|Aristarchus of Samos|
|Specialty||Astronomy, mathematics, heliocentrism|
|Born||c. 310 BC|
|Died||c. 230 BC|
There has been several astronomers throughout history who have made a tremendous impact on the sciences. Aristarchus of Samos is one of the most recognized in this field due to his contributions. It was Aristarchus who first started to formulate the model of the sun being the center of the universe with the earth revolving around it.
Early Educational Years
Aristarchus of Samos was born in Samos, Greece, around 310 B.C. As for the education of Aristarchus, we do know he learned from Strato of Lampsacus, the instructor who was in charge of Aristotle’s Lyceum. He did not study with Strato in the Greek city of Athens.
Rather, his education took place in Alexandria as historical records indicate Strato had become the head of the Alexandria location of the Lyceum at the time in which he would have been teaching Aristarchus.
Unlike quite a number of his contemporaries, Aristarchus of Samos never received much acclaim until modern times. To say this is despite his revolutionary ideas would be inaccurate. The truth is his beliefs probably did play a role in why he was ignored for so long. At one time in human history, anyone who professed the belief that the earth revolved around the sun was disregarded due to religious theories at the time of antiquity.
Well into the late Middle Ages, anyone with such beliefs would be decried a heretic since the Bible presents a passage that was once misinterpreted to mean the sun revolves around the earth. The great mathematicians and astronomers of antiquity knew differently, or at least some of them did.
Not all astronomers during the era of ancient Greece were visionary in their understanding of the solar system. The more forward thinking astronomers were many hundreds of years ahead of their time. Aristarchus of Samos was one such astronomer. Unfortunately, the idea was far too radical to be accepted.
Works and Ideas
The religious principles at the time of antiquity were rooted in the notion the sun revolved around the earth. Also, the work of Aristotle was very influential during the era and he professed the notion that any and all objects move towards the center of the earth.
How he was able to come up with such a theory is not completely known. The reason is much of his work has been lost. Sadly, a great deal of the work of many of the ancient astronomers and mathematicians is long gone. The fall of Greece and the later fall of Rome and its sacking saw a great deal of the records lost or ruined.
We do know of the heliocentric model of Aristarchus due to its reference in the work The Sand Reckoner by another famous name from antiquity, Archimedes of Syracuse (Born circa 212 B.C.)
Measuring Celestial Bodies
Based on what we know of the man, records indicate Aristarchus employed many modern geometric methods in formulas designed to measure celestial bodies. Upon the arrival of a lunar eclipse, he was able to determine the radius of the moon and concluded it was 50% greater than the radius of the earth. This is not entirely accurate as the actual amount is 25% times larger.
He also came up with an overestimation of the distance between the moon and the earth. The figures in which he offered were not outrageously erroneous. However, his was incredibly off with his measurement of the distance between the moon and the sun.
Although his figures were off, he did use sound geometric methods that were on the proverbial right path. In the years after his passing, others would use similar methods to come up with much more accurate figures.
Death of Aristarchus of Samos
Aristarchus of Samos passed away circa 230 B.C. He was a figure who was far ahead of his time, but he did not get a great deal of recognition until recent times. Perhaps further research in the ruins of ancient Greece will reveal more about his life and work.