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Jeremy Rich

cartographer, ethnographer, and traveler to Africa, was born in Vienna, then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the son of Heinrich Baumann, who worked at a bank, and a mother, whose name is not recorded. His family had some Jewish ancestry, which would in 1938 prompt the Nazi government of Austria to destroy a monument erected to celebrate his African exploration. Though his parents do not seem to have been very prosperous, his distant relations in the wealthy von Arnstein banking family paid for his secondary education. Baumann attended primary and secondary schools in Vienna, and at the age of seventeen, joined the Imperial Royal Geographical Society based in the same city. He did some geographical research in Montenegro and began to study geography and geology at the University of Vienna, but in 1885 took a leave of absence from school to join an Austrian expedition to Central ...

Article

Samson Akanvose Aziabah

Professor Emeritus of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, received his elementary education at Berekum Catholic Primary School from 1941 to 1949 and continued to Achimota Secondary School for the period of 1950 to1956. In 1957, he was one of four students who won the Shell Ghana Independence Scholarship and was subsequently admitted into the University College of Ghana in October of the same year to study for a bachelor’s degree in geography. Upon completion of his degree program, he taught geography briefly at the Achimota School, and in October 1961 he left for the London School of Economics to pursue his postgraduate education. Benneh obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in 1964.

In 1964 he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Ghana. He became a senior lecturer in 1973, an associate professor in 1976 and a full professor ...

Article

Elizabeth Mitchell

slave and guide, achieved fame in the decades preceding the Civil War. Nothing is known of his parents or early life, but it is known that Bishop was a slave belonging to Kentucky lawyer Franklin Gorin, who in the 1830s purchased Mammoth Cave for $5,000. Previous cave guides had been local white men, but Gorin either saw something promising in the teenaged Bishop or reasoned that he could save money by training a slave to do the same work. Either way, beginning in the spring of 1838 Bishop received training from the previous guide and quickly took to the job, learning the several miles of trail and numerous pits, rock formations, and other attractions of his underground place of employment.

Bishop was allowed to spend many hours exploring the cave on his own. In the fall of 1838 he penetrated a confusing maze of trails known as the ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

Greek polymath most noted for his calculation of the circumference of the earth and his invention of the discipline of geography, was born in Cyrene in modern Libya, an outpost of Greek culture; he was exposed early to exotic contacts at the end of the Greek world. Nothing is known about his youth, but by the 260s BCE he was studying in Athens, primarily with the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, and Arcesilaus of Pitane, the director of the Academy. He was also a close associate of the mathematician Archimedes, who dedicated at least one work to him. Eratosthenes was thus trained in the wide variety of thought that Hellenistic Athens offered, and his early writings demonstrate his ability in philosophy, philology, and mathematics. But there are few details about the nearly twenty years that he spent in the city.

In 246 BCE the new Ptolemaic king Ptolemy III ...

Article

Russell Hopley

geographer, was born in the Moroccan city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta). Al-Sharif al-Idrisi completed his early education in Cordoba and subsequently spent time in Malaga, an Andalusian city that had been ruled by the Banu Hammud, a family of Arab noblemen descended from the Prophet. Idrisi's grandfather had been the final Arab ruler of Malaga, and the family's fortunes suffered considerably following the Almoravid occupation of Islamic Spain, an event that proved central in determining the course of Idrisi's life.

Idrisi's stay in Malaga appears to have been cut short by the political turmoil that marked the final decade of Almoravid rule in Andalusia, and he next appears in Palermo, Sicily, in 1139, where he was given sanctuary at the Norman court of Roger II Idrisi would spend the following two decades at the Norman court in Sicily and it was there that he composed the monumental ...

Article

James McCarthy

Scottish explorer and geographer of Africa, was born in Edinburgh in 1844. Alexander Keith Johnston was the son of the eminent geographer and cartographer of the same name, who had established the highly respected engraving and mapmaking firm of W. & A. K. Johnston with his brother William. Although the young Keith was educated at prestigious schools in the Scottish capital, he was also tutored carefully by his father, and learned those European languages in which significant geographical material was published. Like his father, Keith’s interest extended well beyond conventional cartography, and he made important contributions to oceanography, hydrology, and global climatic influences. Both were influential figures in the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), itself the most important national institution in the promotion of worldwide discovery and the development of the nineteenth-century British Empire, not least in Africa.

After a period as superintendent of drawing and engraving at the prestigious ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of John Wesley Sr. and Emma Laverne Scott Lee. His parents also adopted a son, Albert Lee Blount. Lee's parents had a wide disparity of educational attainments. His mother, who had a master's degree, was a schoolteacher. His father, a grocer, had dropped out of elementary school and was barely literate. As a youngster, Lee grew up in Indianapolis and in 1940 graduated from segregated Crispus Attucks High School. Lee then attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where he spent three years studying mostly science and mathematics as part of an intended pre-med course. He lived in a rooming house, because the university's dormitories were not open to black students.

