Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quote of the Week: 8/9/2017

ACES James Scholar Honors Program
Quote of the Week: August 9, 2017

“Astronomy: The World’s Oldest Science”
By Rob Chappell, M.A., Assistant to the Honors Dean
Adapted & Condensed from Cursus Honorum IX: 1 (August 2008)

                Astronomy – the systematic study of the stars and other celestial objects – is widely regarded as the world’s oldest science. It began in prehistoric times when early humans first looked up into the sky and wondered: “Why does the Sun rise in the east and set in the west each day?” “Why does the Moon change its shape every night in a monthly cycle?” “Why do the stars dance across the night sky in such regular patterns throughout the year?”

“Out of the mists which surround the remote past, a Universe of stars has appeared. And here we are on the Earth, this planet of ours, while all around and above us, Nature is staging a grand play of events, inviting our interest in the wonderful Universe in which we live.”
--> Robert H. Baker: When the Stars Come Out

                Discovering the basic principles of astronomy helped our remote ancestors to develop an understanding of the calendar, which in turn led to the agricultural revolution after the last Ice Age. This interlinkage of astronomy, calendaring, and agriculture contributed to the invention of writing so that people could record important events that occurred during the passage of time. Some of the earliest examples of writing include records of astronomical events and their significance (for example, planetary motions and lunar festivals).
                Astronomy (one of the Seven Liberal Arts) underwent a major revolution with the invention of the telescope in the early 17th century CE and its use by the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) to study the skies. With the magnifying power of the telescope, Galileo was able to discover sunspots, the phases of Venus, mountains and craters on the Moon, the four major satellites of Jupiter, and stars too dim to be seen with the naked eye. Galileo’s astronomical discoveries turned the medieval worldview upside down and inside out, paving the way for other scientific revolutions in the physical and biological sciences later on.
                Along with (and based on) observational studies of celestial objects, astronomy has sought to answer some of the profoundest questions that we have asked ourselves. How did the Universe begin, and how will it end? Does life exist beyond our world? What is humankind’s place in the cosmos? All these ideas – and many more – are studied by professional astronomers, with the enthusiastic support of amateur astronomers who make observations in their backyards with binoculars or small telescopes.
                The exploration of outer space over the past six decades has brought astronomy into the mainstream of public awareness. As crewed and automated spacecraft continue to push back the frontiers of human knowledge, answers to age-old questions give birth to completely new questions about the nature of the Universe. To begin your own journey of exploration, be sure to visit the University of Illinois’ Department of Astronomy at and Parkland College’s Staerkel Planetarium at

The planet Neptune as photographed by NASA’s Voyager 2 probe in August 1989. The astronomical symbol for Neptune is a stylized trident (), similar to the inter-twined “U” and “I” symbol often seen at the University of Illinois. (Photo Credit: NASA – Public Domain)

Quote of the Week: 8/2/2017

ACES James Scholar Honors Program
Quote of the Week: August 2, 2017

“Meet Dr. Hippocrates: The Father of Western Medicine”
By Rob Chappell, M.A., Assistant to the Honors Dean
Adapted & Condensed from Cursus Honorum VI: 6 (January 2006)

                Hippocrates (ca. 460-380 BCE) is widely regarded as the “Father of Western Medicine” by historians of the medical sciences. He was apprenticed to a physician during his youth and spent most of his life on the Greek island of Cos. There stood the famous temple of Asclepius (the divine patron of medicine and healing in the Olympian pantheon), which attracted throngs of people seeking medical help for various illnesses and injuries. Having observed firsthand the medical practices of the temple’s physician-priests, Hippocrates resolved to banish superstition and magic from medicine. In his teaching and practice, he emphasized the role of observation (carefully examining patients) and asking patients detailed questions about their present condition and medical history. His treatments emphasized the need for proper nutrition and exercise and the use of remedies that had a proven record of success. Due to the effectiveness of his scientifically based treatment methods, Hippocrates’ fame spread rapidly across the Mediterranean world, drawing both patients and would-be apprentices to his school.
                A collection of about sixty treatises on medicine and related subjects, based on Hippocrates’ observations and experiments, was compiled by his pupils and successors over several generations. These books transmitted Hippocrates’ teachings to future generations and ensured that he would be revered for millennia to come as a brilliant scientist and dedicated physician. The most famous of the Hippocratic treatises is the Hippocratic Oath, which most physicians still take (in one form or another) upon graduation from medical school. The Oath introduced the cardinal precept of the medical profession, “Primum non nocere” (“First, do no harm”), and it required physicians to guarantee their patients’ confidentiality. Moreover, the Oath sought to stamp out quackery by describing the apprenticeship that medical students must undergo to be qualified to practice medicine professionally and to train their own apprentices in turn.
                Hippocrates is a sterling example of how one scientist can change the world for the better through research, teaching, and writing. His entire lifetime was spent in the service of his fellow human beings, and his wisdom and insight still inspire young people to take up the challenge of improving the human condition through the scientific method that he pioneered.


In this anonymous Byzantine portrait of Hippocrates from a 14th-century manuscript in the National Library of Paris, the “Father of Western Medicine” is portrayed as a silver-haired sage, expounding medical precepts from one of his books. (Image Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)