Science: The Ptruth About Ptolemy

A case of fraud?

Claudius Ptolemy, the second-century Greek mathematician whose word on the heavens was law for some 1,400 years, has long been considered the king of ancient astronomers. Now an iconoclastic physicist is seeking to dethrone him. After an eight-year study of the Syntaxis, Ptolemy's 13-volume collection of celestial observations, Robert R. Newton of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University has concluded that Ptolemy faked his figures. In his just-published The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy (Johns Hopkins University Press; $22.50), Newton minces no words: "Ptolemy is not the greatest astronomer of antiquity, but he is something still more...

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