Name: Claudius Ptolemaeus
[tolemayus] a.k.a. Claudius Ptolemy
Born: est. CE 85
Died: est. CE 165
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Nationality: His name is a mixture of the
Greek Egyptian "Ptolemy" and the Roman "Claudius" indicates
that he was descended from a Greek family living in Egypt and
that he was a citizen of Rome which would be a
result of a Roman emperor giving that "reward" to one of
- Father: Unknown
- Mother: Unknown
- Sister(s): Unknown
- Daughter(s): Unknown
Principal Activity or
- Worked in the great library in Alexandria. (As
Alexandria had a tradition for scholarship, it would
indicate that Ptolemy had access to other practicians not
to mention the library itself where he would have found
valuable reference material of which he obviously made good
- We know that Ptolemy used observations made by Theon,
the mathematician. This was almost certainly Theon of
Smyrna who, most likely, was also one of Ptolemy's
teachers. This would make sense since Theon was both an
observer and a mathematician who had written on
astronomical topics such as conjunctions, eclipses,
occultations and transits.
- Most of Ptolemy's early works are dedicated to Syrus
who may have also been one of his teachers in Alexandria,
although, nothing is known of Syrus.
- In general, he subscribed to an Aristotelian position
philosophically, though his predilection for mathematics
led him to regard that division of science with far greater
reverence than the more biologically minded Aristotle. One
of his minor works and chapters in the longer ones are
philosophical and testify to his knowledge of and interest
in the subject.
- Though he was himself amply capable of original
thought, he was acquainted with the work and writings of
his predecessors such as:
Menelaüs in mathematics
Hipparchus in astronomy
Marinus of Tyre in geography
Didymus in music
Posidonius in astrological ethnology and the arguments
whereby Astrology was defended.
He drew freely and openly from them, and had the gift of
systematizing the materials with which he dealt, a
characteristic which is especially evident in the
Ptolemy was considered the greatest astronomer of
late antiquity. His Almagest, was the most
important compendium of astronomy and was produced
until the 16th century.
His system, (the Ptolemaic system), propounded the
geocentric theory in a form that prevailed for 1400
years until dislodged by Copernicus.
Ptolemy made his astronomical observations from
Alexandria, in Egypt, during the years CE 127 -
141. While little is known of Ptolemy's life, his
observations can, in fact, be dated. His first
observation which was made on March 26, 127, while
his last was made on February 2, 141.
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