Rewriting history

27. April 2010 23:11

Antikythera mechanism

It's nice to see that the Antikythera mechanism is finally getting the recognition it deserves. This 2000-year-old collection of gearwheels and pointers is one of the most impressive artefacts that survives from the ancient world, yet historians of science and technology have consistently failed to take it seriously (claims that it was made by aliens haven't helped...)

However I've just been watching BBC2's breathless yet beautiful new series, The Story of Science. The first episode focuses on the history of astronomy and it features the mechanism prominently as a demonstration of how ancient Greeks viewed the cosmos. There's an interview with Michael Wright, who has reconstructed the device, along with some nice footage of his model (rather more professionally shot than my own attempt!) If you missed tonight's programme you can check it out on iplayer here.

This may be the first of a spate of TV appearances for the mechanism. As well as a film being made by Tony Freeth of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Group, I hear that National Geographic is planning a documentary about the device.