8490 E. 700 S.
Upland, IN 46898, USA
24 October 1974
History of Near Eastern and Egyptian astronomy and computation; Egyptian contexts of astronomy, cosmology and astrology; Chronology; Cultural transmission of technical terms and practices; Linguistic borrowing between incompatible scripts; Astronomical iconography
Ancient Studies Program
Horoscopic Ostraca of Medinet Madi presents thirty-four Demotic ostraca containing forty complete or partial horoscopes. After the provenance and cultural background of the ostraca are laid out, a survey of previous interpretations of the texts from Medinet Madi follows. Then, the previous methods of establishing a date for the collection are examined. Next, introductions of mathematical, astronomical, astrological and chronological concepts are made for the benefit of the non-specialist. Among these discussions, the use of numbers and fractions is introduced. Necessary astronomical terminology is defined and the causes of error in astronomical calculations are considered. A definition of horoscope is presented and the elements of a horoscope are established. The compositional styles of Demotic and Greek horoscopes are contrasted. The calendars of Greco-Roman Egypt are explicated. The varieties of astrological and astronomical ostraca are defined and the results of a search for such texts among the ostraca of Medinet Madi are reported. The documentary aspects of horoscopic ostraca are discussed and the palaeography of Demotic zodiacal signs and planetary symbols is revisited. After these preliminaries are fixed, the horoscopes are divided into four classes. A transcription, transliteration, translation and commentary is presented for each ostracon. No separation is made between the astronomical and philological commentary. In the conclusion, these ostraca are used to establish a more secure historical dating for Medinet Madi. The range of astrological techniques is outlined and correspondences with the Petosirian tradition are noted. Some tentative conclusions are drawn about the scope of astronomical techniques used at Medinet Madi.
Supervisor: Kuang Tai Hsu
I am presently collaborating with Professor Kuang Tai Hsu on the adaptation of European cosmologies and astronomical terms into a Chinese context by Jesuit missionaries. Professor Hsu has studied the work of Matteo Ricci and written extensively on elements of Chinese cosmology and physics. With Hsu, I am considering the Aristotelian physics and Ptolemaic models brought by Jesuits to China. This project seeks to employ Professor Yano’s techniques for establishing linguistic connections in light of similar work done in a Japanese context by Ryuji Hiraoka.
Supervisor: Dominique Tournès
Under the auspices of the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche, I worked with Professor Dominique Tournès of Université de la Réunion in Saint-Denis. Professor Tournès has assembled an international working group to study the development and the transmission of numeric tables. In this project, I analyzed several Egypt as the setting for the development of Greek mathematical tables. I compared the technical vocabular of tables and matheamatics in Egyptian and Greek contexts and outlined the social dimensions of calculation by tables.
Supervisor: Michio Yano
Through the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, I collaborated with Professor Michio Yano. Professor Yano has studied the transmission of Greek astronomical terms into Sanskrit astronomical and astrological texts of India and the transmission of Sanskrit texts into Arabic. With Yano, I analyzed several Egyptian and Near Eastern elements carried by Greeks into India. I also studied several of Yano’s techniques for establishing linguistic connections between texts and am reapplying these methods to the linguistic exchanges between Greece and Egypt. This project has culminated in JyotiWiki.com, a site for the collaborative edition and electronic dissemination of Sanskrit texts on astral sciences. In electronic form, the technical terms are easily searchable and statistical information is more easily produced.
Supervisor: Yves Duroux
During the spring of 2008, I conducted a series of seminars which evaluated the Greek accounts of Egyptian astronomy from two distinctly different approaches. First, I compared Greek reports of Egyptian astronomical and mathematical development with respect to the available (but unpublished) Egyptian evidence. Also, working with only the Greek accounts, I analyzed the development and rhetorical use of several less credible Greek accounts of Egyptian wisdom.
Supervisor: Karine Chemla
Within the REHSEIS research group at Université Paris 7, I collaborated with Christine Proust on the types of mathematical texts used in antiquity. We compared the contexts in which these texts were found and the development of larger texts from smaller corpuses. These considerations have resulted in our on-going contributions to Dominique Tournès’ project on the history of mathematical tables.
The Center for General Education and the Institute of History represent different approaches to education. On the one hand, the Center for General Education establishes general requirements that are deemed either necessary for a well-rounded understanding of the world or are considered desirable for an educated person. These requirements impart a broad, general view of human development and privelege a wide range of skills useful to different fields. The Institute of History, on the other hand, endeavors to produce historians who understand not only the past but how the past is articulated into a coherent narrative. While these perspectives have some common ground, the time I have already spent at the National Tsing Hua University suggest that the differing goals of these establishments are best served by different approaches.
My understanding of the goals of the Center for General Education derive from teaching The Scientific Revolution in the spring and fall semesters of 2014. Some students seem to enroll because the history of science relates to their studies in technical fields. Other students clearly hope to practice English. The students represent a range of abilities: some could easily read a hundred pages a week ; others are new to the university. An arbitrary standard of performance risks neglecting a portion of the class, but establishing academic expectations and exposure to academic disciplines fulfills the goal of providing a general education.
Despite the range of interests and abilities, I have made two observations. First, students at NTHU are more philosophically engaged than their American counterparts. They appreciate philosophical changes of perspective. Secondly, they appreciate a good story. Thus, I have built a basic introduction to The Scientific Revolution out of carefully arranged anecdotes from the lives of key scientists and philosophers. In order to engage students with some facet of the material, I have asked them to make a brief presentation of a topic of their choosing. Through these presentations, they advance their own interests. This method largely seems to work – they have the opportunity to engage with many new ideas during the semester and to define and share their interests with an audience.
My understanding of the goals of the Institute of History derives from guiding the research of a graduate student interested in the introduction of Arabic navigational instruments to China. As a reader of her thesis, I have been impressed with the student’s resourcefulness in locating information on the history of navigation. However, the format of these works – original texts, commentaries, modern analyses – often challenged her. I have adopted the strategy of explaining the development of the textual history in order that she can extract the information she needs. In this way, the historian's laboratory is the library, which holds records of the past preserved in primary sources and interpreted by authorities in more general works. By my understanding, the Institute of History endeavors to guide students in understanding these sources and assembling them into a coherent narrative. In my experience, linguistic challenges are only one obstacle to understanding: the rhetorical mode of foreign works can additionally obscure their value.
Thus, history is a textual pursuit, one intimately connected with cultural understanding. Any student can read the conclusions of modern historians and understand them, but even a basic introduction to an historical topic must focus on two questions: what are the sources and why do we esteem or reject them. The development of a Master's thesis represents a particular refinement of this labor. While exciting, this labor of history is hard work and depends on the negotiation of a new narrative, a new text which does more than cite proper sources. The excitement of history lies in following the creation of the narrative and creating other narratives.
The goals of the Center for General Education and the goals of the Institute of History are not in opposition. However, because the two establishments reach different groups of students, I believe that the two venues demand separate approaches and that ultimately, any pedagogical philosophy must reflect the expectations and goals of its program but should be modified according to the results in progress.
The Scientific Revolution:1550 – 1700
Currently teaching a two credit-hour undergraduate course of my own design to 126 undergraduate students.
The Scientific Revolution:1550 – 1700
Designed and taught a two credit-hour undergraduate course introducing the Scientific Revolution to 67 undergraduate students.
Micah T. Ross — firstname.lastname@example.org