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First published in Great Britain in 2013

by Dorling Kindersley Limited A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL the British Library.
Penguin Group (UK) ISBN: 978 1 4093 1613 8
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1 Colour reproduction by Alta Images, London
001 184801 Oct/2013 Printed and bound in China by Hung Hing
Copyright 2013 Dorling Kindersley Limited
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without Discover more at
prior written permission of the copyright owner. www.dk.com

Jack Challoner Philip Parker Mary Gribbin

Science writer and communicator with a Historian and writer whose books include Science writer for young readers and is a Visiting
background in physics. He contributed to DKsEyewitness Companion Guide: World Fellow at the University of Sussex.
DKsScienceand has written more than 30 History,History Year by Year,andEngineers.
other books on science and technology, for
readers of all ages.
Marcus Weeks Richard Beatty
Writer on history, economics, and popular science.
Edinburgh-based science writer, editor, and
Derek Harvey He has contributed to DKsScience,Engineers,
scientic lexicographer.
Naturalist and science writer for titles including andHelp Your Kids with Maths.
DKsScienceandThe Natural History Book.
Giles Sparrow
John Farndon Popular science writer, specializing in astronomy
Popular science writer, specializing in Earth and space science.
science and the history of ideas.


Smithsonian contributors include historians and
Professor Robert Winston John Gribbin museum specialists from:
Robert Winston is Professor of Science and Society Science writer, astrophysicist,and Visiting Fellow
and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. He is the National Air and Space Museum
College London and runs a research programme in the author ofScience: A History,published by Penguin. The Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum
Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology. maintains the worlds largest collection of historic
He is an author and broadcaster and regularly writes aircraft and spacecraft, and its mission is to educate
Marty Jopson and inspire by preserving and displaying historically
and hosts popular science programmes, many of which Science communicator and TV presenter, with a PhD
have been shown around the world. Previous DK books signicant aeronautical and spaceight artifacts.
in plant cell biology.
include the award-winning What Makes Me Me?,
Science Experiments, and Human.
National Museum of American History
Jane McIntosh The Smithsonians National Museum of American
Senior Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian History dedicates its collections and scholarship to
and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge. inspiring a broader understanding of the American
CHIEF EDITORIAL nation and its many peoples.
CONSULTANT National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonians National Museum of Natural
Patricia Fara History is the most visited natural history museum
Senior Tutor of Clare College, University of Cambridge, in the world and the most visited museum in the
Patricia Fara has published a range of academic and Smithsonian museum complex.
popular books on the history of science, and is a regular
contributor to radio and TV programmes.
National Museums of Asian Art
The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler
Gallery hold in trust the nations extraordinary
collections of Asian art and of American art of the late
19th century aesthetic movement, and are dedicated
to the acquisition, care, study, and exhibition of works
in their collections.
1 2 3
2.5 MYA799CE 8001542 15431788


Features Features Features
016 Early Metallurgy 054 Understanding Stars 078 The Story of Anatomy
020 The Story of the Wheel 062 The Story of Gears 084 Measuring Instruments
026 The Story of Geometry 090 Medicine
034 Understanding Simple 100 Understanding
Machines Planetary Orbits
108 The Story of
Measuring Time
114 Microscopes
120 Understanding Newtons
Laws of Motion
132 Navigational Tools
146 Meteorological

4 5 6 7
17891894 18951945 19462013


Features Features Features Categories

164 Fossils 234 Understanding 284 Understanding DNA 352 Measurements and Units
170 The Story of the Engine Radiation 292 The Story of 355 Physics
174 Understanding Compounds 358 Chemistry
240 Flying Machines
and Reactions 298 The Story of Space
244 Understanding Relativity Exploration 360 Biology
184 The Story of Calculating
Machines 250 Understanding Atomic 316 Communication 364 Astronomy and Space
194 Understanding Cells Structure 366 Earth Science
326 Understanding
204 Understanding Evolution 260 The Story of Plastics Global Warming
212 Surgery 266 Understanding 334 The Story of Robotics
218 The Story of Sound 344 Understanding
Recording Cosmology

