Eratosthenes of Cyrene (/ɛrəˈtɒsθəniːz/; Greek: Ἐρατοσθένης, IPA: [eratostʰénɛːs]; c. 276 BC – c. 195/194 BC) was a Greek mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist. He was a man of learning, becoming the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria. He invented the discipline of geography, including the terminology used today.
He is best known for being the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth, which he did by applying a measuring system using stadia, a standard unit of measure during that time period. His calculation was remarkably accurate. He was also the first to calculate the tilt of the Earth’s axis (again with remarkable accuracy). Additionally, he may have accurately calculated the distance from the Earth to the Sun and invented the leap day. He created the first map of the world, incorporating parallels and meridians based on the available geographic knowledge of his era.
Eratosthenes was the founder of scientific chronology; he endeavored to revise the dates of the chief literary and political events from the conquest of Troy. In number theory, he introduced the sieve of Eratosthenes, an efficient method of identifying prime numbers.
He was a figure of influence in many fields. According to an entry in the Suda (a 10th-century reference), his critics scorned him, calling him Beta (the second letter of the Greek alphabet) because he always came in second in all his endeavors. Nonetheless, his devotees nicknamed him Pentathlos after the Olympians who were well rounded competitors for he had proven himself to be knowledgeable in every area of learning. Eratosthenes yearned to understand the complexities of the entire world.