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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Hipparchus Quotes

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Hipparchus
(c. 190 B.C. - c. 120 B.C.)

Greek astronomer who as an early scientist established the use of trigonometry. He was the first to describe a location on the earth by latitude and longitude.


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Todayinsci Colorization C-19th book engraving of ancient Greek man holding diopter toward night sky for celestial measurement
Hipparchus in the Observatory of Alexandria, holding diopter for celestial measurement
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Quotes by others about Hipparchus (5)

Those who knew that the judgements of many centuries had reinforced the opinion that the Earth is placed motionless in the middle of heaven, as though at its centre, if I on the contrary asserted that the Earth moves, I hesitated for a long time whether to bring my treatise, written to demonstrate its motion, into the light of day, or whether it would not be better to follow the example of the Pythagoreans and certain others, who used to pass on the mysteries of their philosophy merely to their relatives and friends, not in writing but by personal contact, as the letter of Lysis to Hipparchus bears witness. And indeed they seem to me to have done so, not as some think from a certain jealousy of communicating their doctrines, but so that their greatest splendours, discovered by the devoted research of great men, should not be exposed to the contempt of those who either find it irksome to waste effort on anything learned, unless it is profitable, or if they are stirred by the exhortations and examples of others to a high-minded enthusiasm for philosophy, are nevertheless so dull-witted that among philosophers they are like drones among bees.
'To His Holiness Pope Paul III', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 24.
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It is a vulgar belief that our astronomical knowledge dates only from the recent century when it was rescued from the monks who imprisoned Galileo; but Hipparchus…who among other achievements discovered the precession of the eqinoxes, ranks with the Newtons and the Keplers; and Copernicus, the modern father of our celestial science, avows himself, in his famous work, as only the champion of Pythagoras, whose system he enforces and illustrates. Even the most modish schemes of the day on the origin of things, which captivate as much by their novelty as their truth, may find their precursors in ancient sages, and after a careful analysis of the blended elements of imagination and induction which charaterise the new theories, they will be found mainly to rest on the atom of Epicurus and the monad of Thales. Scientific, like spiritual truth, has ever from the beginning been descending from heaven to man.
Lothair (1879), preface, xvii.
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No one can read the history of astronomy without perceiving that Copernicus, Newton, Laplace, are not new men, or a new kind of men, but that Thales, Anaximenes, Hipparchus, Empodocles, Aristorchus, Pythagorus, Oenipodes, had anticipated them.
In The Conduct of Life (1904), 18.
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Hipparchus displayed his love of truth in confining to the sun and moon his demonstration of circular and uniform motions, and in not extending them to the five planets. Inasmuch as his predecessors had not left him a sufficient number of accurate observations, he judged rightly, with reference to the planets, in attempting nothing beyond a collection of good observations for the use of his successors, and a demonstration, by means of these observations, that the hypotheses of the mathematicians of his time did not agree with the phenomena.
Ptolemy
Translated from Syntaxis, ix, 2. As quoted and cited in George Cornewall Lewis, An Historical Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients (1862), 214.
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When we consider all that Hipparchus invented or perfected, and reflect upon the number of his works, and the mass of calculations which they imply, we must regard him as one of the most astonishing men of antiquity, and as the greatest of all in the sciences which are not purely speculative, and which require a combination of geometrical knowledge with a knowledge of phenomena, to be observed only by diligent attention and refined instruments.
In Histoire de l’Astronomie Ancienne (1817), Vol. 1, 186. As translated in George Cornewall Lewis, An Historical Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients (1862), 214. From the original French: “Quand on réunit tout ce qu’il a inventé ou perfectionné, et qu’on songe au nombre de ses ouvrages, à la quantité de calculs qu’ils supposent, on trouve dans Hipparque un des hommes les plus étonnans de l’antiquité, et le plus grand de tous dans les sciences qui ne sont pas purement spéculatives, et qui demandent qu’aux connaissances géométriques on réunisse des connaissances de faits particuliers et de phénomènes dont l’observation exige beaucoup d'assiduité et des instrumens perfectionnés.”
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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