Decoding the Heavens and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer--and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets
 
 


or
Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading Decoding the Heavens on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer--and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets [Paperback]

Jo Marchant
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

List Price: $16.99
Price: $12.10 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
You Save: $4.89 (29%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Want it tomorrow, Dec. 19? Choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
Best Books of 2014

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $9.99  
Hardcover --  
Paperback $10.90  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $0.00 Free with your Audible trial
Holiday Deals in Books
Holiday Deals in Books
Find deals for every reader in the Holiday Deals in Books store, featuring savings of up to 50% on cookbooks, children's books, literature & fiction, and more.

Book Description

March 2, 2010
In Decoding the Heavens, Jo Marchant tells for the first time the full story of the hundred-year quest to decipher the ancient Greek computer known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Along the way she unearths a diverse cast of remarkable characters and explores the deep roots of modern technology in ancient Greece and the medieval European and Islamic worlds. At its heart, this is an epic adventure and mystery, a book that challenges our assumptions about technology through the ages.

Frequently Bought Together

Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer--and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets + Nova: Ancient Computer
Price for both: $27.24

Buy the selected items together


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Marchant, editor of New Science, relates the century-long struggle of competing amateurs and scientists to understand the secrets of a 2000-year-old clock-like mechanism found in 1901 by Greek divers off the coast of Antikythera, a small island near Tunisia. With new research and interviews, Marchant goes behind the scenes of the National Museum in Athens, which zealously guarded the treasure while overlooking its importance; examines the significant contributions of a London Science Museum assistant curator who spent more than 30 years building models of the device; and the 2006 discoveries made by a group of modern researchers using state-of-the-art X-ray. Beneath its ancient, calcified surfaces they found "delicate cogwheels of all sizes" with perfectly formed triangular teeth, astronomical inscriptions "crammed onto every surviving surface," and a 223-tooth manually-operated turntable that guides the device. Variously described as a calendar computer, a planetarium and an eclipse predictor,Marchant gives clear explanations of the questions and topics involved, including Greek astronomy and clockwork mechanisms. For all they've learned, however, the Antikythera mechanism still retains secrets that may reveal unknown connections between modern and ancient technology; this globe-trotting, era-spanning mystery should absorb armchair scientists of all kinds.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Discovered a century ago in an ancient Mediterranean shipwreck, the Antikythera mechanism instantly attracted scientific interest. It had gears, which was and remains unique among artifacts from Greco-Roman civilization. So begins Marchant’s mystery about the object, a tale that ends in triumph but not before inveigling individuals who not only puzzled over the device but also became obsessively devoted to figuring it out. Tantalized by the Antikythera mechanism, scholar Derek de Solla Price felt it was the clue with which he could rewrite the history of technology. Price’s conclusions, however, were challenged by a museum curator of Industrial Revolution technologies; he was Michael Wright, who emerges here as the David among academic Goliaths who, by the early 2000s, were closing in on a conclusive interpretation of the Antikythera mechanism. By then, archaeological evidence dated the ship on which it sank to between 70 and 60 BCE and suggested its connection to the astronomer Hipparchus. Science readers will be entranced by Marchant’s vibrant depiction of the characters in this remarkable story of ancient technology. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818615
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The "Antikythera Mechanism" has baffled archeologists and scientists for more than a century. Discovered in an ancient Greek shipwreck in 1901 near the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, it is the first known mechanical computer in human history. It is rumored to have been used to calculate astronomical positions, and probably dates to the first century before the Common Era (BCE).

The "Antikythera Mechanism" was remarkable in that its many gears betray a complexity not found elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean world. Not until the high Medieval era would technological artifacts of similar complexity be found. With more than 30 gears, there is some difference of opinion on the number, it had the potential to enter a date and the mechanism could calculate the position of the Sun, Moon, or the other planets. It also had the capability to predict lunar and solar eclipses.

Jo Marchant, a well-known journalist and the editor of "New Scientist," has written a fascinating account of the discovery of this remarkable relic, its reconstruction, and the process of discovery of scientists gradually coming to understand its use. Made of bronze and found in pieces on the sea floor, it took considerable time to put it back together and to get it to work.

