The Origins of the Ptolemaic Tradition and its Adoption and Replacement in Colonial America

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Ben Baumann

Abstract

This monograph addresses the vital impact of ancient Greek thought on Colonial American cosmography, through an analysis of the ways Colonial Americans interpreted and applied Greek ideas. The conflict between the Ptolemaic tradition and the heliocentric model of Copernicus provides a focal point for this study. To highlight this cosmographic reformation, I examine the influence of Greek democratic culture, in particular the tolerance of open discussion, as well as attitudes of scientific objectivity, mathematical reasoning and religious openness. In turn, this cultural inheritance inspired and enabled leading Colonial American cosmographers associated with Harvard and Puritanism to view scientific truth as God’s truth. Thus, religiosity and the understanding of God’s created universe in Colonial America embraced an ongoing journey of discovery shaped by scientific inquiry and an openness to changing received wisdom concerning the cosmos.

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Section
Student Research