2023 Pi Day talk – Zu Chongzhi Center Distinguished Lecture

Date and Time (China standard time): Tuesday, March 14, 8:00-9:00 pm

Zoom ID: 931 5182 8402

Password: dkumath

Location: IB Lecture Hall

Title: The Mathematization of the Heavens in Ancient Babylonia

Speaker: John Steele

Bio: John Steele is Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity in the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology at Brown University. His research focuses on the history of ancient Babylonian astronomy, the circulation of astronomical knowledge and the reception of ancient science in later cultures. He is the author of several books including A Brief Introduction to Astronomy in the Middle East (Saqi Books, 2008) and, most recently, The Babylonian Astronomical Compendium MUL.APIN (Routledge, 2019, co-authored with Hermann Hunger.

Abstract: Cuneiform tablets recovered from Iraq provide a wide range of information about the history, languages, culture, and science of the ancient Babylonians during the last three millennia BCE. Around 5000 tablets contain texts on the topic of astronomy. These texts show that the Babylonians intensively observed and studied the night sky. In addition to texts containing astronomical observations, many texts show the application of mathematics to understanding and calculating astronomical phenomena. In this talk, I will introduce some of these mathematical methods and show how they were used to predict the phenomena and position of the planets, the motion of the moon, and even lunar and solar eclipses.