Hundreds of scholars have investigated the "Antikythera Mechanism," and employed high-technology analysis to understand the artifact. Even so, it took a century to unlock its secrets. Michael Wright, curator at the Science Museum in London, worked for more than two decades to build a working model of the artifact, using only tools and methods known to have been available in ancient Greece.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In 1900 an ancient shipwreck was discovered off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. Divers quickly brought up statues and other readily recognizable pieces, along with, almost as an afterthought, a strange lump of something metallic which at first seemed worthless. Then startled archaeologists and scientists noticed gears and cogs and realized that something far more interesting than any statue had been uncovered. The Antikythera mechanism was to perplex and intrigue investigators throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

Jo Marchant, a science writer for Nature and other scientific journals, has the gift of writing clearly and excitingly about subjects which might seem impenetrably obscure to laymen. Decoding the Heavens is her account of the long process of determining what the Antikythera Mechanism was designed to do, how it actually functioned, and who might have been its original designer. She is able to give life to the succession of highly intelligent and sometimes irascible and eccentric investigators who spent much of their lives on the Antikythera Mechanism. She is also able to explain the complexities of modern technological developments which enabled the investigators to finally unravel the secrets of the Mechanism.

I really enjoyed Decoding the Heavens, particularly the parts in which Marchant speculates on who might have been the Mechanism's original designer. While I wish a map of the eastern Mediterranean had been included to help pinpoint Antikythera, Rhodes, Corinth, Syracuse, and the many other places mentioned in the book, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone interested in the Greek and Roman world or in ancient and modern technology.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finding the real use of the Antikithera mechanism September 3, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Below is a different review of the same book, which I wrote for 'Antiquarian Horology':

JO MARCHANT,Decoding the Heavens :

A 2,000-Year-Old Computer and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets, published by Da Capo Press, Cambridge MA, 2009, hardcover. Also available in a UK edition as Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer. Or borrow from the NAWCC Library in Columbia (Members only)

Most students of the history of timekeeping machinery will have come across various pieces of information on the Antikythera mechanism in their reading and recall the outline account of its discovery. In the fall of the year 1900, the Greek Captain Dimitros Kontos and his crew of sponge divers stumbled upon a shipwreck from antiquity off the island of Antikythera, and thereby started the science of underwater archeology. In addition to a large number of statues and other artifacts, one recovered item was completely different. It consisted of several fragments of a very complex, geared, bronze mechanism with mysterious inscriptions. Whatever that object was, it was destined to substantially rewrite the history of technology.

The book under review is an up-to-date, detailed retelling of the story of this mechanism, its discovery, its interpretation and the search for its function. The author incorporates the discoveries and new theories that have been developed about the Antikythera mechanism during the last several years.

Michael Wright, formerly of the London Science Museum, has constructed a new replica and published his findings in this magazine and elsewhere. Regular readers of Antiquarian Horology are probably familiar with his three major articles on the subject in 2003 (Vol. 27, pp. 270-279), 2005 (Vol.29, pp.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful ! Mrs. Merchant writes super on a genial apparatus of antiquity !
Published 3 days ago by Reuven Fenichel
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 2 months ago by mariab
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping account
This is one of the best books I've read on this subjet only to be out done by Derek de Solla-Price. She gives a good and detailed account of those people involved in mechanism's... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Philip S. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic Read
And it is a true story. You usually have to go to fiction for a story like this. Thank you for making it available to general public.
Published 6 months ago by chris davie
5.0 out of 5 stars Way better than I expected.
I bought this book because I was required to read it for a book review in my Evolutions of Modern Science class. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Vphiz
2.0 out of 5 stars A variable work
I found the book light on the detail i wanted on the astronomy, mechanics and maths, wordy where diagrams would have been clearer, patronizing in other areas (e.g. Read more
Published 8 months ago by ianb
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!
Finished reading this today and found it fascinating. The story behind the Antikythera Machine is amazing. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Anna Dobritt
5.0 out of 5 stars Here is an ancient Greek treasure, not pretty statues or buildings,...
This is an excellent book about one of the most momentous discoveries made of ancient Greek civilization, the Antikythera mechanism, a device the existence of which is impossible. Read more
Published 9 months ago by ANM
5.0 out of 5 stars The ideal review of this marvel
I was searching for a book on the Antykithera device after seeing it in Athens. What I was dreading was either a dry scientific report or the typical Science Channel type... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Professor Frink
5.0 out of 5 stars The most complete source for information on the Antikythera
This is a highly readable and comprehensive book covering the story of the antikythera mechanism from it's discovery to the date the book was published. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Charles Hall
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only


Forums

There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
Topic:
First post:
Prompts for sign-in
 



Look for Similar Items by Category