MacArthur Fellows Program

David Pingree

Historian of Science | Class of December 1981

Historian of Science
Providence, Rhode Island
48 at time of award
November 11, 2005
Published December 1, 1981

About David's Work

David Pingree was a classicist, an orientalist, and a historian who studied the history of astronomy, astrology, and magic in ancient and medieval Europe and Asia.

He investigated how these traditions developed and were transmitted within cultures and the ways in which they changed as they passed from one culture to another.  Pingree traced the specific mathematical techniques and terminologies of magic and astrology across the literature of different ancient civilizations, including the textual traditions of Mesopotamian cuneiform, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Medieval Latin.  Through his investigations, he documented the roots of Persian, Arabic and medieval European science in the Sanskrit texts of India.  His books include Census of the Exact Sciences in Sanskrit (five vols. 1970-94), The Astrological History of Masha’allah (1971), The Astronomical Works of Gregory Chioniades (two vols. 1985), Preceptum Canonis Ptolomei (1997), and From Astral Omens to Astrology: From Babylon to Bikaner (1997).


Pingree was a Junior Fellow at Harvard University (1960-1963) and taught at the University of Chicago (1963-1971).  In 1971, he joined the faculty of Brown University, where he was the University Professor in the Department of the History of Mathematics.  He was also the A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University (1995-2000).

Pingree received an A.B. (1954) and a Ph.D. (1960) from Harvard University. 

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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