Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Aristarchus of Samos

  • Michael E. Mickelson
Reference work entry

BornSamos, (Greece), circa310 BCE

Diedcirca230 BCE

Aristarchus as astronomer and mathematician has not always been given the credit he deserves by historians of science, even though he made two remarkable contributions to astronomy: a heliocentric solar system and estimates of the relative sizes and distances of the Sun and the Moon.

Aristarchus was a native of the island of Samos, and a contemporary of Euclid and  Archimedes. Not very much is known of his early life or his work except for comments by later writers or his contemporaries. Only one of his works is extant, Aristarchus on the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon, which is the oldest surviving mathematical work on determining the sizes of the Sun and the Moon in terms of the dimensions of the Earth and the relative distance to the Sun in terms of the distance to the Moon. He reportedly also wrote on vision, light, and colors. Aëtius tells us that Aristarchus was a pupil of Strato of Lampsacus, either in Athens or in...

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Selected References

  1. Dijksterhuis, E. J. (1987). Archimedes, translated by C. Dikshoorn, with a new bibliographic essay by Wilbur R. Knorr. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.MATHGoogle Scholar
  2. Dreyer, J. L. E. (1906). History of the Planetary Systems from Thales to Kepler. (Revised, with a foreword by W. H. Stahl, as A History of Astronomy from Thales to Kepler. New York: Dover, 1953.)MATHGoogle Scholar
  3. Evans, James (1998). The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Gibbs, Sharon L. (1976). Greek and Roman Sundials. New Haven: Yale University Press.MATHGoogle Scholar
  5. Heath, Sir Thomas L. (1913). Aristarchus of Samos, the Ancient Copernicus. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Reprint, New York: Dover, 1981.)Google Scholar
  6. Neugebauer, Otto (1975). A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy. 3 pts. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Denison UniversityGranvilleUSA