In April 1944 Lee enlisted in the navy influenced to join by his friends and by his brother Albert s experience in that branch of ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and geographer, was born on 14 September 1848 in Leipzig, then in the German kingdom of Saxony. He was the son of a shoemaker. After graduating from secondary school at the Nicolaigymnasium, he went to the University of Leipzig. In 1870 he earned a degree in geography from this institution. From 1870 to 1873 he taught at a private school in Vienna, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire became his permanent home for the rest of his life. After having joined the Austro-Hungarian civil service and prepared maps on some of its eastern and southern territories for two years, Lenz decided to become an African explorer in 1874 The Deutschen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung Äquatorial Afrikas DAG a German organization dedicated to exploration in central Africa recruited Lenz to visit the French colony of Gabon There Lenz was to travel up the Ogooué River to see if it connected with ...

Article

Michael A. B. Deakin

mathematician, astronomer, and geographer, was the principal figure of the “silver age” of ancient Greek mathematics. Little is known of his life; what the sources tell us is contradictory and unreliable. The little we do know reliably is gleaned rather from what survives of his writing. His principal work, at least in what has survived, is the Synagoge or Collection, and even this has not reached us in its entirety. It is described as having comprised eight books, of which the first and part of the second are missing. The only other work of his that survives in the original Greek (and that only in part) is a commentary on Ptolemy’s Almagest. Beyond these are works in other languages that are thought to be translations of originals by him. An Arabic commentary on Book X of Euclid’s Elements may be a translation of a work he is ...

Article

Trevor Hall

was born in Lisbon in mid-fifteenth century. His father João Pereira was from a distinguished Portuguese family. Not much is known about his early life. His earliest biographical information dates to 1471, when he was a soldier in the Portuguese army that capture captured Arzila, in Muslim Morocco. Pereira’s reason for renown is that he was the governor of the Portuguese-built Elmina fortress, on the Gold Coast of modern-day Ghana in 1482. He was the first Portuguese to sail to West Africa and write a long narrative about Portuguese maritime trade in West Africa, from the Sahara to the Congo and beyond. His Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis (1508) was translated into English by the Hakluyt Society.

Pereira was an exceptional cartographer who mapped the West African coast from Morocco to South Africa. He provided data on Atlantic winds, currents and tides, and wrote roteiro Portuguese ...

Article

Ptolemy  

Prudence Jones

was an ancient Alexandrian astronomer geographer and philosopher Almost nothing is known about the life of Claudius Ptolemy or as he would have called himself Claudius Ptolemaeus From astronomical observations he made in Alexandria we know he was active between 127 and 141 CE As a scientist in Alexandria he was probably connected with the Library of Alexandria His name indicates that he was a Roman citizen and that citizenship was probably conferred upon him or upon one of his ancestors by someone named Claudius perhaps even the emperor Claudius He shares the name Ptolemy with the rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty which controlled Egypt from 323 to 30 BCE although there is no evidence that he was related to that family The name Ptolemaeus could indicate that he was born in the Egyptian city of Ptolemais but it is not known whether he was born there or at Alexandria ...

Article

Strabo  

Daniela Dueck

Hellenistic geographer and historian, of Amasia, Pontus, was born and raised in Amasia in northern Asia Minor and educated by renowned Hellenistic Asian teachers. His ancestors on his mother’s side were companions of the kings of Pontus but supported the Romans during the Mithridatic War. In his adult life Strabo visited and lived in Rome, Alexandria, Nysa, and possibly Smyrna and Athens. In Rome (in 44 and 29 BCE) he met and socialized with Roman notables and Greek intellectuals. In 25 BCE he traveled to Egypt with Aelius Gallus the Roman governor. He probably got as far as many other regions in the world, more than he expressly reveals. After writing earlier historiographical work(s), Strabo composed his Geography sometime between 18 and 23 CE and died in Rome or, less likely, in Asia Minor.

His works included (1) History a survey of events at least from the time of ...

Article

Trevor Hall

was born on 9 March 1454, but became a naturalized citizen of Spain in 1505. His father, Nastagio Vespucci, and mother, Lisabetta Mani, were friends of the powerful Medici family who governed much of Italy. Vespucci’s reason for renown is that he was the first to recognize South America was a continent separate from Asia, and one of the first to sail from Europe to West Africa then directly to South America, before returning to Europe. He completed the triangular transatlantic trade, without transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic. In 1502, while sailing with the Portuguese, Vespucci navigated from Portugal to West Africa and then directly to South America. Four years before Vespucci sailed from Portugal, another Italian, Christopher Columbus had sailed from the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands to South America, also without enslaved Africans. Two decades later in 1518 the Spanish king authorized merchants to ...

Article

Christine D. Baker

early Islamic historian and geographer, was born in Baghdad in the ninth century. Although commonly known as al-Yaʿqubi, his full name was Abu al-ʿAbbas Ahmad ibn Abi Yaʿqub ibn Jaʿfar ibn Wahb ibn Wadih. Little is known of his birth, early history, family, or background. He was a bureaucrat, trained as a katib, a member of the secretarial class, in Baghdad. He is believed to have been raised in Armenia. He later served under the Tahirids, a Persian dynasty of governors of Khurasan who served the Abbasid caliphate, before settling in Egypt. His precise date of death is uncertain.

Although not much detail is known about his life, al-Yaʿqubi is recognized for his historical writings, which are known for eschewing some of the dominant historiographic trends of the time. They are an example of an early proto-Shiʿi perspective on Islamic history. Three of his works survive, the Taʾrikh al-Yaʿqubi ...