The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist

The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist

by Reviel Netz, William Noel

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786745388
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 03/12/2009
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,005,379
File size: 2 MB

About 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.

What People are Saying About This

Brian Clegg

An engaging account. (Brian Clegg, author of A Brief History of Infinity, in Nature)

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Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Candide08 More than 1 year ago
The book is great - historical, biographical and entertaining. Unfortunately it took me a week to download it due to the glacial-speed-moving of B&N customer service. They actually prevented me from buying or downloading this. B&N service is horrible.
rc6750 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a fascinating book, especially if you like history, old books, technology, and Greek mathematics. I found the story to be incredibly interesting, but the book itself seems to be very poorly organized. Every other chapter is written by one of the authors and they each have very different styles. Each chapter feels like a paper or article more than a chapter in a highly organized book. Still very good read though.
DirtPriest on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a fine random history that details the life, death and resurrection of the lost writings of Archimedes, a thinker far, far ahead of his time. He was on the cusp of mathematical theories that did not come to fruition until literally 1800 or more years after his death. The Archimedes Codex is almost two books in one, alternating chapters between the two authors. Noel is a mucketymuck at the Walters Art Museum where the restoration of an ancient palimpsest was done and Netz is an expert on ancient Greek mathematics and geometry who was brought in to decipher the text and diagrams.In a nutshell, the palimpsest was originally a manuscript of a copy (in Greek) of several works of Archimedes, later the ink was scraped off, the pages rotated ninety degrees and scribed over with medieval prayers. That, by the way, is the definition of a palimpsest. There is historical investigation about the life story of the manuscript through the ages, few chapters about the life of Archimedes, the purchase of the actual codex at auction, some ingenious geometric proofs, a bit about the fundamental differences between Greek math and current math, and some fairly technical information about imaging methods used to recover the scraped off text, like using an X-ray scanner to atomically reconstruct the constituents of the text by locating the iron in the ancient ink. All in all a very nice book.
ztutz on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a fascinating book, but it is very poorly written and edited.
csayban on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In 1998 a battered manuscript was won at auction for two million dollars by an anonymous buyer. It was a palimpsest ¿ a book that was made from the pages stripped from earlier works where the earlier words were scrapped off and a new text was written over it. This was common practice in medieval times when paper was a valuable commodity. The book that was purchased was a simple thirteenth-century payer book. However, that is not what made the book valuable. The real value was the faint impressions of the much older tenth-century writing buried underneath it. It was the earliest writing of perhaps the greatest mathematicians in history ¿ Archimedes.Co-written by Reviel Netz ¿ a Professor of Classics at Stanford University, and William Noel ¿ the Curator of Manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum, The Archimedes Codex chronicles the ongoing, decade-long project to discover just how deep the knowledge of Archimedes went. Archimedes was an ancient mathematician born nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ who made discoveries about the nature of mathematics that are only now being fully understood ¿ 2,000 years after Archimedes first wrote them down.The magic of the Archimedes Codex is that there is no other copy of these specific writings in existence. In fact, even now after ten years of investigation of the text, including the use of brand new technologies never before used for such purposes, they are still discovering more about the extent of Archimedes¿ genius. The writing in The Archimedes Codex itself is nothing spectacular, but it is good enough to get the points across. They do a good job of explaining the importance of the mathematical principles in a way that most people can at least appreciate, even if almost nobody can completely understand it. Even so, there are times when it becomes a really dry read, even for me ¿ and I¿m an accountant! What is far more interesting is the preservation and recovery process of the book itself. The simple fact that the book survived this long is amazing. The book is literally falling apart and all of the scientists involved are taking monumental steps to do as little damage to it as they can. The lengths that they have gone to in order to extract the impressions of words buried in the paper are fascinating. Already, they have discovered that Archimedes knew even more about modern mathematical principles then was originally believed.The book itself is not a great piece of writing, but the subject is fascinating to learn about. In addition, this should be a cautionary tale of why books should never, ever be destroyed and why preserving ancient manuscripts by digitizing them doesn¿t necessarily preserve everything we might someday learn from the book itself. For that reason alone, this is a good book for book lovers and collectors to experience. It made for interesting reading on a truly unique piece of history.
Atomicmutant on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A really engaging modern scientific sleuthing story. The authors, both of them, are very good at explaining all of the intricacies of this project. For myself, very much a non-mathematician, what I appreciated was the clear and interesting way that the significance of the work was presented. The math is very well presented for us numerically challenged folks. This book really has it all, science, history, technology, mystery, intrigue. Highly recommended, if you're at all interested in this type of book.
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