Eratosthenes: 1st to Measure Earth's Size - Life & Achievements - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1026 Words
Date:  2023-08-10


Eratosthenes was a renowned ancient Greek-based scientist born around the year 276BC in a town called Cyrene. Apart from being a scientist, he was also a poet and an astronomer, and he is famous because he was the first person to make the measurements of the size of the earth. He had been educated in Athens, where he majored in philosophy and mathematics. The following paper seeks to explain the contributions, personal challenges, triumphs, economic status, and Eratosthenes' family life.

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First and foremost, Eratosthenes came up with a logical technique of discovering prime numbers, a method that is still relevant in the modern number theory. Secondly, he the first person to explain the flooding that occurred on the river Nile annually. He told that there were heavy seasonal rains that were experienced near the source of the river, which often led to the increase in water levels of the river, and as a result, there was flooding experienced in Egypt.

Thirdly, He invested the geography discipline, which is a discipline that is still studied up to this date by students all over the world. He came up with the term geography, which is translated from Greek to the mean-field study of the earth, which is what the discipline represents. Additionally, he invented the armillary sphere; an instrument used to determine the positions of the objects in space or celestial objects. This instrument was mainly vital in the 1800 years as it was the only instrument used for that purpose and led to significant discoveries and learning.

Moreover, he came up with the first map featuring the world, which included the parallel lines and the meridian lines, which are used in calculating the time difference between different zones. These lines are what is currently referred to as the latitudes and longitudes. He was also able to mark the equator's size, the size of the polar zones, and their distance to the tropics. Also, he was able to document all the scientific achievements since the time Greeks laid siege to Troy.

Lastly, his most significant contribution was calculating the size of the earth with the utmost accuracy. He was able to recognize that surface is spherical, then he went ahead to use observation, mathematics, and deduction in calculating the size of the earth. He achieved this by calculating the tilt that the planet's axis made about the equator's plane, which had the utmost accuracy. He noticed that during the summer solstice at noon, there was no shadow experienced in Syrene; hence he knew that the sun was overhead at this particular time.

Therefore, he used the measurements of a tall tower in Alexandria during the solstice, calculated the distance between Syrene and Alexandria, which was said to be about 800Km, and used these two measurements to determine the circumference of the earth. It is said that he used the units of measurements referred to as stadia. His calculations were used by other mathematicians to build on other geometrical disciplines. Moreover, some of the mathematical subjects he invented are still being referred to as to this date.

Eratosthenes was a Greek scientist; hence most of his mathematical derivations and methods came from a Greek background. It is known that Greek mathematics was much more complicated than mathematics from earlier cultures. Most of his mathematical work was based on using deductive reasoning, which used logic to get conclusions instead of inductive reasoning, which used repeated observations. Hence when he went ahead to calculate the circumference of the earth, he used mathematical rigor to prove his deductions.

In addition to mathematics, he was also a poet who made him earn a position Chief Librarian in the Library of Alexandria, which was a prestigious title to hold, especially among the intellects. He used his position here to influence change to the library by ensuring almost all books were turned in and copied in scrolls and were used by so many generations. While at the library, he also taught poetry and philosophy.

Personal Challenges

During his work, Eratosthenes experienced some challenges that hindered his work. First and foremost, during the calculation of the earth's circumference, he worked around the assumption that the earth was spherical since there was no written proof. Furthermore, there was no technological advancement to help him with measurements. He had to manually measure the distances that he used when calculating the mileage and no reference point since most of these measurements had not been undertaken before.

Also, since there was no use of calculators or computers, he had to carry out all of his calculations by hand, and some of the equations could take days to complete and analyze hence no room for error correction. Sadly, as he grew older, he contracted a disease that left him blind, which made him become depressed, which made him starve himself on purpose until his demise in 194BC at the age of 82.

Economic Status

Due to his immense contributions to science, geography, and philosophy, Eratosthenes was able to acquire wealth as he was recognized for so many of his achievements. Also, some of his inventions went ahead to be used for so many years before technological advancement. He was however, more interested in acquiring more intellectual wealth, especially when he was working at the Library of Alexandria.

Eratosthenes Teachers

Eratosthenes had some very influential teachers who shaped him into becoming the great scientist that he was. His teachers included Ariston of Chios, who taught him philosophy, and he had studied under Zeno, Lysanias, from Cyrene. Additionally, he studied under Callimachus, a scholar and a poet, who was also from Cyrene. Furthermore, he also spent several years undertaking studies in Athens.

Eratosthenes Family Life

He was born in the city of Cyrene and was the son of the Aglaos. He spent most of his time away from his family as he pursued his studies in Athens. Most of his family life history is unknown since he never spent time with them. His dedication to his work and science sources indicates that he never got married all his life, and he spent his last years alone after losing sight, which made him depressed.

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Eratosthenes: 1st to Measure Earth's Size - Life & Achievements - Essay Sample. (2023, Aug 10). Retrieved from

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