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Mathematical Treasure: The Alfonsine Tables

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

King Alfonso X of Castile reigned from 1252 to 1284. As a patron of the sciences, he was astute about the scientific accomplishments of Islamic scholars. Alfonso assembled a team of his own astronomers, led by Isaac ben Sid and Judah ben Moses Cohen, to translate and build upon the astronomical calculations of the Islamic astronomer Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī (1029-1087) and to devise a table of planetary motions. During this period of history in Europe, the Ptolemaic model of the universe was in vogue. Working from 1263 to 1272, Alfonso's research team produced an extensive table of locations that henceforth became known as the Alfonsine Tables. This valuable collection of data was published in Venice in 1485. Here we examine a 13th century Spanish manuscript of the Tables. Sample pages, marking an era of numerical data collections, are examined below.

The manuscript featured above is held by the National Library of Spain and can be viewed via the World Digital Library.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: The Alfonsine Tables," Convergence (July 2018)