The Antikythera Mechanism and the Birth of Science?

April 4, 2007

[Cross-posted to Revise & Dissent]

L'Atmosphere: Météorlogie Populaire

We had a talk recently at Leicester from Mike Edmunds, the professor at Cardiff who’s been leading the research into the Antikythera Mechanism. I plan to write more about that in the future, but one of the many highlights of the talk was that the mechanism has implications for how Greeks thought about Natural Philosophy, the precursor to Science.

The ancient Greek view of the world is strange. Sometimes you can be stunned by the skill of their observations, like when you see the Antikythera Mechanism. Other times their beliefs appear to make no sense at all. For instance the Athenians closed their silver mines in the winter – to allow the silver to grow back. Something that’s puzzled me is how people who were not stupid could think such a thing. Surely someone would have noticed the rock was as it was at the end of last season? One possible answer is that until the invention of devices like the Antikythera Mechanism there was no alternative.
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