Scientific and Technological Events from 500 B.C.E to 0

© Copyright Andy Pepperdine, 2007 - 2014

Some of these entries need cross-checking against more citations.


Science event

Political event

ca 450

Sun is a molten sphere (Anaxagoras) and Moon reflects Sun's light.

Zeno of Elea propounds his paradoxes.

Warring states in China

ca 440

Earliest known maths text expounding on nature of proof (Hippocrates of Chios).


Earliest known hospital (Sri Lanka).

ca 430

Democritus and Leucippus propose atoms as smallest units. Democritus may have had the idea of a limit when finding volume of a cone.

ca 400

Greek medicine founded by Hippocrates of Cos.

Saddles and stirrups invented (Scythians in Crimea).

Bitumen in lamps (China).

Tunnels for water transport (Persia).

Catapult as a military engine invented (Italy).  [2]

Examples of trepanning in Peru, but technique probably much older. Also described by Hippocrates.

Several walls are built in northern China.

ca 399

Socrates sentenced to death

ca 378

Plato writes The Republic

ca 366

Eudoxus of Cnidus founds his school at Cyzicus (Turkey). He gives axioms for manipulating irrational numbers, and first attempts at finding lengths of curves.

Gan De (China) describes the movements of Jupiter accurately.

ca 360

Panini explains phonetics, morphology and grammar of Sanskrit (India)  [1]


Alexander the Great born – d 323


Earliest known record of a supernova (China).

ca 350

Underfloor heating in Sparta.

Aristotle in Concerning the Sky says Earth is a sphere, but also that it is at the centre of the universe. He also stresses the need for observations and the use of common sense and logic when interpreting them.


Alexander the Great defeats Darius at Issus

ca 330 Theophrastus writes extensive desriptions of plants, founding the science of botany.

ca 320

Pytheas of Massalia writes On the Ocean about his travels round northern Europe to find source of tin and amber  [3]

ca 300

Berosus invents sundial on Cos.

Euclid writes The Elements.

Egyptians use ink in reeds for writing.

ca 280

Aristarchus of Samos estimates sizes of Sun and Earth; proposes Earth rotates on its axis and goes round the Sun.

Herophilus recognises the brain as seat of intelligence, and identified many organs through dissections.

Library at Alexandria founded.

ca 250

Erasistratus of Chios explains functions of heart valves.

Ctesibius of Alexandria invents, among other things, an accurate water clock, and develops use of air in machines.

The Maya use a place system for their calendar, including zero.  [4]

ca 230

Archimedes invents military machines, announces his Principle, writes theory of levers, approximates pi, finds areas and volumes by a method presaging integral calculus.

Appolonius of Perga names the conic curves, parabola, hyperbola and ellipse, investigates normals to curves, and centres of curvature.

Philon of Byzantium writes book on principles of mechanics and its uses in theatre and war.


Emperor Qin unites China for the first time; merges existing walls into one great wall to the north.

ca 200

Clay furnaces for working gold and silver (Ecuador and Peru).

Horseshoe invented in central Asia and adopted by Romans.  [5]

Concrete invented by Romans.

Romans mine sulphur and use in matches.

Astrolabe invented at Alexandria.

Coal developed as fuel (China).

Eratosthenes finds diameters of Earth, Moon and Sun, and the tilt of Earth's axis.

ca 140

Silkworms cultivated and spreading south from Yellow River (China).

Polynesians reach Tahiti.


Hipparchus of Nicaea makes earliest known star catalogue. Creates scale from 1 (brightest) to 6 of humanly visible stars still in use today. Discovers the precession of the equinoxes (46" per year compared with modern 50.26"). Gets year length to within 7 minutes. Created first trigonometric tables.

ca 100

Poseidonius of Rhodes postulates connection between tides and the moon.

Bronze tools in Peru.

Cocoa plant for chocolate cultivated in South America

Glass blowing in Syria, and used in windows in Rome.

Negative numbers used (China)

Ice used for refrigeration (China).

Zinc mined in Cyprus and brass made by Romans.  [6]


Origin of modern Hindu Lunar calendar


First dated record of Sunspots in China. However the historical record implies much earlier recordings.

ca 0

Wheelbarrow invented (China).

Platinum worked into jewellery (Ecuador)  [7]


Origin of Julian calendar


[1] The grammar is very modern in scope, being similar to programming language descriptions.

[2] T. Rihll, The Catapult: A History, Westholme Publishing, 2007

[3] B. Cunliffe, The Extraordinary Journey of Pytheas the Greek, Penguin Books, 2001

[4] M.S. Edmonson, The Book of the Year: Middle American Calendrical Systems , Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1988.

[5] Zippelius, Historical Development of the Horseshoe, in Scientific American Supplement No. 819, September 12, 1891, downloadable here.

[6]  [7] J. Emsley, Nature's Building Blocks – An A-Z guide to the elements, Oxford University Press, 2001

© Copyright Andy Pepperdine, 2007 - 2016

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