Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp 279–318

Britton’s theory of the creation of Column \(\varPhi \) in Babylonian System A lunar theory


DOI: 10.1007/s00407-017-0189-4

Cite this article as:
Shnider, S. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. (2017) 71: 279. doi:10.1007/s00407-017-0189-4


The following article has two parts. The first part recounts the history of a series of discoveries by Otto Neugebauer, Bartel van der Waerden, and Asger Aaboe which step by step uncovered the meaning of Column \(\varPhi \), the mysterious leading column in Babylonian System A lunar tables. Their research revealed that Column \(\varPhi \) gives the length in days of the 223-month Saros eclipse cycle and explained the remarkable algebraic relations connecting Column \(\varPhi \) to other columns of the lunar tables describing the duration of 1, 6, or 12 synodic months. Part two presents John Britton’s theory of the genesis of Column \(\varPhi \) and the System A lunar theory starting from a fundamental equation relating the columns discovered by Asger Aaboe. This article is intended to explain and, hopefully, to clarify Britton’s original articles which many readers found difficult to follow.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus, Department of MathematicsBar Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael

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