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Archimedes Manuscript under X-ray Vision

Date: 9/25/2006

Uwe Bergmann
SLAC

Archimedes of Syracuse (287 - 212 BC) is considered one of the most brilliant thinkers of all times. The 10th century parchment document known as the Archimedes Palimpsest is the unique source for two of the Greek's treatises - the Stomachion, and The Method of Mechanical Theorems. It is also the only source for On Floating Bodies in Greek. The privately owned palimpsest is the subject of an integrated campaign of conservation, imaging, and scholarship being undertaken at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Much of the text has been imaged by various optical techniques, but significant gaps remain in our knowledge of the writings of Archimedes, while texts by other authors - potentially of major significance - remain yet unread. A breakthrough in uncovering the missing Archimedes writings has recently been achieved at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. Using x-ray fluorescence imaging, writings from faint traces of the partly erased iron gall ink were brought to light. The x-ray image revealed Archimedes writings from some of his most important works covered by 12th century biblical texts and 20th century gold forgeries. Please join me in a fascinating journey of a 1000 year old parchment from its origin in the Mediterranean city of Constantinople to an x-ray beam line in Menlo Park, California.

Last update: October 03, 2013