Archimedes in Bits: The Digital Presentation of a Write-Off

William Noel, The Walters Art Museum

Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science, Chemical Heritage Foundation, and University of Pennsylvania Libraries

Friday, October 24, 2008 6:00 pm EDT

The Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street

Copyright: The owner of the Archimedes Palimpsest.
Time: 6:00 p.m. Location: Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia The Archimedes Palimpsest is considered by many to be the most important scientific manuscript ever sold at auction. It was purchased at a Christie's sale on October 1998, by an anonymous collector for $2,000,000. The collector deposited the Palimpsest at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, for exhibition, conservation, imaging and scholarly study in 1999. Work has been ongoing ever since. The Archimedes Palimpsest contains seven of the Greek mathematician's treatises. The manuscript was written in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) in the 10th century. In the 13th century, the manuscript was taken apart, and the Archimedes text was scraped off. The parchment was reused by a monk who created a prayer book. The Archimedes manuscript then effectively disappeared. Since 1999, intense efforts have been made to retrieve the Archimedes text. Many techniques have been employed, including multispectral imaging, x-ray flourescence imaging and synchrotron x-ray scanning at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California. The imaging efforts have led to a re-evaluation of the work of Archimedes, and to the retrieval of entirely new texts from the ancient world. William Noel is curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum, and has been director of the The Archimedes Palimpsest Project since its inception. This event is free and open to the public, but a response is required.