Sep 06 2014

Colloquium announcement: The Star of Bethlehem — Historical and Astronomical Perspectives

This two-day colloquium will take place at the University of Groningen on October 23 and 24, 2014.

Scholars in the history of astronomy, ancient history, religion and related fields will speak on the topic of the Star of Bethlehem. There is also space for approximately thirty guest attendees.

Among the list of speakers are Owen Gingerich, Alexander Jones, John Steele, Kocku von Stuckrad, and Mladen Popović. This should be a most exciting and fruitful colloquium.

More information may be found at this link.

Jul 21 2014

Article: Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno Wins Carl Sagan Medal from the AAS



Congratulations to Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., winner of the Carl Sagan Medal, awarded by the American Astronomical Society for “outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public”.

Brother Consolmagno will receive his medal at the 46th annual Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Tucson, Arizona in November, 2014.

More on this story here and here.

Mar 25 2014

Conference announcement: The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World (Brown University, 12-13 April)

This conference programme was posted to Jack Sasson’s Agade list by John Steele. It looks very exciting.

The Circulation Of Astronomical Knowledge In The Ancient World
12-13 April 2014
Brown University, Pembroke Hall 305

This conference will explore the ways in which astronomical knowledge in the ancient world circulated between different communities of scholars over time and space. This broad theme includes both the transmission of knowledge between one culture and another (eg from the Babylonians to the Greeks, or the Greeks to India), and between different groups in the same culture (eg later authors writing commentaries on earlier works, the communication of astronomical knowledge between different cities, the relationship between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ astronomy, and the reinterpretation of earlier astronomical traditions by later astronomers). The circulation of astronomical knowledge provides an insight into both the way that astronomy was practiced, learnt and written down and the wider political and cultural connections between different societies.


Saturday 12 April
Morning Session

9:00am Welcome and Introduction

9:30am Francesca Rochberg (Berkeley / ISAW)
The Brown School of the History of Science: Historiography and the Astral Sciences

10:00am Joachim F. Quack (Heidelberg)
On the Contemporaneity of the Seemingly Incongruous, or Why Astral Lore Cannot be Studied in Isolation from the Rest of the Culture.

10:30am Andreas Winkler (Berkeley)
The Transmission of Knowledge in the Ancient Egyptian Astrological Manuals

11:00am Break

11:30am Daniel P. Morgan (Laboratoire SPHERE, CNRS – Université Paris Diderot)
Mercury and the Case for Plural Planetary Traditions in Early Imperial China

12:00pm Ethan Harkness (New York University)
The Popular Face of Astronomical and Calendrical Knowledge in Early China

12:30pm Guan Yuzhen (Brown University)
The Transmission of Knowledge Between Chinese Astronomers in the 2nd Century AD

Afternoon Session

2:30pm Niu Weixing (Shanghai Jiao Tong University / Brown University)
On the Dunhuang Manuscript P.4071: A Case Study of the Sinicization of Western Horoscope in late 10th Century China

3:00pm Song Shenmi (Shanghai Jiao Tong University)
The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac in the Tang and Song Dynasties: A Set of Signs Which Lost their Meanings Within Horoscopic Astrology

3:30pm Kristina Buhrman (Florida State University)
Classical Texts and Post-Hoc Adjustments: The Revival of the Rule Cycle (章) in 12-Century Japan

4:00pm Break

4:30pm Matthew Rutz (Brown University)
Astral Knowledge in an International Age: Transmission of the Cuneiform Tradition, ca. 1500-1000 BC

5:00pm John Steele (Brown University)
The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge Between Babylon and Uruk

Sunday 13 April

Morning Session

9:00am Zackary Wainer (Brown University)
Tablet 4 of the Series DIŠ Sîn ina Tāmartišu and Traditions of Mesopotamian Interpretive Eclipse Schemes

9:30am M. Willis Monroe (Brown University)
The Micro-Zodiac in Babylon and Uruk: Seleucid Zodiacal Astrology

10:00am John Z. Wee (University of Chicago)
Late Babylonian and Greco-Roman Medical Astrology

10:30am Break

11:00am Toke Knudsen (SUNY Oneonta)
Omens and Omen Series in Mesopotamia and India: Issues of Transmission

11:30am Zoë Misiewicz (ISAW)
Assyrian Lunar Omens in Byzantium

12:00pm Clemency Montelle (University of Canterbury)
Hypsicles of Alexandria and his Little Book of Rising Times

Afternoon Session

2:00pm Alexander Jones (ISAW)
Interpolated Observations in Ancient Astronomy

2:30pm Kim Plofker (Union College)
What, if Anything, is Greek About Aryabhata’s Mean Motions? An Examination of the Controversy

3:00pm Closing Remarks

The conference is free and open to all.


Feb 10 2014

Now available online! ‘Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature’

For your reading and research enjoyment courtesy of the NYU Library’s Ancient World Digital Library, in partnership with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW):

Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple LiteratureEdited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Seth L. Sanders.

What is there to say but thank you?

N.B. One of my favourite introductory lines may be found in the above volume, in “Networks of Scholars: The Transmission of Astronomical and Astrological Learning between Babylonians, Greeks and Jews”, by Mladen Popović:

“What do we know about what ancient Jewish scholars knew about what Babylonian scholars knew?”

