Ignite Show: Restoring the Archimedes Palimpsest by Will Noel

In 1906 a researcher realized that in the 13th century a book of Archimedes‘ treatises had been over-written with prayers. Almost a century later the original manuscript was recovered through the high-tech efforts of Dr. Will Noel. In this Ignite talk he shares the secrets of the Palimpsest and the technology used to uncover them.

As described on the Archimedes Palimpsest on Wikipedia:

Archimedes lived in the third century BC, but the copy of his work was made in the tenth century AD by an anonymous scribe. In the twelfth century the codex was unbound and washed, in order that the parchment leaves could be folded in half and reused for a Christian liturgical text. It was a book of nearly 90 pages before being made a palimpsest of 177 pages; the older leaves folded so that each became two leaves of the liturgical book. The erasure was incomplete, and Archimedes’ work is now readable after scientific and scholarly work from 1998 to 2008 using digital processing of images produced by ultraviolet, infrared, visible and raking light, and X-ray.

In 1906 it was briefly inspected in Constantinople (now Istanbul) by the Danish philologist Johan Ludvig Heiberg. With the aid of black-and-white photographs he arranged to have taken, he published a transcription of the Archimedes’ text. Shortly thereafter Archimedes’ Greek text was translated into English by Thomas Heath. Before that it was not widely known among mathematicians, physicists, or historians. It contains:

The palimpsest also contains speeches by the fourth century BC politician Hypereides, a commentary on Aristotle‘s Categories by Alexander of Aphrodisias, and other works.

The Palimpsest has been made available online at http://archimedespalimpsest.net/. There is more information on the project at http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/.

This talk was filmed at Ignite Baltimore 3. It is available on iTunes.