History of science is devoted to the history of science, medicine and technology from earliest times to the present day. Histories of science were originally written by practicing and retired scientists, starting primarily with William Whewell, as a way to communicate the virtues of science to the public.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Antikythera Mechanism

The earliest known purely mechanical clock appears to have been discovered on a ship wreck.

Shortly before Easter of 1900 a party of Greek sponge fishers returned from their normal fishing grounds near Tunisia, they were driven off course by a gale and found shelter close to Kythera, near the barren island of Antikythera.

They discovered the device known as the Antikythera mechanism, when they explored the shallow rock shelves below them which they had dropped their anchored.

At a depth of 42 meters they found a 50 m long ship wreck containing a plainly visible pile of bronze and marble statues. The Antikythera Mechanism or mechanical computing clock device is the most complex instrument of antiquity.

Subsequent exploration of the underwater site, by explorer Jacques Cousteau, enabled scientist to date the remnants of a ship to 87 BC.

Further analysis of the Antikythera mechanism with more advanced technologies has provided several recent discoveries.

Close examination revealed the fragment of a heavily encrusted, corroded, geared device measuring around 33 cm high, 17 cm wide and 9 cm thick.

Constructed of bronze and originally contained within a wooden frame, the device was engraved with a copious text, which appears to be the device’s operating manual.

In 1950s, it was realized by the science historian Derek Price that these were parts of an astronomical computer: a kind of solar and lunar calendar. 

Scientists concluded that the device was able to predict lunar and solar eclipse based on Babylonian eclipse algorithms, as well as to display some of the planetary and lunar positions, and even had gears to simulate irregularities in the Moon’s motion.

The Antikythera Mechanism process ho sophisticated Greek technology was. It was possibly constructed the school of Posidonius on the island of Rhodes.
The Antikythera Mechanism
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