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Seleucus (or Seleukos) of Seleucia (born c. 190 BC, fl. 150s BC), also known as Seleucus of Babylon,[1] was a Chaldean Babylonian astronomer and philosopher from Seleucia on the Tigris (and/or Babylon[1]) in Babylonia, Mesopotamia.[2][3][4] Seleucus is known from the writings of Plutarch, Aetius, Strabo and Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. Strabo lists Seleucus as one of the four most influential Chaldean/Babylonian astronomers, alongside Kidenas (Kidinnu), Naburianos (Naburimannu) and Sudines. Their works were originally written in Akkadian Cuneiform and later translated into Greek.[5] Seleucus, however, was unique among them in that he was the only one known to have supported the heliocentric theory of planetary motion.[6][7][8]

According to Strabo, Seleucus was also the first to assume the universe to be infinite.[5] He is also known for being the greatest authority on tidal theory in antiquity.[1]

None of his original Akkadian writings or Greek translations have survived, though a fragment of his work has survived only in Arabic translation, which was later referred to by the Persian philosopher Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (865-925).[9]

Heliocentric theoryEdit

Teaching around 150 BC, he is known to have proposed a heliocentric theory, similar to what was reportedly proposed by Aristarchus of Samos, that the Earth rotated around its own axis which in turn revolved around the Sun.[10][11] According to Plutarch, Seleucus was the first to prove the heliocentric system through reasoning, but it is not known what arguments he used.[12] Plutarch stated:

Was [Timaeus] giving the earth motion ..., and should the earth ... be understood to have been designed not as confined and fixed but as turning and revolving about, in the way expounded later by Aristarchus and Seleucus, the former assuming this as a hypothesis and the latter proving it?[1]

Tidal theoryEdit

He is known for being the greatest authority on tidal theory in antiquity.[1] According to Strabo (1.1.9), Seleucus was the first to state that the tides are due to the attraction of the Moon, and that the height of the tides depends on the Moon's position relative to the Sun.[13]

According to Lucio Russo, Seleucus' arguments for a heliocentric theory were probably related to the phenomenon of tides.[14] Seleucus correctly theorized that tides were caused by the Moon, although he believed that the interaction was mediated by the pneuma, or Earth's atmosphere. He noted that the tides varied in time and strength in different parts of the world.

Computational modelEdit

According to Bartel Leendert van der Waerden, Seleucus may have proved the heliocentric theory by determining the constants of a geometric model for the heliocentric theory and by developing methods to compute planetary positions using this model, as Nicolaus Copernicus later did in the 16th century. He may have used trigonometric methods that were available in his time, as he was a contemporary of Hipparchus.[15]

Since the time of Heraclides of Pontus or Heraclides Ponticus (387 BC-312 BC), the inferior planets Mercury and Venus are named at times solar planets, as their positions diverge from the Sun by only a small angle.

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Seleucus and the Proof of Heliocentrism, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, University of California, Berkeley
  2. Otto E. Neugebauer (1945). "The History of Ancient Astronomy Problems and Methods", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 4 (1), pp. 1-38:
    On what background can we understand, for example, the report that the "Chaldaean" Seleucus from Seleucia on the Tigris, completed the heliocentric theory
  3. George Sarton (1955), "Chaldaean Astronomy of the Last Three Centuries B. C.", Journal of the American Oriental Society 75 (3), pp. 166-173 [169]
  4. William P. D. Wightman (1951, 1953), The Growth of Scientific Ideas, Yale University Press p. 38, where Wightman calls him "Seleukos the Chaldean"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bartel Leendert van der Waerden (1987), "The Heliocentric System in Greek, Persian and Hindu Astronomy", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500 (1): 525–545 [527]
  6. Index of Ancient Greek Philosophers-Scientists
  7. Seleucus of Seleucia (c. 190 BC-?), The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
  8. Seleucus of Seleucia (ca. 190-unknown BC), ScienceWorld
  9. Shlomo Pines (1986), Studies in Arabic versions of Greek texts and in mediaeval science, 2, Brill Publishers, pp. viii & 201-17, ISBN 9652236268 
  10. Russell, Bertrand — History of Western Philosophy (2004)‎ - p.215
  11. We do not know other names of ancient astronomers or scientists who supported the heliocentric system: Hipparchus and later Ptolemy contributed to the success of the geocentric system; however, in the writings of Plutarch and Sextus Empiricus we read of "the followers of Aristarchus", thus it is probable that other people we do not know of adhered to the heliocentric view.
  12. Bartel Leendert van der Waerden (1987), "The Heliocentric System in Greek, Persian and Hindu Astronomy", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500 (1): 525–545 [528]
  13. Bartel Leendert van der Waerden (1987). "The Heliocentric System in Greek, Persian and Hindu Astronomy", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500 (1), 525–545 [527].
  14. Lucio Russo, Flussi e riflussi, Feltrinelli, Milano, 2003, ISBN 88-07-10349-4.
  15. Bartel Leendert van der Waerden (1987), "The Heliocentric System in Greek, Persian and Hindu Astronomy", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500 (1): 525–545 [527-9]

See also Edit

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