Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Archimedes Codex

The Archimedes Codex : How A Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing The True Genius Of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist by Reviel Netz & William Noel was a very fascinating read. It is both a story of how an ancient Greek text was salvaged from the repurposing of those plimpisets for use as a prayer book in Medieval days. While the destruction of the original text may have caused this work of Archimedes to be lost forever, this destruction actually saved the text. Part of the book is dedicated to the process of removing the text of the prayer book and restoring the original writings by means of the latest scientific processes.

What was found underneath all the later work was a fascinating scientific work that changed the way we have thought about early Greek science. Greek science did not have a pure concept of infinity. They did have an understanding of many many that they were able to conceptualize, but that fell far short of pure thought of infinity. Infinity is pure thought experiment. That Archimedes conceptualized it forces a rethinking. With the notion of infinity the groundwork for Calculus begins and Archimedes had taken a leap well before later "inventors" of the mathematics. The reading of this particular codex has revealed the genius of this ancient Greek scientist.

The book took some time to read because it was slow going in places, however, I only read in short sections as I had several other books in progress at the time. IN a sense this was two stories in one. The process of restoration and the mathematical implications of what was found in the text itself. If you are interested in ancient science and mathematics I would recommend this book.


Anonymous said...

They refudiated eternity in the quest for infinity!

Donna Mulholland said...

That's cool.