March 15-June 22, 2014
MaryLou and George Boone Gallery
OPENS MARCH 15, 2014
Archimedes lived in Syracuse, Sicily in the third century B.C. e was a brilliant mathematician, physicist, inventor, engineer, and astronomer. In 10th-century Constantinople (present day Istanbul), an anonymous scribe copied Archimedes' treatises in the original Greek onto parchment. In the 13th century, a monk erased the Archimedes text, cut the pages along the center fold, rotated the leaves 90 degrees and folded them in half. The parchment was then recycled, together with the parchment of other books, to create a Greek Orthodox prayer book. This process of reuse is called palimpsesting; the result of the process is a palimpsest.
Forgery of St. John in the Archimedes Palimpsest on leaf 57r. Copyright the owner of the Archimedes Palimpsest, licensed for use under creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Access Rights.
In 1999, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and a team of researchers began a project to read the erased texts of the Archimedes Palimpsest—the oldest surviving copy of works by the greatest mathematical genius of antiquity. Over 12 years, many techniques were employed by more than 80 scientists and scholars in the fields of conservation, imaging, and classical studies.
The Walters presented the exhibition “Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes” in 2011; it comes to The Huntington in spring 2014 to complement the Library’s history of science collections and to tell the story of the Archimedes Palimpsest’s journey and the discovery of new scientific, philosophical, and political texts from the ancient world. The manuscript demonstrates that Archimedes discovered the mathematics of infinity, mathematical
physics, and combinatorics—a branch of mathematics used in modern computing.
This exhibition was organized by the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
Molina Healthcare is proud to support “Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes” at The Huntington. Additional support was provided by Scott Jordan, the MacTon Foundation, the Ahmanson Foundation Exhibition and Education Endowment, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Janet and Alan Stanford.