What may well be the most extraordinary surviving artefact from the ancient Greek world was discovered just over a century ago. In 1900 sponge divers off the coast of the Mediterranean island of Antikythera found a wreck which was to yield a device containing over thirty gear wheels dating from the 1st century B.C., and now known as the Antikythera Mechanism. This device is an order of magnitude more complicated than any surviving mechanism from the following millennium, and there is no surviving precursor. It is clear from its structure and inscriptions that its purpose was astronomical, including eclipse prediction.
In this illustrated talk, I will outline the results from our international research team, which has been using the most modern imaging methods to probe the device and its inscriptions. The extraordinary sophistication of the Mechanism's design has fundamental implications for the development of Greek astronomy and technology. The latest results may suggest a link back to Archimedes, and show that the Mechanism even had a dial to indicate when the Olympic Games should take place!
Mike Edmunds is Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at Cardiff University and former Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy. He is a member of the Science and Technology Research Council, and Chair of their Science in Society Advisory Panel. He was educated at Cambridge, but has lived and worked in Wales for nearly 35 years. His main research career involved the determination and interpretation of the abundances of the chemical elements in the Universe, and investigation of the origin of interstellar dust. Later work has partly focused on the history of astronomy, and on Science in Society activity. Mike is a Council Member of the Royal Astronomical Society and Chair of their Astronomical Heritage Committee, a consultant for the Higher Education Academy, and can occasionally be seen in his one-man play about Newton "Sir Isaac Remembers...".