submitted by Kytherian Cultural Exchange on 15.12.2008
Author: Jo Marchant
When Published: 6 Nov 2008
Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd
Available: Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.co.uk.
Description: 336 pages, Hardcover. Dimensions. 20.1 x 13.2 x 3.6 cm
In 1900 a group of sponge divers blown off course in the Mediterranean discovered an Ancient Greek shipwreck dating from around 70 BC.
Lying unnoticed for months amongst their hard-won haul was what appeared to be a formless lump of corroded rock. It turned out to be the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity. For more than a century this 'Antikythera mechanism' puzzled academics. It was ancient clockwork, unmatched in complexity for 1000 years - but who could have made it, and what was it for? Now, more than 2000 years after the device was lost at sea, scientists have pieced together its intricate workings and revealed its secrets.
In Decoding the Heavens, Jo Marchant tells the full story of the 100-year quest to understand this ancient computer. Along the way she unearths a diverse cast of remarkable characters – ranging from Archimedes to Jacques Cousteau – and explores the deep roots of modern technology not only in ancient Greece but in the Islamic world and medieval Europe too. At heart an epic adventure story, this is a book that challenges our assumptions about technology transfer over the ages while giving us fresh insights into history itself.
From the Inside Flap
In 1900 a group of sponge divers blown off course in the Mediterranean discovered an Ancient Greek shipwreck dating from around 70 BC. Lying unnoticed for months amongst their hard-won haul was what appeared to be a formless lump of corroded rock, which turned out to be the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity. For more than a century this ‘Antikythera mechanism’ puzzled academics, but now, more than 2000 years after the device was lost at sea, scientists have pieced together its intricate workings. Unmatched in complexity for 1000 years, it was able to predict eclipses and track the paths of the Sun and the Moon through the zodiac, and probably even showed ancient astronomers the movements of the five known planets....
Though it is more than 2,000 years old, the Antikythera Mechanism represents a level that our technology did not match until the 18th century, and must therefore rank as one of the greatest basic mechanical inventions of all time. I hope this book will rekindle interest in this artefact, which still remains under-rated.
Arthur C. Clarke
A fabulous piece of storytelling, thick with plot, intrigue, science, historical colour and metaphysical speculation. The mechanism is fascinating - but the larger question of why its knowledge was lost, and what else with it, is mind-blowing.
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