368 Whos Who

375 Glossary
382 Index
398 Acknowledgments
Forewor d
Roughly one and a half million years represents the million and a
ago, our ancestors on the African half years since stone tools were
Savanna made crude handaxes by invented. Now to the same scale,
chipping stone. Trial and error early imagine a smaller line representing
scientic endeavour led to tools the last 400 years, just one-tenth of
with which hominids could esh meat a millimetre the size of the full
from the bones of animals, dig to nd stop at the end of this sentence. In
tubers or water, and eventually, hunt that short time, Galileo pointed his
prey and skin the animals they found telescope at the moons of Jupiter
for clothing. And once re had been in 1609, Newcomen produced his
harnessed, about 300,000 years ago, atmospheric pump to remove mine
pre-humans improved their diet. water in 1712, and Trevithicks steam
What fascinates me, is that with locomotive hauled a train in Wales
these two technologies, pre-humans in 1804. Roughly a hundred years
inuenced their own evolution; we later, the Wright brothers ew their
are the only species on Earth that biplane for the rst manned ight.
has used tools and modied how Now we have built sophisticated
its descendants evolved. It seems computers, landed on the Moon
equally extraordinary that the basic and, using the building blocks of life,
tool from which all inventions are fashioned synthetic living organisms
derived, the stone handaxe, hardly in laboratories.
changed in over 1 million years. Science, and the technology which
What this book records is how results from it, is moving so fast
our inventiveness led to faster that we cannot predict where human
and faster development. Once we inventiveness will lead. Will we
invented farming, perhaps 10,000 continue to change our evolution?
12,000 years ago, our forefathers Whatever the case, the remarkable
changed their environment. A few history of science leaves no doubt
thousand years later, we had built that we lead better, healthier, and
cities, invented writing, and more fullled lives than at any
fashioned wheeled vehicles that, previous time. Our planet may
as this book shows, could move face major challenges, but there
at surprising speeds. is every reason to believe that our
Imagine a line across this page inventiveness will be up to the task
measuring about 30 cm (11.8 in). of improving ourselves and protecting
Let us pretend that this line the planet on which we live.


Extremophile habitat
Vivid colours in the Grand Prismatic Spring in
Yellowstone National Park, USA result from a
lm of pigmented bacteria around the edge of
the hot spring. Different species of microbes
ourish in specic temperatures and contain
pigments suited to their environments.
2.5 MYA799CE
Starting with early experiments to make tools and use
fire, humans gradually learnt how to control, explore, and
understand their surroundings by developing techniques
in astronomy, medicine, and mathematics.
2.5 MYA 8000 BCE

The paintings at El Castillo in Spain, dating from around 41,000 YA , are among the oldest known cave art. Made using natural
pigments, the paintings include depictions of horses and bison, although the very earliest are abstract discs and dots.

THE FIRST SIGNIFICANT Around 1.76 MYA, Upper Paleolithic leaf point
upper and lower
SCIENTIFIC ADVANCE was the more advanced stone This skillfully crafted tool was
SURFACE 1 blocks rubbed
made by aking small pieces
production of stone tools. Around together tools began to appear.
off a larger core using a
2.5 million years ago (MYA), early surface of both Unlike Oldowan tools,
SURFACE 2 sharp piece of bone or
blocks heat up
hominids (either Homo habilis Acheulian tools, antler to apply pressure.
or Australopithecus) began particularly the
to modify cobbles by striking GENERATING HEAT FROM FRICTION multipurpose handaxe,
them with another stone, thus were deliberately core (see panel,
removing akes of stone and Rubbing two surfaces together causes the kinetic movement shaped. Hard- opposite), and
creating a sharp edge a energy of the rubbing motion to be transferred to the atoms in hammer percussion a wide range of ake
method known as hard-hammer the surfaces. This process, known as friction, causes the atoms to (striking off akes tools such as knives,
percussion. These early pebble heat up. The smoother the surfaces, the more heat is generated; with a hammerstone) spear points, and
tools, or choppers, are known as in extreme cases this can cause nearby material to catch re. was used to rough out scrapers shaped for
Oldowan tools. They were used the tools shape. It different purposes.
for dismembering killed animals, was then rened by In the late Middle
cracking bones for the marrow, lit branches from these res decay and extends the range removing smaller and Upper Paleolithic
and scraping hides. Oldowan to use as weapons against of edible resources to include akes using a soft (c.35,00010,000 YA), a
technology spread throughout predators or to provide light and plants containing toxins that hammer of bone new technique, indirect
Africa, where it lasted until heat. There is possible evidence can be broken down by heat. or antler. percussion, allowed for
around 1.7 MYA. for sporadic controlled use The earliest evidence of Mousterian tools are many blades to be struck
Early hominids must have seen of re from around 1 MYA, with cooking comes from sites particularly associated with from a single core. The nal
and understood the power of re evidence of regular use from such as Gesher Benot Yaaqov Neanderthals and occurred from stage of tool development
by observing wildres caused by around 400,000 YA. Finds at in Israel (790,000 YA), where c.300,000 YA. They include rst appeared c.70,000 YA and
lightning strikes. They may have Gesher Benot Yaaqov in Israel concentrations of burnt seeds sharp-edged Levallois akes became widespread post-
(790,000 YA) show signs of the and wood were found. that were struck off a prepared glacially from about 10,000 YA.
active use of re. It involved microliths tiny
Early humans were able akes and blades for use in
to use devices such as re Making re composite tools.
ploughs or re drills to Early humans probably The earliest weapons were
made re using a re
produce their own re drill or re plough,
rocks or handaxes, but by about
with friction. Fire was which generates 400,000 BCE early people had
important for warmth heat by rubbing adapted sticks for use as
and protection, splitting two pieces of wood spears. At rst, these had
together. The heat
stones, hardening causes wood dust
sharpened wooden ends, but
the points of wooden to ignite and this by around 200,000 BCE stone
sharp edge where stone
ake struck off tools, and for cooking. can then be points started being attached to
Heating food breaks used to light create more effective weapons.
Oldowan tool larger kindling.
down proteins, which The bow was probably rst
Choppers like this were the earliest
stone tools. They were suitable for makes it easier to digest. ame generated in developed around 64,000 BCE,
tasks such as cutting animal hide. It also protects food from kindling such as twigs but the earliest examples found

