- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Phoenix; UK ed. edition (March 20, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0753823721
- ISBN-13: 978-0753823729
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Archimedes Codex Paperback – March 20, 2008
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A heroic account, of mathematics, and science. * ANGLO-HELLENIC REVIEW * The authors are fortunate to be involved in such a great project and they ahve done an excellent job in the writing of this book * BRITISH SOCIETY FOR THE HISTORY OF MATHEMATICS *
About the Author
Reviel Netz (Author) Reviel Netz is Professor of Ancient Science at Stanford University, a leading authority on Archimedes, and editor of the Archimedes Palimpsest.William Noel (Author) William Noel is Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at the Walters Art Museum and Director of the Archimedes Palimpsest Project.
Top customer reviews
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It recounts the scientific detective work, recently completed by some of our greatest scientific minds and technologists, to decipher the only remaining writing from the Ancient World of Archimedes to have survived to the modern world. It was found 'over-written' on an obscure
Medieval vellum 'palimpsest book' that a priest-scribe had copied in 1229 AD, miraculously saving some of the thinking and secrets of the mathematician, Archimedes, perhaps the ancient world's greatest scientist.
The narrative details how a team of modern day scientists and classicists, funded by an anonymous and generous benefactor, uncover important intellectual history - a select group of proofs by antiquity's greatest mathematician, Archimedes of Syracuse.
Having studied Latin and Greek in college along with taking introductory Calculus and Physics courses helped me appreciate this book - it was hard to put down. If you have no exposure to any of these academic areas, the book will probably still be of interest, but parts of it may go over your head. The authors have made a good attempt and explaining most concepts in reasonable terms and providing definitions for the obscure terms.
This story of the Archimedes Codex is extraordinarily interesting - the conditions under which it sold and its history alone provide enough content for a full-length book. The heart of the book doesn't even involve these topics though. Preserving the codex and decoding the contents through a diligent scientific approach provides the most compelling part of the writing. As the contents of the codex are decoded, the authors provide a nice review of Archimedes' discoveries as they relate to geometry, physics and statistics.
Decoding the work also uncovers previously unknown writings by at least one known ancient Greek orator, Hyperides.
I only take two minor issues with the work:
The first is that the author never makes it clear just how much new information has been decoded from the text in the modern studies vs. what was decoded in 1906 by Heiberg, a previous scholar. It could be 10% more or 50% more. The reader is just left to form her own judgment. To the authors' credit there was still research being conducted at the time of the book's printing and any such % would be subjective. Perhaps it is juvenile to ascribe a percentage to any discovery given the subject matter.
The second issue is that I felt the author did not explain clearly why Archimedes knowledge/use of "actual infinity" is required for solving The Method in lieu of using "potential infinity." He needs to explain better why using potential infinity would preclude or fall short of solving the problem.
In all this is a great book if you are interested in history, science or just the process of discovery in general.
The book outlines in particular the steps taken to restore a 12th century manuscript that has suffered more than just the passage of time, but damage from those who presumed to profit more from it. More than restore the manuscript, they discovered treatises for which there are no other extant copies. A truly fascinating read about a document that changes human history and our understanding of the origins of various disciplines of mathematics and the knowledge of the ancient mind.
Interspersed between the chapters about the document restoration process and history of Archimedes are chapters detailing the translations of the Greek texts along with somewhat detailed explanations of the mathematics.
This is a must read for anyone interested either in Archimedes himself, or the preservation of ancient manuscripts.