Essays on Medieval Computational Astronomy


During the Middle Ages and early modern times tables were a most successful and economical way to present mathematical procedures and astronomical models and to facilitate computations. Before the sixteenth century astronomical models introduced by Ptolemy in Antiquity were rarely challenged, and innovation consisted in elaborating new methods for calculating planetary positions and other celestial phenomena. Essays on Medieval Computational Astronomy includes twelve articles that focus on astronomical tables, offering many examples where the meaning and purpose of such tables has been determined by careful analysis. In evaluating the work of medieval scholars we are mindful of the importance of applying criteria consistent with their own time, which may be different from those appropriate for other periods.

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Biographical Note

José Chabás, Ph.D. (1989), University of Barcelona, Spain, now at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, has focused on the review of astronomical tables and the computational methods used to compile them, as a means to study the transmission of astronomical ideas throughout Western Europe.

Bernard R. Goldstein, Ph.D. (1963), Brown University, is University Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh. Together with José Chabás he has published several books, most recently A Survey of European Astronomical Tables in the Late Middle Ages (Brill, 2012).

Table of contents

List of Figures

Part 1 - Conjunctions and Oppositions
1 Nicholaus de Heybech and His Table for Finding True Syzygy
2 Computational Astronomy: Five Centuries of Finding True Syzygy
3 Transmission of Computational Methods within the Alfonsine Corpus: The Case of the Tables of Nicholaus de Heybech

Part 2 - Planetary Motions
4 Ptolemy, Bianchini, and Copernicus: Tables for Planetary Latitudes
5 Displaced Tables in Latin: The Tables for the Seven Planets for 1340
6 Computing Planetary Positions: User-Friendliness and the Alfonsine Corpus

Part 3 - Sets of Tables
7 Andalusian Astronomy: al-Zīj al-Muqtabis of Ibn al-Kammād
8 Early Alfonsine Astronomy in Paris: The Tables of John Vimond (1320) 2279 John of Murs’s Tables of 1321
10 Isaac Ibn al-Ḥadib and Flavius Mithridates: The Diffusion of an Iberian Astronomical Tradition in the Late Middle Ages

Part 4 - Other Tables
11 Ibn al-Kammād’s Star List
12 Astronomical Activity in Portugal in the Fourteenth Century



All interested in the history of astronomy, especially before Copernicus, and in the mathematical methods developed by medieval astronomers.

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