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Einkorn is the ancestor of modern wheat and still occurs naturally throughout southwest
Asia. It has a higher protein content than its domesticated descendent.

date from around 9000 BCE. Jomon pot

The arrows of this period This style of pottery
was produced in Japan
show evidence of etching for over 10,000 years.
attaching feathers to the shaft The earlier examples
to improve ight and accuracy. generally have pointed
The rst deliberate use of re bottoms. DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE
to harden clay dates from around
24,000 BCE, with the manufacture were red in pit-kilns, or The upland areas of the Fertile Crescent, an area of
of ceramic Venus gurines found bonre kilns, which were relatively fertile land in southwest Asia, were home to
at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech shallow pits dug in the wild cereals, sheep, and goats. Around 10,000 BCE the
Republic. Examples of the rst ground and lined with fuel. climate cooled, leading to a contraction of the range
pottery vessels, from around In western Asia, unbaked clay of wild cereals to areas with higher rainfall. Perhaps due to
18,000 BCE, were found in was initially used for making the greater difculty in gathering the seeds of these plants,
Xianrendong Cave in China, but vessels, bricks. The rst containers were communities began cultivating them next to their villages. Sheep
the earliest ceramic vessels to which were made from gypsum and lime and goats were also domesticated for their meat. More productive
have survived in any quantity are useful for plaster, which was made by sources of food led to increased population densities, while the
Jomon pots from Japan. These storing food and also for cooking. burning chalk. It was not until demand in time and labour needed for agriculture led to
date from about 14,000 BCE and Early pottery was generally around 6900 BCE that ceramic settlements becoming both larger and more sedentary.
were probably used for cooking formed by pinching (shaping the pottery appeared at sites such
food. The growing stability of wet clay by hand) or gradually as ayn in Turkey.
settlements probably played coiling rolls of clay up and into The earliest bone needles gatherers or foragers. The rst barley (Hordeum vulgare)
a role in the spread of pottery the shape of a pot. These pots date from around 30,000 BCE evidence of plant domestication were domesticated. Cultivation
and come from Europe. They (the deliberate selection and of these cereals was widely
stone tortoise core shape is may have been used to join manipulation of plants for distributed in southwest Asia,
core gradually developed skins together, using cultivation) is of wild rye particularly in a fertile crescent
threads of gut or sinew, and seeds that were sown and of land that stretched from
to thread pierced objects, harvested around the the Persian Gulf to the
akes are such as shells or beads. settlement of Abu Hureyra coastlands of the Near East.
detached Ancient clay impressions of in Iraq around 10,500 BCE. By 7000 BCE, barley had also
textiles date the rst woven About a thousand years later, been domesticated on the
akes are detached cloth to around 27,000 BCE. a group of wild cereals Indian subcontinent. In China,
from the face
Cordage the twisting notably einkorn (Triticum however, a different set of plants,
THE LEVALLOIS TECHNIQUE together of bres to increase boeoticum) and emmer notably millet and rice, was
the strength of the threads (Triticum dicoccoides), both domesticated beginning
This technique involves shaping a tortoise core using hard and appeared around 18,000 BCE, varieties of wheat, and wild in the 8th millennium BCE.
soft percussion. Flakes are struck from the edges and one face when three-ply cord was in
to produce the desired shape of the nal ake, which is then use in the Lascaux caves of Bone shuttle
Needles and shuttles of bone
detached from the core. The resulting ake has a sharp edge southern France.
were the rst means of binding
on all sides and can be used without further modication. Until at least 13,000 YA, early materials together, using animal
humans were hunter- gut or vegetable bres such as ax.

