Books  Ecological & Biological Sciences  Physical Sciences  Cosmology & Astronomy 

Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation

By: F Richard Stephenson

576 pages, illus

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Mar 2008 | #174846 | ISBN-13: 9780521056335
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NHBS Price: £54.99 $70/€62 approx

About this book

This book is intended for geophysicists, astronomers (especially those with an interest in history), historians and orientalists. The culmination of many years of research, it discusses, in depth, ancient and medieval eclipse observations and their importance in studying Earth's past rotation.

This is the first major book on this subject which has appeared in the last twenty years. The author has specialised in the interpretation of early astronomical records and their application to problems in modern astronomy for many years. The book contains an in-depth discussion of numerous eclipse records from Babylon, China, Europe and the Arab lands. Translations of almost every record studied are given. It is shown that although tides play a dominant long-term role in producing variations in Earth's rate of rotation - causing a gradual increase in the length of the day - there are significant, and variable non-tidal changes in opposition to the main trend.

'It will certainly replace earlier books as the standard text in this long-established field.' The Observatory 'In this book the sources are comprehensively and lucidly discussed. For serious geophysicists the book is necessary reading. For the rest of us the sheer breadth and depth of research into ancient sources for practical modern purposes must surely be an inspiration.' Clockmakers's Times 'The comprehensive nature of the work makes it an excellent reference.' D. E. Hogg, Choice '[The author] is to be commended for this work of careful synthesis'. Henry Innes MacAdam, IBS


1. Variations in the length of the day: a historical perspective; 2. Tidal friction and the ephemerides of the Sun and Moon; 3. Pre-telescopic eclipse observations and their analysis; 4. Babylonian and Assyrian records of eclipses; 5. Investigation of Babylonian observations of solar eclipses; 6. Timed Babylonian lunar eclipses; 7. Untimed Babylonian observations of lunar eclipses: horizon phenomena; 8. Chinese and other East Asian observations of large solar eclipses; 9. Other East Asian observations of solar and lunar eclipses; 10. Records of eclipses in ancient European history; 11. Eclipse records from medieval Europe; 12. Solar and lunar eclipses recorded in medieval Arabic chronicles; 13. Observations of solar and lunar eclipses made by medieval Arab astronomers; 14. Determination of changes in the length of the day and geophysical interpretation; Appendix A; Appendix B; References.

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