Reviel Netz & the Archimedes Palimpsest: 10 Feb. 2010, St John’s College

6 February 2010 Comments Off on Reviel Netz & the Archimedes Palimpsest: 10 Feb. 2010, St John’s College

MUST-SEE  EVENT!!! (information below c/o the Dean’s Office, from the Archimedes Palimpsest Project site, plus bonus YouTube videos)

The PITP/St-Johns evening lecture this month (this Wednesday) has many of the ingredients of an ‘Indiana Jones’ style thriller. The story of the discovery of one of the most important documents in human history is truly extraordinary, and forms the centrepiece of the lecture by Reviel Netz from Stanford, the world’s leading authority on the famous Archimedes palimpsest, and a noted classicist at Stanford University.

Despite the previous paucity of written material, Archimedes has always been considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time (developing the basic ideas of calculus nearly 2000 years before Newton and Leibniz), as well as the founder of what we now call the science of physics (ie., the mathematical formulation of the behaviour of physical objects, along with experiments in, eg., his bath). However the discovery of the palimpsest, containing a large fraction of his original writings, has opened new vistas in our understanding of how science began, and the philosophical underpinnings of its early beginnings. Dr Netz will unveil for us some of the ideas, and also tell us the story of the discovery of this document, including its 19th century theft from the Hagia Sophia where it had lain unsuspected for over a millenium, and its eventual recovery from a Paris apartment only 20 years ago. Modern techniques have allowed us to uncover the writings within the palimpsest, and we are now better able to appreciate the scope of Archimedes’s ideas, both philosophical and scientific. This promises to be a remarkable evening; details below:

VENUE: 7:30 pm, Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Fairmont Lounge, St. John’s College, UBC

Prof Reviel Netz, Classics Department,
Stanford University

TITLE: The Archimedes Palimpsest: Infinite Possibilities

What we know of Archimedes comes from Medieval manuscripts. By far the most important is a palimpsest – a medieval copy erased and overwritten with a prayer book. Transcribing the Archimedes Palimpsest, we have gained in the last decade new insight into Archimedes’ mathematics. The talk will present two such insights, one concerning the infinite, the other concerning possibilities.

For more details see

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