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Chasing Shadows

, 424 pages

6 halftones, 51 line drawings

April 2011



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Chasing Shadows

Mathematics, Astronomy, and the Early History of Eclipse Reckoning

Lunar and solar eclipses have always fascinated human beings. Digging deep into history, Clemency Montelle examines the ways in which theoretical understanding of eclipses originated and how ancient and medieval cultures shared, developed, and preserved their knowledge of these awe-inspiring events.

Eclipses were the celestial phenomena most challenging to understand in the ancient world. Montelle draws on original research—much of it derived from reading primary source material written in Akkadian and Sanskrit, as well as ancient Greek, Latin, and Arabic—to explore how observers in Babylon, the Islamic Near East, Greece, and India developed new astronomical and mathematical techniques to predict and describe the features of eclipses. She identifies the profound scientific discoveries of these four cultures and discusses how the societies exchanged information about eclipses. In constructing this history, Montelle establishes a clear pattern of the transmission of scientific ideas from one culture to another in the ancient and medieval world.

Chasing Shadows is an invitingly written and highly informative exploration of the early history of astronomy.

Clemency Montelle is a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Canterbury.

"A substantial contribution to the history of ancient astronomy. It is especially significant because of the cultures discussed and in particular its treatment of Indian astronomy."

"This very well written book is densely packed with information."

"I am not aware of any other book that covers the treatment of eclipses in early astronomy in anything like the breadth of culture and geography, the depth of mathematical astronomy, the scholarly analysis, and the general accessibility that we find in this book."

"The book is splendid. It is a sophisticated scholarly work with important broader theses... Chasing Shadows will be a first contact for scholars on the history of eclipse theory for many years to come."

"The book sets a high standard for scholarship, and is written in compelling prose. It will be the standard reference for the history of eclipses."

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