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Babylonian Astronomers

February 2, 2016

Scientists uncover the lost astronomical calculations of the Babylonians.

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Tablets created by ancient Babylonian mathematician/astronomers. (Mathieu Ossendrijver Science 2016; 351: 482-484)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Discovering the lost math of Babylon. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Over their three thousand year history, the Babylonians made many breakthroughs in math and science. But when their civilization collapsed right around the year 50, most of that knowledge was lost.

MATHIEU OSSENDRIJVER (Humboldt University):

Because only some of bits of Babylonian science were translated into Greek before this culture died out.

HIRSHON:

That’s Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin. In the journal Science, he reports that new translations of Babylonian tablets reveal that they were using geometry to predict the motions of the planet Jupiter 1300 years before European scientists learned to do the same thing. He says there are more astronomical tablets still to be translated, but since only a small percentage have survived the millennia, we’ll never know the full extent of the civilization’s mathematical accomplishments. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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