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8000 3000 BCE


The Soay sheep is native to a small island off the west coast of Scotland. It is a primitive breed,
very similar to the rst domesticated sheep in Europe.

Farming hillsides storage. Terrace agriculture,

The use of terraces to allow hilly in which at, cultivable areas are
areas to be farmed began in Yemen
cut into a hillside and irrigated
in about 4000 BCE but was also
widely practised in China and in by water channels, was
mountainous areas of Peru. developed in Yemen in around
4000 BCE. In China, networks
Where there was insufcient of banks and ditches were built
rainfall for agriculture, farmers to ood and drain wet-rice
developed irrigation to transport cultivation elds (paddies).
water to their elds. At Choga Cold-working (beating
Mami, in eastern Iraq, water or hammering) of naturally
channels from the River occurring metals, such as gold
Tigris were constructed from and copper, was practised as
around 6000 BCE, and by the early as 8000 BCE. Smelting
4th millennium BCE, dams and heating metallic ores with a
dykes were used to store water reducing agent to extract the
in reservoirs in parts of western pure metal (see 1800700 BCE)
Asia. In Egypt, the annual appeared as early as 6500 BCE in
ONE OF THE FIRST ANIMALS at Gbekli Tepe in southeast throughout western Europe, ooding of the Nile River atal Hyk in Turkey. The
to be domesticated by humans, Anatolia (in modern Turkey). resulting in structures such as inundated elds naturally, but technique spread widely: it
around 30,000 BCE, was the It consisted of a number of the Carnac stones in Brittany, from at least as early as 3000 BCE, was being used from southeast
dog, which was selectively bred free-standing T-shaped pillars France (dating from around excess water was diverted for Europe to
from domesticated wolves and within a low circular enclosure 4500 BCE), Newgrange Passage
was used for hunting. Around wall. In around 8000 BCE the rst tomb in Ireland (around ALLOYS
8500 BCE, people in southwest settlement wall was built at 3400 BCE), and Stonehenge
Asia began to domesticate other Jericho in Palestine. Made of in England (from 2500 BCE). The combination of two or more metals
animals, beginning with sheep stone, the wall was about 5 m By around 6500 BCE the people produces an alloy, which may have different
and goats. Cattle and pigs (16 ft) high with a circumference of Mehrgarh (in modern Pakistan) characteristics from the original metals. In the
were domesticated around of 600 m (1,970 ft). Architectural were making bitumen, a sticky mid to late 5th millennium BCE, it was discovered
7000 BCE in many places across techniques became more liquid that seeps from crude oil that smelting a small amount of arsenic with
the world, and by 3000 BCE a sophisticated, with the use of deposits, to make reed baskets copper produced arsenical bronze, which is
number of other animals had corbelling (overlapping stone waterproof, and around 2600 BCE harder and stronger than copper alone. By
been domesticated including, to create a type of vaulted roof) the people of the Indus around 3200 BCE, true bronze was being produced
in the Americas, the guinea in northwest Europe by 4000 BCE, Civilization were using it to create in southwest Asia by using tin instead of arsenic
pig (around 5000 BCE) and the and buttresses to strengthen a watertight coating for brick- in the smelting process, and objects such as this
llama (about 4500 BCE). walls in Mesopotamia by around built basins. In Mesopotamia early 2nd century bronze gurine were being
The rst large-scale 3400 BCE. From about 5000 BCE, from the 4th millennium BCE, made. By the late 3rd millennium BCE, it had
construction of stone buildings the practice of building large bitumen was mixed with sand to also been discovered that copper could be
began around 9000 BCE, with the structures using massive create a mortar for building and alloyed with zinc, forming brass.
building of a ritual structure stones megaliths spread as a tar for caulking ships.

ne eo tio
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Fi uilt Fir aske Ira Ev ing, rke E ar , fou key Po ear, re r r
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0 B ho k, T 0 B e b Ira
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. 8 0 w a c.7 iden at Ja c.6 ppe l H . 6 c .6 s r sun mia 5
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to rich ev nd co ata sp ata kil e Ha opo ca oga
Je fou at at th Mes Ch

nd en g
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C sti Eas E
BC rst n tan er ea Ea
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.7 re h e ls e c te h, C E in he
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50 egi and
pig a e h
c.5 b pe
M o
The Carnac stones in Brittany, France, are a series of more than 3,000 upright megaliths.
The oldest stones date from around 4500 BCE.

