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Burned Again

2 Jan 2012, 19:41 UTC
Burned Again
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During the week of December 19, the library at Cairo's Institut d'Egypte was set afire. Security forces failed to respond to the fire, though their headquarters were close by. The Institute was founded by Napoleon after his 1798 conquest of Egypt. In the wake of his invasion, Napoleon brought with him many scholars who made discoveries like the Rosetta Stone. The library contained about 200,000 volumes, a priceless resource of Egyptian history.Carl Sagan's COSMOS recalls the burning of Alexandria's library, the greatest of its time. More than a repository of scrolls, the library was a center of study and scholarship, what we would today call a university. Supposedly it contained a complete history of the ancient world, knowledge now lost. Among those who held the title of Head Librarian were Erastothenes, who in the 3rd century BC calculated Earth's circumference; and Aristarchus, who in the 2nd century BC suggested that Earth was not centre of the universe. Euclid and Archimedes also studied at the library, In COSMOS we read about Hypatia, the last librarian of Alexandria and a woman famed in her time for mathematics. She was also a philosopher and astronomer. Alexandria's library was burned several times: by Julius ...

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