Person: Autolycus Of Pitane
Autolycus was a Greek astronomer and mathematician who wrote about the geometry of the sphere.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- He was a teacher of Arcesilaus who was born in 315 BC so Autolycus must have lived until after 300 BC.
- makes use of theorems appearing in Autolycus, though, as usual in such cases, giving no indication of their source.
- Theorem 2 of Euclid's Phaenomena consists of four propositions with proofs for only three of them while the missing one is replaced by the remark "that this is the case has been shown elsewhere"; indeed theorem and proof are found as Theorem 10 in Autolycus's 'Rotating Sphere'.
- The priority argument is certainly not an unimportant one for the interdependence of Euclid and Autolycus on each other is significant since Autolycus writes his propositions in exactly the same general style as Euclid.
- This means that a theorem in Autolycus's work has first a general statement, then a construction related to a particular figure with points in the figure denoted by letters, next comes the demonstration of the theorem, and finally a conclusion relating to the general statement is sometimes drawn.
- Despite the style being used by Autolycus, nobody credits him with inventing it either.
- We have been taken down a fascinating road by the comparisons with Euclid, but we should return to give the only other detail of Autolycus's life which is reported by Diogenes Laertius, when he relates that Arcesilaus was accompanied by his teacher Autolycus on a journey to Sardis.
- Another important fact regarding Autolycus is that two of his books have survived in the original Greek and we believe that they are the earliest two mathematics works to have survived.
- It is thought that Theodosius's Sphaerics and Autolycus's work On the Moving Sphere are based on the same pre-Euclidean textbook which is now lost.
- That Autolycus relys heavily on Eudoxus for his view of astronomy is not in doubt.
- Despite Autolycus's attempts to explain these observations within Eudoxus's theory, he had no real answer to these problems.
- It is also a better constructed book and it is interesting to see how Autolycus's book has developed and improved between the two editions.
Born about 360 BC, Pitane, Aeolis, Asia Minor (now Turkey). Died about 290 BC.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Ancient Greek, Astronomy, Origin Turkey, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive