Almagest: Vol. IX, Issue 2

Table of Contents and Abstracts, Almagest 9-2, November 2018

John Hedley Brooke
Orthodoxy and Science: Varieties of Engagement and Indifference
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116767
Many attempts have been made to produce a viable taxonomy for the possible relations between scientific and religious thought. Of these the most widely discussed is that of Ian Barbour, whose categories of conflict, independence, integration and dialogue have provided a structure helpful to many as they enter this field of study. Critics have stressed the need for supplementary models, historians in particular calling for more nuanced analysis. In this paper I suggest that, in many general discussions of “science and religion”, a relationship of indifference is neglected. I also suggest that the Orthodox tradition may provide helpful case-studies of circumstances in which a religious indifference to the sciences may arise. Four main reasons for indifference are identified.

Dimitris Kilakos
Religion and ideological confrontations in early Soviet mathematics: The case of P.A. Nekrasov
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116768
The influence of religious beliefs to several leading mathematicians in early Soviet years, especially among members of the Moscow Mathematical Society, had drawn the attention of militant Soviet marxists, as well as Soviet authorities. The issue has also drawn significant attention from scholars in the post-Soviet period. According to the currently prevailing interpretation, reported purges against Moscow mathematicians due to their religious inclination are the focal point of the relevant history. However, I maintain that historical data arguably offer reasons to cast reasonable doubts on this interpretation. In this paper, by reviewing the relevant literature, I raise some methodological and philosophical concerns, in an attempt to contribute to a better understanding of the issue. I maintain that an efficient line of reasoning is to discuss issues in the context of their making, taking into consideration the specific features of each era’s culture. Thus, by focusing on P.A. Nekrasov’s case, I attempt to point to an alternative interpretation, in which the different treatment of religious inclined mathematicians by Soviet authorities is explained in the context of the ideological confrontation between two contrasting worldviews, as part of the ongoing class war in the several phases of Soviet history.

Chris Howell
The Rose and the Stag. An American Orthodox Converstation on Modernity, Science, and Biblical Interpretation
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116769
Though the Orthodox in America remain a small minority, two figures have nevertheless exerted great influence on Christianity both within and without the United States. The monk Seraphim Rose and the theologian David Bentley Hart may seem at first to have little in common, but they agree on one foundational issue: that modernity is essentially nihilistic, the result of the modern world’s inexorable slide away from Christianity into “nothingness.” However, though they share this diagnosis of what ails the modern world, they differ wildly in their solution to it. Rose was deeply hostile to ecumenism and evolutionary biology, finding refuge in a creationism he thought backed by the Church Fathers. Conversely, Hart argues there is only hope in ecumenical unity, and he rejects creationism and Intelligent Design, arguing instead for the classical doctrine of creatio ex nihilo and a biblical hermeneutic based not on literalism but reading ad litteram.

Anne Tihon
Le diagramme des horizons et les prosneuses des éclipses dans l’astronomie de Ptolémée
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116770
This paper analyses the horizon diagram in Ptolemy’s Almagest and in the Handy Tables. In both works this diagram is used only for the calculation of the prosneusis in an eclipse. The aim of such a calculation is not clear : one has suggested some astrological purpose, or ancient meteorological theory. The paper examines the prosneusis calculations given by Theon of Alexandria and by some Byzantine authors : Stephanos, Barlaam, Nicephorus Gregoras, Theodorus Meliteniotes. For each calculation a figure is drawn showing the angles obtained for the prosneusis and the positions of Sun and Moon at the different moments of the eclipse. In each case this figure is very similar to a modern diagram showing the scheme of the eclipse, but inverted, as seen in a reflecting surface such as a basin full of some liquid. So one can suggest that the prosneusis calculation was intended to give a precise account of the phases of the eclipse, perhaps with help of a figure reproducing the phenomenon as seen by the observer.

Noël Golvers
New Jesuit testimonies from the Far East on the comet of March 1668: the diary of Visitor Luis da Gama (Macau) and a letter of Ferdinand Verbiest (Peking)
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116771
A fragment of a handwritten private diary from a Jesuit in Macau (1668) contains, among others, a first person description of the ‘sungrazing’ comet of March 1668. Although not made by a expert observer, it confirms that the simultaneous description, given by Ferdinand Verbiest, SJ, living in Peking, 2000 km. more to the North, was indeed of this comet (see Almagest 2014); both testimonies should therefore be added as authentic complementary evidence for the study of this historical comet, which was described incompletely, on far distant places on the globe, mostly by Jesuit observers within an intercontinental network of observations.

Andrei Vasilescu, Magda Stavinschi
1877- Henri Poincaré : le voyage d’étude et la fabrication de l’acier dans le Banat
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116772
Le présent article traite principalement de l'histoire du voyage d’Henri Poincaré dans la région minière de Banat.
En 1877, Henri Poincaré, élève à l'École des Mines de Paris, a effectué le voyage d’étude obligatoire de trois mois, à la fin de la seconde année des études. Le long itinéraire du voyage (Paris, Vienne, Prague, Cracovie, Trieste, Gènes) inclut aussi la région industrielle de la ville Reşiţa de Banat, conclut avec le « Mémoire sur la fabrication de l'acier dans le Banat ». Ce mémoire, une véritable monographie technique à l'organisation rigoureuse, nous révèle l'esprit du jeune chercheur, ses connaissances théoriques et met en valeur aussi son intérêt pour tous les aspects techniques. En même temps quelques aspects de la vie des ouvriers des exploitations minières et des usines métallurgiques sont présentés. Le texte est illustré par des tableaux, des planches et des dessins à l’échelle. Le mémoire a une valeur inestimable pour l’histoire de techniques métallurgiques, spécialement pour la Roumanie.

This paper deals mainly with the history of Henri Poincaré's trip to a mining region of Banat. In 1877, Henri Poincaré, in those times student at the “École des Mines” in Paris, went on a compulsory three-months study trip, at the end of the second year of studies. His travel route was passing through Paris, Vienna, Prague, Krakow, Trieste, Genoa included the industrial region of the city of Resita in the Romanian Banat. His visit in Banat concludes with a travel report entitled « Mémoire sur la fabrication de l'acier dans le Banat » (Report on the manufacture of steel in Banat). This manuscript is a real technical monograph, reveals us the young researcher Poincaré, who proves the depth of theoretical knowledge, the rigour in the organization of his writing and his interest in technical aspects. It the same time, he presents some aspects of the living conditions of workers in mining and metallurgical plants in that period. The text is illustrated with tables, boards and scale drawings. This technical report is invaluable for the history of metallurgical techniques, especially in Romania.

Book Reviews
Tuncay Zorlu
Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Osmanlı Bilim Mirası (Ottoman Scientific Heritage)
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116773
Stefano Daniele
C. Guerra, Lavoisier e Parthenope. Contributo ad una storia della chimica del Regno di Napoli
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116774
Gianna Katsiampoura
Costas V. Krimbas, The Darwinism in Greece
DOI 10.1484/J.ALMAGEST.5.116775