My topic is about how ancient cultures used mathematics in their observations of the night sky, and how their ideas influenced each other.  The cultures I’m specifically focusing on are the ancient Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians. I’m interested in this topic mostly because I like studying both history and astronomy. This topic is especially interesting to me because it connects the sciences and technologies of these cultures to their observations of the heaves and relates them to the cultures’ ideas of religion and mythology.

My topic shows how the concepts of astronomy and mathematics have affected and influenced each other over time. It shows how various ideas and observations can impact other fields of research no matter when it takes place. This applies to other situations by providing an example for how math can influences other fields of science.


  • This civilization recorded their data and observation on cuneiform tablets like the one shown below.
  • The Babylonians focused on the use of numerology and mathematics in astronomy.
  • The Babylonians were very adept at recording observation of the night sky. They were able to record and predict the movement of the sun, moon, planets, and constellation with mathematics.
  • The Babylonians had a sexagesimal numerals system, or numerals with a base of sixty. The most notable use of this in their astronomy is the calculation of angles of stars and the number of degrees in a circle.


  • The Egyptians were never as advanced as the Greeks or Babylonians when it came to astronomy, but this is mostly because their number system and geometry was not as developed as other cultures’.
  •  This civilization did have a large number of constellations that they used to keep track of the time of year.
  • The most notable example of mathematical astronomy in Egypt was the engineering feat of the great pyramids that are aligned to north south to a measure of a few arcseconds.


  • The ancient Greeks mostly used geometrical astronomy instead of numerical astronomy like the Babylonians.
  • this culture was able to produce more theories for astronomical phenomena than other cultures.
    • Ex: They were able to come up with both the geocentric model, with Aristotle and Ptolemy (as shown in picture), and the heliocentric model, with Aristarchus, of the universe.
  • One of the most well-known figures of mathematical astronomy in ancient Greece is Eratosthenes with his use of logic and reasoning to determine the circumference of the earth.
  • The ancient Greeks did a lot of research in measuring the angle of stars using tools like the astrolabe.

Cultural Influences

  • The Greeks had a lot of influences from the Babylonians in the fields of mathematics and astronomy
    • The concepts of decimals and degrees
    • The zodiac
    • Number of days in a year
  • The Babylonians on the other hand had very little influences from either the Greeks or the Egyptians.
    • The only really notable thing that the Babylonians got from the Greeks was the concept of tropical year.
  • After its conquest by Alexander the Great, Egypt got an influx of Greek astronomical knowledge.
    • Ptolemy, considered the last great astronomer of the ancient world, was from Alexandria.


Overall, my presentation shows how the ideas of astronomy and mathematics have affected and influenced each other over time. Whether it is through the spread of ideas from culture to culture or the discovery of new phenomena, the field of mathematics will always affect the other fields of science. For it is mathematics that push other fields forwards by providing a tool to conduct research, interpret results, and produces more breakthroughs. After doing this project I realized that my topic is important to the understanding of how the sciences were developed, for it is through mathematics that scientific data is recorded.

For this project I learned about the relationships between these civilizations and how their observations and theories influenced each other. I learned what each society thought was causing phenomena and how they would relate it to their culture. For instance, the Greek polymath Aristotle studied the night sky and wrote many papers regarding how his observed related to the natural world. The ideas of ancient astronomers and their use of mathematics in these society helped to create the bases for many of the fields of science in modern times.




“Egyptian astronomy.” In Astronomy Encyclopedia, edited by Leif J. Robinson, Wil Tirion, and Patrick Moore. Philip’s, 2002.

Jones, Alexander. “The Adaptation of Babylonian Methods in Greek Numerical Astronomy.” The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society, September 1991.

“Babylonian astronomy.” In Astronomy Encyclopedia, by Leif J. Robinson, Wil Tirion, and Patrick edited

Moore. Philip’s, 2002.

“Greek astronomy.” In Encyclopedia of the History of Astronomy and Astrophysics, by David Leverington.

Cambridge University Press, 2013.