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Ancient Greeks Had Mechanical Calculator

December 4, 2006

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The ancient Greeks had a calculating machine that was very advanced for its time, scientists have now discovered. In fact, the scientists say, not for another 1,000 years did people have such an advanced machine.

The machine is known as the Antikythera Mechanism, and it has a series of gear wheels that is incredibly intricate. It has survived in pieces from the 2nd Century B.C. Divers discovered it in 1901 from a shipwreck off Antikythera, a Greek island. Even then, the device was in pieces, 82 to be exact. Since that time, scientists have puzzled over its purpose.

Now, however, scientists have concluded that it was a calculator that could also predict eclipses. This might sound commonplace today, but it was definitely revolutionary back then. The findings are reported in the journal Nature.

Scientists from Greece, the U.S., and the U.K. have reconstructed a model of the Antikythera Mechanism using the most advanced computer imaging techniguqes. A total of 37 gear wheels were built into a wooden case that had on its cover inscriptions that corresponded to the movements of the then-known planets.

Such intricacy was not seen in machines until the Middle Ages, leading the scientists to wonder what other kinds of advanced techniques the ancient Greeks really had but have been lost to the sands of time and conquerors.

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