History

Astronomy in the Middle Ages

Astronomy in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages astronomy flourished in Arab culture and in the kingdoms of Europe that were closer to it, especially in the Iberian Peninsula.

Greek astronomy was first transmitted eastward to Syrians, Indians and Arabs after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Arab astronomers compiled new catalogs of stars in the 9th and 10th centuries and developed tables of the planetary movement. The Arab astronomer Azarquiel, top figure of the astronomical school of Toledo during the eleventh century, was responsible for the calls Toledo Tables, which greatly influenced Europe.

In 1085, the year of the conquest of the city of Toledo by King Alfonso VI, a translation movement began from Arabic to Latin that sparked interest in astronomy (among other sciences) throughout Europe.

In Toledo School of Translators, the Toledo tables and the Almagesto of Ptolemy were translated and, in 1272, the Alfonsi Tables were elaborated under the sponsorship of Alfonso X the Wise; these tables replaced those of Azarquiel in the European scientific centers.

Along with the historical and legal work, the Castilian king Alfonso X promoted the translation of astronomical and astrological books, especially of Arab and Jewish origin, usually translated into Latin and from this language to Spanish. Among these can be mentioned the books of astronomy knowledge. Critics have accepted that their work was reduced, in most cases, to the organizer, director and inspirer of the work.

The research and translation work of this admirable school allowed fundamental works of ancient Greek culture to be rescued from oblivion and transmitted to medieval Europe throughout Spain.

From these versions, and thanks to them, Spain transmitted to Europe all those knowledge that covered fields such as geography, astronomy, cartography, philosophy, theology, medicine, arithmetic, astrology or botany, among others. This school was the origin and basis of the scientific and philosophical rebirth of the famous schools of Chartres and, later, of the Sorbonne.

During this period in Europe the geocentric theories promulgated by Ptolemy dominated and no major development of astronomy was presented. Only Johannes Müller (called Regiomontanus) began to make and gather new measurements and observations.

In the fifteenth century doubts began to arise about Ptolemy's theory: the German philosopher and mathematician Nicolas de Cusa and the Italian artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci questioned the basic assumptions of the central position and the immobility of the Earth. The Renaissance had begun.

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Arab Astronomy