The Interplay between Theory and Observation in the Solar Model of Hipparchus and Ptolemy

Kathleen Okruhlik
University of Western Ontario
Attempts by twentieth-century historians to account for the successes and failures of the Hipparchian-Ptolemaic solar model provide valuable case studies for philosophers who are studying the relationship between observational data and theoretical constructs. A brief survey of recent literature on the solar model reveals that in some cases results which appear to be the product of highly accurate observation are, in fact, based on rather crude observations aided by a large measure of theoretical presupposition. On the other hand, mistaken results, which have sometimes been explained as the outcome of theoretical bias or conscious deceit, can plausibly be accounted for as a result of honest mistakes at the observational level.
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