Spinning threads
Spindle whorls are often the rst evidence
BARLEY IS THRESHED FOR YOU, efcient harnesses for attaching
draft animals to wagons were
of spinning spun threads are wrapped
around a spindle shaft. Whorls are usually
light; if heavier than 150 g (5 oz), they tend
to break the thread.
developed in Mesopotamia,
allowing greater loads and
distances to be attained.
As commercial transactions
ARE MADE WITH IT. grew more complex, accurate
Ancient Egyptian pyramid text, c.24002300 BCE measurements of goods became
essential. Standardized weight
5000 BCE, the method of coiling Four-wheeled wagons appeared and length measures were
pots was improved by a simple in Poland and the Balkans around introduced in Mesopotamia,
turntable (tournette) beneath the 3500 BCE and soon afterwards in Egypt, and the Indus Valley in
South Asia pot. By 3500 BCE, the tournette Mesopotamia. At rst, wheels the late 4th millennium BCE. The
by 5500 BCE; had been replaced in southern were solid discs connected to the earliest weights were often based
throughout Europe by Mesopotamia by a true potters wagon by a wooden axle, but on grains of wheat or barley,
3000 BCE; and as far as China wheel, consisting of a heavy around 2000 BCE, spoked wheels which have a uniform weight.
and Southeast Asia by 2000 BCE. During the early years of stone wheel that could be turned were developed, which made The standard unit of length, the
Casting metal objects with agriculture, ground for sowing rapidly and continuously. This lighter, more mobile vehicles cubit, was based on the length
a mould developed in the had to be cultivated using allowed the potter to throw the possible. Around 3100 BCE, of a mans forearm.
5th millennium BCE. The rst hand-held digging sticks or pot by placing a lump in the
known cast metal object hoes. The use of cattle as draft centre of the device and shaping handle of pot

comes from Mesopotamia and animals made the eventual use it as the wheel spun around.
dates from about 3200 BCE. of the ard, or scratch plough, For many
Spinning raw bres to make a possible. This primitive wooden millennia, all
thread may have begun as early plough, sometimes with a metal transport on land
as the 7th millennium BCE, which tip, cut shallow furrows. The was by foot. The
is the date of spindle whorls found earliest evidence of its use rst articial aids
at atal Hyk, Turkey. Weaving comes from the 4th millennium were sledges, which
may have arisen from the late BCE, and it spread widely in Egypt, have been found in
Paleolithic skill of making nets West Asia, and Europe. Finland dating from
and baskets. The loom a frame The quality of ceramics was 6800 BCE, and skis, which
or brace to keep one set of improved by the invention, in were in use in Russia around
threads (the warp) tense while around 6000 BCE, of kilns 6300 BCE. The invention of the
another (the weft) is interwoven specially built chambers in wheel revolutionized transport.
with it appeared in the form of which pottery could be red.
warp beams (simple sticks) and Two-chamber, updraught kilns Wagon in clay
backstrap looms (the warp beams (in which the re is in the lower This clay pot in the shape of a wagon
dates from around 3000 BCE and
were held taut by a strap around chamber) appeared in the
shows the typical features of early
the users back) in West Asia and Hassuna culture of Mesopotamia wheeled vehicles from central and wheel in the form of
Egypt by the 4th millennium BCE. in about 6000 BCE. Around southern Europe. a solid disc

d ize
t rd n
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at e da di
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ir re rrig s ar Fir cles rop
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0B e Gu d in C d so
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00 in M E e 5
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i We begi na 0 B is
50 el Me
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c.5 sed 0 BC
cat CE i
c.3 whe ern c.3 are
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is c.5 ome 00 vat in ut
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e d c. 4 culti so att
2.5 MYA 7 9 9 CE B E FO R E S C I E N C E B E GA N

curved blade
adapted for
harvesting grain

Reaping hook Metal shears Cast-iron mould

Date unknown Date unknown c.300 BCE
By the Iron Age, metal harvesting sickles These iron shears from Italy are similar The Chinese had invented high-temperature furnaces
had replaced int-bladed ones as the to those used by later sheep-shearers. capable of melting iron as early as 500 BCE. This enabled
metal was readily available and easier They were found in Riva del Garda, in them to produce cast iron by pouring molten metal into
to sharpen and mend than int. the Italian province of Trento. moulds such as this one, used to make agricultural tools.

sharp tip for piercing

Bronze sword
c.1200 BCE
Sword blades could be
created using bronze, an Iron sword
at pommel
alloy of copper and tin. c.500700
Bronze Age swords, such as The Anglo-Saxons used the pattern-welding technique to blade with
this one from France, were make swords, in which rods of iron were twisted together rounded tip
carried only by the rich. and forged to form the core. An edge was then added.


