The Antikythera Mechanism


The Antikythera Mechanism as found

The greatest machine ever made is not my sports car, but rather a 2000 year old analog computer made by the Greeks.  Known as the Antikythera mechanism for the Mediterranean island of its discovery, it baffled engineers for decades, still surprises for its accuracy and sophistication, has launched its own research project, and has even been recently recreated in Legos.

The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project

Lego Antikythera Mechanism

Today it is believed that this instrument was a kind of mechanical analog computer used to calculate the movements of stars and planets in astronomy. It has been estimated that the antikythera mechanism was built around 87 B.C and was lost in 76 B.C. No one has any idea about why or how it came to be on that ill-fated cargo ship. The ship was Roman though the antikythera mechanism was developed in Greece.  One theory suggests that the reason it came to be on the Roman ship could be because the instrument was among the spoils of war garnered by then Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

X-rays of the device have indicated that there are at least 30 different gears present in it.  British historian Derek Price has done extensive research on what the antikythera mechanism may have been used for. It was not until 1959 that Price put forth the theory that the device was used in astronomy to make calculations and predictions. In 1974, Price presented a model of how the antikythera mechanism might have functioned. When past or future dates were entered into the device it calculated the astronomical information related to the Sun, Moon, and other planets.

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