillars, and even four Mayan books written on bark. For the Egyptians he cites the design of the Great Pyramid. Further evidence includes the form of geometry the Greeks developed which allowed them to consider three dimensional space. From this, Eudoxus proposed a universe of 27 spheres spinning around earth. Hipparchus also formed the first testable astronomical theory.
G. Evaluation: I agree with what Hadingham writes and found that his argument persuasive, but he could have made his argument even stronger by providing more evidence of how the governments affected the sky watchers. Hadingham presents many primary sources as evidence that, besides the Greeks, early civilizations did not try to figure out reasons for the celestial happenings. However, his main point in supporting his argument is that the Greeks were the only civilization to inquire about these happenings because they were the only ones who used democracy as a form of government. This point was not well supported by evidence. For example, Hadingham mentions the Babylonian rulers of that time, but he does not explain the effects they had on the sky watchers. He does not even mention anything about the government of the Mayans. Evidence that the other governments stifled the curiosity of the people would have helped support Hadingham's argument.
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