Who Is Zhang Heng? A Peeping Window To His Life

By | November 29, 2023

Zhang Heng was a popular Chinese polymathic scientist who lived from AD78-139. It was the time when Hann Dynasty was prevalent in China. Besides, he also gained expertise in different areas of art and science and had an interest in politics as well. During his life, he made some significant contributions to the other fields. His inventions influenced the inventors to dig deeper into the hidden aspects of science. For his incredible work, he received many posthumous awards and honours. Moreover, in modern China, you may find several things named after the great scientist Zhang Heng. To learn more about his life and inventions, read this post until the end. 

Significant Achievements In Science And Technology

Now that you know about the great scientist of China, below are the most significant accomplishments in different walks of science and technology: 

1: Mathematics

Earlier, the value of the “Pie” in China was estimated to be 3. However, Liu Xin is allegedly the first Chinese who attempted to calculate the value of the Pie more precisely and give the value as 3.1457. However, there are no detailed procedures that can show his efforts in giving out the results. Later Zhang Heng calculated the value of the Pie as 3.1724 with the proper methodology. Therefore, his work is considered the first legit attempt by any Chinese person to calculate the more precise value of the Pie. Furthermore, he also contributed to deriving the formulae for the areas and volumes of the different geometrical planes. 

2: Astronomy

Zhang Heng started studying astronomy at the age of 30 and began publishing his work on related subjects. When his experience and astronomy started getting popular, the court of Emperor An summoned him. He became the Chief Astronomer for the court with time. In AD 120, he published his work with “The Spiritual Constitution of the Universe.” It describes that the universe is like an egg. Besides, it catalogs many new stars in the category of “brightly shining.” Besides, his theories on the solar and lunar eclipses were also a great contribution to astronomy; however, Wang Chong opposed it later. 

3: Improved Inflow Clepsydra

Earlier, the Chinese use the outflow clepsydra as their timekeeping device later replaced with the inflow Clepsydra by the Han Dynasty. These timekeeping devices are the mechanical clocks for timekeeping. However, this device has a significant flaw that remained unnoticed until Zhang bring it to their attention. It was the issue with the falling pressure head in the reservoir that slowed the timekeeping of the device. He not throw light on the subject but also resolved it by adding an extra compensating tank to the device. It was one of the most significant accomplishments on the list of many others. 

4: Hydraulic Armillary Sphere

Zhang applied hydraulic motive power to rotate the armillary sphere and becomes the first person to do so. An armillary sphere is an astronomical instrument, which is used to represent the celestial sphere. It was first invented by a Greek scientist. However, it was not the fully developed astronomical device upgraded by Zhang Heng. However, it was a vital addition to the advancement of the device. His water-powered device inspired many Chinese inventors. The Chinese water clock is also an inspiration from the same invention from Zhang. Besides, it shows the way for the multifaceted utilization of the hydraulic motive power. 

5: Seismograph For Detecting Earthquake

The earthquake was one of the most daunting natural calamities of China, and it can be easily found in their old books. It was depicted so powerful to change the paths of the river. However, the concept of the tectonic plates and their contribution to causing the earthquakes were ambiguous to the people. At that time, many theories and misconceptions were prevalently related to this natural hazard. Heaven’s wrath and excessive water busting crust into the earth’s hollow are some of the main ideas. 


PC: http://www.china.org.cn/

However, Jhang invented the first seismograph. It was one of its kind and intended to record the motion of the earth’s shaking. The instrument was able to roughly identify the direction of the earthquake. It was one of the most incredible inventions of his time. The court members highly praise his work.  

6: Cartography

Cartography is the science of drawing maps and dig out some important results based on the map drawing practice. Mapmaking in China is an ancient practice and already existed at the time of Zhang. The contribution of Zhang Heng in cartography is not rough and sketchy. However, Pei Xiu used the rectangular grid reference from his maps. Zhang was the one who introduced this system to Chinese mapmaking. Many historians and writers have applauded his work in their published work. Besides, his mapping system show path to the contemporary and later cartographers to make more precise and comprehensive maps. 

7: Invented Odometer

Zhang Heng is credited to invest in the first odometer. An odometer is a device that is used to calculate the distance travelled by a vehicle. Modern vehicles have electronic odometers. However, Zhang invented the first mechanical device ever to measure the distance travelled by a vehicle. However, Romans also used these types of devices at the same time. According to the ancient Chinese texts, the invention of the odometer was a gradual process by the court members. Yet, the credit goes to Zhang for this incredible invention. In addition to odometers, he also invented a non-magnetic device that always indicated towards the south direction. This device was the south-pointing chariot. 

Invented Odometer

PC: https://www.ancient-origins.net/

Final Words 

Reading this post until the end, you can get to know about the greatest ever scientist of China. Additionally, he also contributed to some of the most accredited works in the field of literature and poetry. When serving the central court, he had access to a wide range of the written materials. Besides, his literary world depicts a deep understanding of the classic texts. For all his contributions to the country, he received many awards and accreditation in his life and even afterlife. If you like reading about Zhang Heng, visit our blog section to find the life stories and biographies of renowned personalities. 


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