Jan 20 2014

New publication: ‘From Alexandria, Through Baghdad: Surveys and Studies in the Ancient Greek and Medieval Islamic Mathematical Sciences in Honor of J.L. Berggren’

Greek and Islamic astronomy and mathematics

Sidoli, Nathan and Van Brummelen, Glen, Eds. 2014. From Alexandria, Through Baghdad: Surveys and Studies in the Ancient Greek and Medieval Islamic Mathematical Sciences in Honor of J.L. Berggren. [Hardcover]

Of interest to scholars and students of the history of mathematics and astronomy in ancient Greece and Medieval Islam is this volume, honouring the career of history of mathematics professor J.L. Berggren. The volume includes contributions spanning approximately seventy years of research, from the mid twentieth century onward.

Notable astronomical chapters include:

James Evans and Christian Carlos Cartman, “Mechanical Astronomy: A Route to the Ancient Discovery of Epicycles and Eccentrics.”

Alexander Jones, “Some Greek Sundial Meridians.”


David A. King, “An Ottoman Astrolabe Full of Surprises.”

For more information, please see the Springer web site.

Jan 03 2014

Recent publication: ‘New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought’


Published in 2013, New Heavens and a New Earth: The Jewish Reception of Copernican Thought, by Jeremy Brown (Oxford University Press) is described as the “first comprehensive examination of the Jewish reception of Copernican thought,” spanning four centuries of Jewish commentary on the Copernican model. In his research, Brown also demonstrates the ways in which religions tend to evolve to make room for new scientific findings, however threatening they may have initially appeared to be.

Here is the table of contents:

Chapter 1 – Nicolas Copernicus and His Revolution
Chapter 2 – The Talmudic View of the Universe
Chapter 3 – David Gans and the First Mention of Copernicus in Hebrew Literature
Chapter 4 – The First Jewish Copernican: Rabbi Joseph Solomon Delmedigo
Chapter 5 – ”Copernicus Is the Son of Satan.” The First Jewish Rejections of Copernicus
Chapter 6 – David Nieto and Copernicanism in London
Chapter 7 – The Jewish Encyclopedias
Chapter 8 – The Eighteenth Century. Jews and Copernicus in the Newtonian Era
Chapter 9 – ”I Have Written a Book For the Young People.” David Friesenhausen’s Mosdot Tevel
Chapter 10 – The Nineteenth Century: Copernicus Without Hesitation
Chapter 11 – ”Let Copernicus and a Thousand Like Him Be Removed From the World.” Reuven Landau’s Rejection
Chapter 12 – The Modern Period
Chapter 13 – Relativity and Contemporary Jewish Geocentrists
Chapter 14 – Conclusions

If any of my readers happen to pick this up, I’d welcome your comments here. Happy new year to all!


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Dec 02 2013

Forthcoming book — ‘Time, Astronomy, and Calendars in the Jewish Tradition’ (2014)


I greatly look forward to reading the following volume:

Stern, Sacha and Burnett, Charles (Eds.) (2014) Time, Astronomy, and Calendars in the Jewish Tradition. Leiden: Brill.

The table of contents is available here, on the Brill web site, and below, for your convenience.

Table of contents

A Jewish Parapegma? Reading 1 Enoch 82 in Roman Egypt
Jonathan Ben-Dov

Observing the Moon: Astronomical and Cosmological Aspects in the Rabbinic New Moon Procedure
Reimund Leicht

Cosmology as Science or Cosmology as Theology? Reflections on the Astronomical Chapters of Pirke DeRabbi Eliezer
Katharina Keim

Some Early Islamic and Christian Sources Regarding the Jewish Calendar (9th-11th centuries)
François de Blois

The Jewish Calendar Controversy of 921–22:
Reconstructing the Manuscripts and their Transmission History
Marina Rustow and Sacha Stern

The Hebrew Calendrical Bookshelf of the Early Twelfth Century: The Cases of Abraham bar Ḥiyya and Jacob bar Samson
Ilana Wartenberg

Scribal Prerogative in Modifying Calendrical Tables
Israel M. Sandman

Astronomical Tables of Abraham bar Ḥiyya
Raymond Mercier

The Sabbath Epistle by Abraham Ibn Ezra: its Purpose and Novelty
Anne C. Kinneret Sittig

Medieval Jews and Medieval Astrolabes: Where, Why, How, and What For?
Josefina Rodríguez Arribas

Some Hygiene and Dietary Calendars in Hebrew Manuscripts from Medieval Ashkenaz
Justine Isserles

Me pudet audire Iudeum talia scire: A Late Medieval Latin School Text on the Jewish Calendar
C. Philipp E. Nothaft

(Thanks again, Carla Sulzbach!)

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Dec 01 2013

New publication — “Time and Identity: Hellenism in the Calendar Speech of Jubilees chapter 6″

Here is the bibliographic information:

Ben-Dov, Jonathan. (2013) “Time and Identity: Hellenism in the Calendar Speech of Jubilees chapter 6″. (in Hebrew) Meghillot 10.

But why search when it’s available right here, on

(With deep thanks to Carla Sulzbach for pointing me to this publication)

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Oct 14 2013

Oxford X International Symposium planned for July 2014

The tenth Oxford International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy for academics working in the field of cultural astronomy will take place in Cape Town, South Africa in July 2014.

For more information and updates, please visit the ISAAC web site.

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Sep 27 2013

Article: Islamic Astronomy in Medieval China

This online article on research conducted by Dr. Benno van Dalen of the Institute for the History of Science at LMU Munich is a few years old, but too fascinating to gloss over.



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