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 one of the most stunning scientific artifacts that 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.
For transcript and download versions of this lecture, please visit the event's page on the Gresham College website: Early Mathematics
Jo Marchant is a freelance journalist specialising in science and history. Her writing has appeared in publications including New Scientist, The Guardian and The Economist, and until recently she was an opinion editor at New Scientist magazine.
Her most recent book is 'Decoding the Heavens', the story of the Antikythera mechanism, the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity, which was discovered in 1900 and led to 100 years of study to understand it.
Programmable machine that can store, retrieve, and process data. Today's computers have at least one CPU that performs most calculations and includes a main memory, a control unit, and an arithmetic logic unit. Increasingly, personal computers contain specialized graphic processors, with dedicated memory, for handling the computations needed to display complex graphics, such as for three-dimensional simulations and games. Auxiliary data storage is usually provided by an internal hard disk and may be supplemented by other media such as floppy disks or CD-ROMs. Peripheral equipment includes input devices (e.g., keyboard, mouse) and output devices (e.g., monitor, printer), as well as the circuitry and cabling that connect all the components. Generations of computers are characterized by their technology. First-generation digital computers, developed mostly in the U.S. after World War II, used vacuum tubes and were enormous. The second generation, introduced c. 1960, used transistors and were the first successful commercial computers. Third-generation computers (late 1960s and 1970s) were characterized by miniaturization of components and use of integrated circuits. The microprocessor chip, introduced in 1974, defines fourth-generation computers.