In answer to the first question, the earliest known Africans to discover Europe have been found at the site of Dmanisi in Georgia and dated to nearly 1.8 million years ago. But they probably did not realize they had "discovered" anything!


On Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 10:26 AM, Mandi Smallhorne <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
This 'discovery' thing is completely meaningless, in my view. Who were the
first Africans to 'discover' Europe? The first Indo-Europeans to 'discover'
Britain? Did the Bantu-speaking people who spread down through Africa
'discover' southern Africa (or was it the San people who were here before
And does the award only go to those who have the aggro to engage in
conquest? As Arlene pointed out, there's a fair degree of evidence that
Basque people ranged far and wide, touching on many places that were to be
'discovered' and therefore conquered later. They just didn't do much in the
way of fighting.

-----Original Message-----
From: Science for the People Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Michael H
Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2009 12:46 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: The 'first true scientist'

a) Newton's 'Opticks'  is readily available online. It is mostly a
record of his own experiments with very few citations, and, like most
scientists today, he chiefly cites recent work, though he does briefly
refer to Greek and Phoenician "philosophers." Though Newton spent much
of his life studying alchemy and hermetic texts, I doubt that he read
Arabic, and so would have no direct way to seek out Arabic
manuscripts, which probably were not readily available in printed
translations either. Can it reasonably be blamed on Europeans that the
Arabic scientific tradition came to a halt well before Newton?

b) The Mongol language does not seem to be related to any Amerindian
language, although some scholars suggest that Sino-Tibetan languages
(unrelated to Mongolian) are related to Na-dene including Navajo. The
Athabaskan peoples, of whom the N-dene are part, were almost certainly
not the first gropup to arrive in the Americas from Asia.

The question of who discovered America, if of any interest, surely
depends on the meaning of the word "discover." Certainly the ancestors
of Native Americans ass a whole came here first, but they did not, to
my knowledge send news of their "discovery" back, certainly did not
publish it, and presumably had no contemporary idea of what they had
"discovered." Europeans shortly after Columbus  circulated news of
their discoveries and published maps, which of course led to further
expeditions and conquest. If Chinese explorers reached the Americas
before Europeans,  they did not do much with that discovery. The
"award" for first discovery would be pretty empty of meaning.


On Jan 8, 2009, at 11:24 PM, Jim West wrote:

> Two items
> a) Isaac Newton's foundations:  My questions are natural and obvious
> questions related to this thread, regarding ancient developments of
> science
> and mathematics.  What debt does Newton owe the ancients?  Did he
> reference
> his work to indicate the shoulders he was standing upon?
> b) Who discovered America first:  My apologies for writing "British
> discovered", which is a weird slip, maybe because of the
> Anglicization of
> his name, which in 1492 was Cristobal Colon.
> The award for first discovery of America should go to the Mongols, now
> called in America, "Navajo", "Apache", etc.  That discovery occurred
> long
> before the successful Mongolian conquests through Russia and into
> Europe.
> Mongols and American Indians are strikingly similar.  Genetics are
> similar.
> They resemble each other.  Similarity extends to cultural detail:
> Customs,
> behavior, language, clothing, teepees, hogans, sleds pulling
> children and
> baggage.  The excellent film, "Mongols" (2007), employed Mongol
> actors and
> was directed in Mongolia.  It shows the similarities clearly,
> reminding me
> of my several weeks living on Navajo reservations.
> Later, Chinese junks may have circumnavigated the globe before
> Columbus'
> visit to America.  The Chinese ships were much larger than European
> ships
> before and during the time of Columbus, and they were ingeniously
> constructed.  Junks could be as large as 540 feet in length and had
> partitioned compartments.  The design and sail rigging were considered
> superior to European designs in many respects, giving them the
> ability to
> sail into the wind like a modern yacht.  They were certainly capable
> of
> visiting the Americas by at least as early as the Song Dynasty circa
> 940 AD.
> In contemporary times, junks have succeeded in traversing the
> Pacific to the
> United States to demonstrate the historical possibility.
> ===
> On Tue, 6 Jan 2009 12:54:48 +1200, Robt Mann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> The English keep relatively quiet about any claim that they
>>> discovered America.
>>      As a loyal subject of H.M the Queen, interested in English
>> history and the son of an Englishman, I have never heard any such
>> claim.  The English are open to a range of complaints, so there's no
>> need to put up furphies like this one.
>>      Jim should absorb the fact that tossing out furphies like
>> this will decrease his credibility on other matters.
>> RM
>>> On Jan 5, 2009, at 1:35 PM, Jim West wrote:
>>>> Did Newton reference and credit his developments?  Or did he
>>>> allow us to
>>>> believe he originated them all?  I really don't know for sure.
>>>> I do know that the English (as any dominant political system)
>>>> prefer we
>>>> believe they "discovered America", etc.
>>>> Algebra (obviously Arabic word) seems to have had a good start in
>>>> Babylon:
>>>> As non-western political influence increases in the West, the
>>>> Western sense
>>>> of history will be contradicted.  I'm looking forward to the new
>>>> historical
>>>> stories.

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
Boston University

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