Menelaus of Alexandria (/ˌmɛnɪˈleɪəs/; Greek: Μενέλαος ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, Menelaos ho Alexandreus; c. 70 – 140 CE) was a Greek[1] mathematician and astronomer, the first to recognize geodesics on a curved surface as natural analogs of straight lines.

Life and works

Sphaericorum libri tres

Although very little is known about Menelaus's life, it is supposed that he lived in Rome, where he probably moved after having spent his youth in Alexandria. He was called Menelaus of Alexandria by both Pappus of Alexandria and Proclus, and a conversation of his with Lucius, held in Rome, is recorded by Plutarch.

Ptolemy (2nd century CE) also mentions, in his work Almagest (VII.3), two astronomical observations made by Menelaus in Rome in January of the year 98. These were occultations of the stars Spica and Beta Scorpii by the moon, a few nights apart. Ptolemy used these observations to confirm precession of the equinoxes, a phenomenon that had been discovered by Hipparchus in the 2nd century BCE.

Sphaerica is the only book that has survived, in an Arabic translation. Composed of three books, it deals with the geometry of the sphere and its application in astronomical measurements and calculations. The book introduces the concept of spherical triangle (figures formed of three great circle arcs, which he named "trilaterals") and proves Menelaus' theorem on collinearity of points on the edges of a triangle (which may have been previously known) and its analog for spherical triangles. It was later translated by the sixteenth century astronomer and mathematician Francesco Maurolico.

The lunar crater Menelaus is named after him.

Bibliography

The titles of a few books by Menelaus have been preserved:

On the calculation of the chords in a circle, composed of six books

Elements of geometry, composed of three books, later edited by Thabit ibn Qurra

On the knowledge of the weights and distributions of different bodies

He may also have written a star catalogue.

Notes

Encyclopædia Britannica "Greek mathematician and astronomer who first conceived and defined a spherical triangle (a triangle formed by three arcs of great circles on the surface of a sphere)."

References

Ivor Bulmer-Thomas. "Menelaus of Alexandria." Dictionary of Scientific Biography 9:296-302.

Pedro Pablo Fuentes González, “Ménélaos d’Alexandrie”, in R. Goulet (ed.), Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques, vol. IV, Paris, CNRS, 2005, p. 456-464.

Roshdi Rashed and Athanase Papadopoulos, Menelaus' Spherics. Early Translation and al-Māhānī / al-Harawī's Version. De Gruyter, Scientia Graeco-Arabica 21. xiv, 874 pages. ISBN 978-3-11-056987-2

External links

O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Menelaus of Alexandria", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.

Halley's Latin Translation from the Arabic and Hebrew Versions (three books) at Google Books

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Ancient Greek astronomy

Astronomers

Aglaonice Agrippa Anaximander Andronicus Apollonius Aratus Aristarchus Aristyllus Attalus Autolycus Bion Callippus Cleomedes Cleostratus Conon Eratosthenes Euctemon Eudoxus Geminus Heraclides Hicetas Hipparchus Hippocrates of Chios Hypsicles Menelaus Meton Oenopides Philip of Opus Philolaus Posidonius Ptolemy Pytheas Seleucus Sosigenes of Alexandria Sosigenes the Peripatetic Strabo Thales Theodosius Theon of Alexandria Theon of Smyrna Timocharis

Works

Almagest (Ptolemy) On Sizes and Distances (Hipparchus) On the Sizes and Distances (Aristarchus) On the Heavens (Aristotle)

Instruments

Antikythera mechanism Armillary sphere Astrolabe Dioptra Equatorial ring Gnomon Mural instrument Triquetrum

Concepts

Callippic cycle Celestial spheres Circle of latitude Counter-Earth Deferent and epicycle Equant Geocentrism Heliocentrism Hipparchic cycle Metonic cycle Octaeteris Solstice Spherical Earth Sublunary sphere Zodiac

Influences

Babylonian astronomy Egyptian astronomy

Influenced

Medieval European science Indian astronomy Medieval Islamic astronomy

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Ancient Greek and Hellenistic mathematics (Euclidean geometry)

Mathematicians

(timeline)

Anaxagoras Anthemius Archytas Aristaeus the Elder Aristarchus Apollonius Archimedes Autolycus Bion Bryson Callippus Carpus Chrysippus Cleomedes Conon Ctesibius Democritus Dicaearchus Diocles Diophantus Dinostratus Dionysodorus Domninus Eratosthenes Eudemus Euclid Eudoxus Eutocius Geminus Heliodorus Heron Hipparchus Hippasus Hippias Hippocrates Hypatia Hypsicles Isidore of Miletus Leon Marinus Menaechmus Menelaus Metrodorus Nicomachus Nicomedes Nicoteles Oenopides Pappus Perseus Philolaus Philon Philonides Porphyry Posidonius Proclus Ptolemy Pythagoras Serenus Simplicius Sosigenes Sporus Thales Theaetetus Theano Theodorus Theodosius Theon of Alexandria Theon of Smyrna Thymaridas Xenocrates Zeno of Elea Zeno of Sidon Zenodorus

Treatises

Almagest Archimedes Palimpsest Arithmetica Conics (Apollonius) Catoptrics Data (Euclid) Elements (Euclid) Measurement of a Circle On Conoids and Spheroids On the Sizes and Distances (Aristarchus) On Sizes and Distances (Hipparchus) On the Moving Sphere (Autolycus) Euclid's Optics On Spirals On the Sphere and Cylinder Ostomachion Planisphaerium Sphaerics The Quadrature of the Parabola The Sand Reckoner

Problems

Angle trisection Doubling the cube Squaring the circle Problem of Apollonius

Concepts/definitions

Circles of Apollonius

Apollonian circles Apollonian gasket Circumscribed circle Commensurability Diophantine equation Doctrine of proportionality Golden ratio Greek numerals Incircle and excircles of a triangle Method of exhaustion Parallel postulate Platonic solid Lune of Hippocrates Quadratrix of Hippias Regular polygon Straightedge and compass construction Triangle center

Results

In Elements

Angle bisector theorem Exterior angle theorem Euclidean algorithm Euclid's theorem Geometric mean theorem Greek geometric algebra Hinge theorem Inscribed angle theorem Intercept theorem Pons asinorum Pythagorean theorem Thales's theorem Theorem of the gnomon

Apollonius

Apollonius's theorem

Other

Aristarchus's inequality Crossbar theorem Heron's formula Irrational numbers Menelaus's theorem Pappus's area theorem Problem II.8 of Arithmetica Ptolemy's inequality Ptolemy's table of chords Ptolemy's theorem Spiral of Theodorus

Centers

Cyrene Library of Alexandria Platonic Academy

Other

Ancient Greek astronomy Greek numerals Latin translations of the 12th century Neusis construction

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