The development of metallurgy from around 6500 BCE, Chariot decoration

c.100 BCE 100 CE
made possible the production of ornamental objects of Enamelling, or the fusing of molten glass with
metal, was invented around 1200 BCE. The use
great beauty as well as tools and weapons that were of red glass in enamelling became especially
more durable and effective than those made of wood. popular in the late Iron Age, as seen in this
Celtic chariot decoration.

The earliest metalworking was cold-hammering the beating of

naturally occurring metals. After smelting (heating ore to extract metal)
was developed, techniques became more sophisticated. Metal casting began
around 5000 BCE, and alloys were developed in the 5th millennium BCE. By
the end of the ancient period, techniques such as gilding and inlaying had
been developed and metalworking had spread across much of the world.
Bronze Celtic brooch
c.800 BCE
This ornate brooch was created by
Hallstatt craftsmen in Austria. The
spiral pattern was part of the Celtic
artistic repertoire for over 1,500 years.
red enamel

Bronze pin ligree work

Pins with attened
heads were a common
decorative item used for
fastening clothes in
Bronze-Age Europe.

Anglo-Saxon belt buckle
c.620 Gold Minoan pendant
This gold belt buckle features an c.17001550 BCE
intertwined pattern of snakes and beasts, This pendant, depicting bees depositing
birds head writhing snake highlighted in black niello an enamel- honey on a honeycomb, exhibits granulation
in prole pattern like substance formed from an alloy of (minute balls of gold soldered onto the
silver, copper, lead, and sulphur. surface) and ligree (ne threads of metal).

iron cap

Corinthian helmet
c.700 BCE
This helmet is made from a single
piece of bronze, giving it extra strength.
Such helmets were popular in Greece
from the 8th to the 6th centuries BCE.

rigid face roundel
mask, riveted
to cap red glass inlay

Ceremonial shield cover

c.35050 BCE
Made from a bronze sheet, this shield
cover displays the repouss technique
of hammering the reverse side to
create a raised design on the front.


Silver plaque Lydian coins

c.300200 BCE c.700 BCE
This plaque depicts the gures of the The earliest coinage was produced
Greek goddess Aphrodite, her son Eros, in Lydia (now in Turkey). It was made
and a girl attendant, made by repouss. from electrum a naturally occurring
Other decorative incisions have been alloy of silver and gold, which was once
highlighted with gilding. believed to be a metal in its own right.

neck guard
Anglo-Saxon helmet (reconstruction)
Found in a ship burial at Sutton Hoo, UK,
the original helmet was made of iron and
covered with tinned bronze sheets. It was
decorated with silver wire and garnets.

leg shaped
as dragon

Bronze gure
c.1000 BCE
This statuette of a Canaanite Bronze Age vessel Copper mask
god was made with a technique c.800 BCE c.250
called cire-perdue casting, This animal-shaped ritual vessel, Found in the tomb of a nobleman from
which uses a single-use mould, known as yi, was used in Late the Peruvian Moche culture, this mask
and plated with silver using a Western Zhou China for washing shows mastery of metal sculpture. Both
direct application technique. hands before making a sacrice. eyes were originally inset with turquoise.

3000 1800 BCE
Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet I, c.2000 BCE

The ruins of Uruk, the worlds oldest city are in present-day Iraq. The site
of Uruk was rst settled around 4800 BCE and became a town around 4000 BCE.

IRRIGATION TECHNIQUES Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, EARLY ASTRONOMY lime in a furnace, but initially
BECAME MORE COMPLEX during great cities of the Indus was suitable only for small
the 3rd millennium BCE. The Civilization, had been built. objects. In Egypt, faience
shadoof was developed in As towns and cities developed, Evidence of interest in became common from around
Mesopotamia in around 2400 BCE. the rst true writing emerged astronomical phenomena 3000 BCE. Consisting of a mixture
It consisted of an upright frame in Mesopotamia around 3300 BCE, dates from Neolithic times in of crushed quartz, calcite lime,
with a pole suspended from it; on probably prompted by the need Europe, when many megaliths and soda lime, which when
one end of the pole was a bucket to keep detailed records. were laid out in an orientation vitried produced a blue-
for scooping up water, while on Originally largely pictographic, that indicated particular lunar turquoise glaze, faience was
the other was a counterweight. with signs looking like the things or solar events. Some of the used by the Egyptians on small
By 1350 BCE, the shadoof had they represented, they were stones at Stonehenge (rst sculptures and beads.
spread to Egypt. There, devices written using a stylus that erected around 2500 BCE) were The early 3rd millennium BCE
called nilometers had already produced wedge-shaped marks. aligned to indicate the times of saw the spread of true bronze,
been developed to measure Cuneiform script developed year at which the winter and created by alloying copper with
the rise and fall of the river, as the curved outlines of these summer solstices occurred. tin, which became the most
which predicted how good early signs changed into a series Other features may have been commonly used metal in
the harvest would be. of wedge-shaped lines that connected with lunar events. Mesopotamia between 3000 and
In the period 40003000 BCE gradually became more stylized 2500 BCE. Clay crucible furnaces
farming communities in over time. These symbols were for smelting appeared there in
Mesopotamia had coalesced impressed into soft clay, which initially primarily pictographic. at least 1400 BCE, and in around 3000 BCE. Mesopotamian
to form the worlds rst cities, then hardened to create durable The earliest known examples Mesoamerica around 600 BCE. metallurgists also invented the
such as Uruk c.3400 BCE. By documents. At around the same are clay labels from Abydos, Soda-lime glass was rst technique of gold granulation
3100 BCE, cities had begun to time, another writing system c.3300 BCE. Writing also developed in Mesopotamia around 2500 BCE. This produced
appear in Egypt, beginning with developed in Egypt. Known as developed in the Indus Valley around 3500 BCE. It was made by tiny gold balls, which were used
Hierakonpolis. By 2600 BCE, hieroglyphic, this system was around 2600 BCE, in China by ring silica (sand), soda ash, and to decorate jewellery.

