Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth - by Kathryn Lasky

Q: What do you get when you cross a geographer with a librarian?
A: My beautiful and smart daughter, Paloma, whom I now believe to be Eratosthenes reincarnated.

As the title suggests, Eratosthenes was a wicked smart librarian in Alexandria, Egypt who figured out the formula for determining the circumference of the earth, over 2,000 years ago. (Why exactly do we celebrate Columbus?) What was so fascinating to me about this work was how much my job reflects what the librarians in the great library of Alexandria did so long ago. The book explains how the librarians organized and cataloged scrolls in order to help others to find what they needed; how Eratosthenes looked up pieces of information to find holes in the research (i.e. literature reviews); and how he had to do some major sucking up to King Ptolemy! I would almost point out that some things never change, except that since Eratosthenes day, when only men could be librarians, the prestige that went with the job has eroded considerably.

This is a lovely book with easy-to-understand explanations of some geometric prinicples.

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