Tag Archives: mathematics


Past talk:
12:00 Friday, April 10                                                                                       WAG 316

Richard Fitzpatrick

“Ptolemy’s Almagest: Fact and Fiction”

The modern world inherited two major scientific treatises from the civilization of Ancient Greece. The first of these, the Elements of Euclid, is a large compendium of mathematical theorems concerning geometry, proportion, and number theory. The Elements is rightly regarded as the first, largely successful, attempt to construct an axiomatic system in mathematics, and is still held in high esteem within the scientific community. The second treatise, the Almagest of Claudius Ptolemy, is an attempt to find a simple geometric explanation for the apparent motions of the sun, the moon, and the five visible planets in the earth’s sky. The scientific reputation of the Almagest has not fared as well as that of Euclid’s Elements. Nowadays, it is a commonly held belief, even amongst scientists, that Ptolemy’s mistaken adherence to the tenets of Aristotelian philosophy—in particular, the immovability of the earth, and the necessity for heavenly bodies to move uniformly in circles—led him to construct an overcomplicated, unwieldy, and faintly ridiculous model of planetary motion. The aim of this talk is to re-examine the scientific merits of the Almagest and to determine whether the aforementioned criticisms are fair.

UT Professor of Physics Fitzpatrick is author of several books, including Plasma Physics: An Introduction (2014) and a translation of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry (2007).

Past talk:
Hosted by the Institute for Historical Studies
3:30 pm, Weds., March 25                                                                                       GAR 4.100

Alberto Martínez

“The Cult of Pythagoras: Math and Myths”

This talk is part of the Institute for Historical Research’s series of workshops, so please RSVP Courtney.

The Cult of Pythagoras shows how myths evolve in the history of mathematics. Some tales are partly true, others entirely false, but all show the power of invention in history. Pythagoras emerges as a symbol of the urge to conjecture: he has been credited with fundamental discoveries in math and the sciences, yet there is nearly no evidence that he really contributed anything to such fields at all. This book asks: how does history change when we subtract the many small exaggerations and interpolations that writers have added for over two thousand years?

UT History Professor Martinez is the author of several books including The Cult of Pythagoras (2012) and Science Secrets: The Truth About Darwin’s Finches, Einstein’s Wife, and Other Myths (2011).