The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientistby Reviel Netz, William Noel
Part archaeological detective story, part science, and part history, The Archimedes Codex tells the astonishing story of a lost manuscript, from its tenth-century creation in ancient Constantinople to the auction block at Christie's in New York, and how a team of scholars used the latest imaging technology to reveal and decipher the original text. What they found was the earliest surviving manuscript by Archimedes (287 BC212 BC), the greatest mathematician of antiquitya manuscript that established, for the first time, the extent of his mathematical genius, which was two thousand years ahead of modern science.
In 1998, the auction house Christie's sold a medieval prayer book for more than $2 million. The price owed to a startling discovery: the prayers had been written over the earliest surviving manuscript of Archimedes (287-212 B.C.), the ancient world's greatest mathematician. In a delightful and fast-paced archeological and scientific detective story, Netz, a Stanford classicist, and Noel, director of the Archimedes Palimpsest Project, make palpable the excitement this discovery evoked. After the auction, they were given access to study the palimpsest; after frustrating days of trying to read the writings beneath the prayer manuscript, Netz, Noel and a team of scientists and conservators turned to a variety of imaging techniques to reconstruct the hidden Archimedes manuscript, which turned out to be heretofore undiscovered works, Balancing Planes, On Floating Bodies, The Method of Mechanical Theoremsand the Stomachion, in which Archimedes wrote about topics ranging from gravity to infinity. The manuscript also revealed some lost speeches by Hyperides, one of the 10 canonical orators of antiquity. Netz and Noel's book chronicles the often difficult and demanding work surrounding the preservation of antiquities as they uncover one of the most exciting documents of ancient history. 16 pages of color photos. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
“Those outside the academy, as well as teachers—of history, classics, philosophy, and science—should take advantage of books like these to help science take its place as an exciting interdisciplinary field.”
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Meet the Author
Reviel Netz is Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Stanford University.
William Noel is Curator of Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, and Director of the Archimedes Palimpsest Project.
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