Aug
05
2006

Eureka. Archimedes text revealed.

Archimedes: Hidden text revealed, photo from Wikimedia
Archimedes: Hidden text revealed, photo from Wikimedia
Lost for about a thousand years, writings of Archimedes are now being revealed. An X-ray microfluorescence system, and other imaging systems are allowing faint remants of ink to be deciphered, even when covered up by gold leaf, paint, and other layers of ink. This tenth century manuscript is the unique source for two of Archimedes Treatises, The Method and Stomachion, and it is the unique source for the Greek text of On Floating Bodies.

Discovered in 1906 by J.L. Heiberg, it plays a prominent role in his 1910-15 edition of the works of Archimedes, upon which all subsequent work on Archimedes has been based. The manuscript was in private hands throughout much of the twentieth century, and was sold at auction (for two million dollars) to a private collector on the 29th October 1998. The owner deposited the manuscript at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, a few months later. Since that date the manuscript has been the subject of conservation, imaging and scholarship. The Walters Art Museum

Hidden text in the palimpsest

A palimpsest is a book that results from scraping the ink from the surface of a manuscript and writing new text over the old. Scientists believe a copy of Archimedes treatices was made in the tenth century. That manuscript was palimpsested into a prayer book about two hundred years later. John Ludwig Heiberg, who was the world’s authority on Archimedes was intrigued by the under text. Heiberg visited the Metochion in 1906, and discovered the truth, that this book contained the unique source for The Method, The Stomachion, and On Floating Bodies in Greek. The latest page to be deciphered with help from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center was revealed live yesterday on the internet.

Archimedes

Archimedes was born in Sicily in 287 BC. His father was an astronomer and a mathematician. After mastering everything his teachers knew, Archimedes went to Alexandria, Egypt where Euclid in his "The Elements" compiled 2000 years of geometrical treatises. Archimedes then returned to Syracuse and pursued a life of thought and invention. He endeared himself to King Hiero II, discovering solutions to problems that vexed the king.

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