Egyptian boat of the dead

rack for holding A model of the boat buried near the
oars in place Great Pyramid of Khufu. The boat
was intended to ferry the dead
pharaohs soul across the heavens.

high, curved

f t
E o E bs so ed ea
BC nt t BC m pt tie d Gr are
00 egi gyp ay 00 a to Egy Ci an blish on E
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00 le f g a ia c.2 hen pa a s C 0 ids ypt
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M ra Ind
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Cuneiform (wedge-shaped) script developed from the earliest writing, invented in Mesopotamia around 3300 BCE .
It was used for a wide range of ancient Near Eastern languages, including Sumerian and Akkadian.

Boat-building also developed had been developed in Egyptian faience of the sky into constellations the 3rd millennium BCE. The
signicantly around the Egypt, and by about This Middle Kingdom dates from Babylonian Akkadian Ga-Sur tablet (dating
(19751640 BCE) statue of
3rd millennium BCE. Early 2500 BCE, pairs of side manuscripts c.1595 BCE. from about 2500 BCE) shows
a woman with a tattooed
humans had probably been using oars and tillers had body shows the deep blue With the growing administrative the size and location of a plot
some form of boat from as long been introduced. colour typical of much demands of cities in the 3rd of land between two hills and
ago as 50,000 BCE, although the Before 3000 BCE, Egyptian faience work. millennium BCE, the development was probably part of a land
earliest surviving water craft is few monumental of an accurate calendar became transaction. Fragments of a
a dug-out canoe that dates from structures were modied by building vital. The rst known version is in statue of Gudea of Lagash, from
around 7200 BCE. In the Gulf residential. The six stepped platforms the Umma calendar of Shulgi, a around 2125 BCE, show a plan of
region, boats were being made practice of building to create a step Sumerian document dating from a temple. The rst real street
of bitumen-coated reeds as some temples on pyramid. By the about 2100 BCE that contains map discovered to date shows a
early as 5000 BCE. platforms began reigns of Khufu, 12 lunar months of either 29 scale plan of the Sumerian town
By around 3000 BCE, more before 4000 BCE, the Khafre, and or 30 days. When this 354-day of Nippur (in present-day Iraq)
sophisticated vessels made of platform rising with Menkaure in mid-3rd year became too out of phase and dates from about 1500 BCE.
wooden planks that were sewn each rebuilding. After millennium BCE, the with the real 365.25-day year, an The rst surviving attempt to
together were being built in 2900 BCE, temple creation of smooth- extra month was added by royal map the entire known world
Egypt. Early boats were powered platforms in Sumerian sided stone pyramids decree. The ancient Egyptians is the Babylonian world map
solely by oars. Sailing boats, cities such as Ur and had been perfected, and had a similar calendar, but ve from about 600 BCE, which shows
with square-rigged sails, Kish reached a each of these pharaohs days were added each year to the regions surrounding Babylon
appeared in Egypt in around considerable height, leading to erected a huge pyramid tomb give a 365-day year. (see 700400 BCE).
3100 BCE, supplementing muscle the development of ziggurats for himself at Giza. Collectively There have been claims
power with wind power. By initially three-tiered structures known as the Great Pyramids, that some prehistoric carvings Monumentally tall
Built around 2560 BCE, the Great
3000 BCE, large steering oars with a shrine on the top each was oriented and built with represent topographical maps,
Pyramid of Khufu was 147 m (482 ft)
platform. Largely made of mud great precision, which suggests but true cartography and real tall and remained the worlds tallest
bricks, with a baked-brick facing, that sophisticated surveying maps were not developed until building for thousands of years.
pair of these monumental structures techniques were in use.
steering 150
suggest growing sophistication An interest in observational
in structural engineering. astronomy arose early in
In Egypt, most Mesopotamia, culminating
architecture was in the Venus tablet of Ammi-

religious (temples) or Saduqa (dating from around
funerary (tombs). The 1650 BCE). It contained the
tombs of the nobility and rising and setting times of
rulers of the Early Dynastic the planet Venus over a period
Period (around 2900 BCE) were of 21 years. A carved piece
simple mud-brick rectangular of mammoth tusk found in
structures known as mastabas. Germany, dating from about
Between 2630 and 2611 BCE, 32,500 BCE, may possibly
leaf-shaped 0
during the reign of the pharaoh represent the constellation Great St Peters Big Ben Statue of Taj Mahal Notre
Djoser, a huge mastaba was Orion, but systematic division Pyramid Cathedral Liberty Dame

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Su e ea r, th of S
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2.5 MYA 7 9 9 CE B E FO R E S C I E N C E B E GA N

Faster armies
Lightweight war chariots enabled
legionary armies to manoeuvre much
faster than an infantry ever could.
A Bronze Age chariot (c.1200 BCE)
moved over 10 times as fast
as the marching pace of a
Roman legionary.
0 10 20 30 40 50

Egyptian chariot
Around 1600 BCE, the Egyptians developed leather bindings
lightweight war chariots that had spoked wheels connect shaft to
and a thin wooden semicircular frame. The chariot body
platform could accommodate two people, one
to manoeuvre at high speed, and another
armed with a bow.

footboard made
of sycamore wood
wood bent
into V-shape to
make spokes


hub or nave

cattle intestines
fasten spokes THE NAVE [HUB] OF THE
to hub


Homer, Greek poet, from Iliad Book XXIII, first description of chariot race, c.750 BCE

Neolithic period c.1323 BCE c.750 BCE

Logroller Spoked wheel Iron-rimmed wheel
Neolithic people place loads Wheels with spokes are lighter than The Celts add iron rims to the
on rollers made from logs. disc wheels, and allow a cart or war wooden wheels of chariots to
These logs, however, are chariot to be pulled by a lighter animal, improve their durability on rough
not always smooth and the such as a horse. First developed in the surfaces. They do so rst by nailing
difculties in keeping them steppes of central Asia a little after the metal to the rim and later, by
aligned make this an 2000 BCE, these wheels spread to applying strips of hot iron, which
inefcient method. Early logrollers Egypt by 1600 BCE. shrink to t as they cool. Celtic chariot

3500 BCE potter c.2500 BCE Egyptian c.300 BCE
Potters wheel Disc wheel potter Water wheel
In southern Mesopotamia, The rst true transportation The Greeks invent water wheels as
potters become the rst to wheels discs of wood connected a means of harnessing the power of
use wheels to mechanize an by axles are developed in the running water. They use water wheels
industrial process that of Balkans and Mesopotamia. either to raise water in buckets to a
making pottery. They use a The Sumerians higher level for irrigation, or to drive
heavy, rapidly turning stone used these on Disc wheels on around a shaft that operates
wheel to shape clay on. battle wagons. the Standard of Ur a milling machine.


yoke to attach
horses to shaft


One of the most important inventions in history, the wheel allowed the
transportation of loads over long distances, revolutionized early warfare,
and made the development of the first mechanized processes possible.
It opened up the globe to human exploration and revolutionized industry.

The earliest wheel, the logroller, Spoked wheel construction

box is easier was used by neolithic people to The spokes of a wheel distribute the
movement to move force applied to a vehicle evenly
transport heavy weights, such around its rim. As the wheel rotates,
as large stones used in the each spoke shortens slightly.
construction of megaliths.
outer rim
By 3500 BCE, the logroller of wheel
was adapted to create the
rst true wheels solid spokes radiating
wheels from central hub
turn around discs of wood connected by
friction gives static axles small
outside edges contact area, an axle. These wheels, employed in Greece to harness
of wheels grip so friction however, were very heavy. the power of water, via a turbine, for
on the road is less
Lighter, spoked wheels were use in milling. By the time of Industrial
WHEELS AND FRICTION invented around 1600 BCE. The more Revolution, the wheel appeared in one form or
hard-wearing, iron-rimmed wheels came around the other in almost all industrial machinery. Gears
The force needed to pull a load pressing down 800 years later, making for faster, more durable (toothed wheels) and cogs were used in the
directly on the ground is increased by the friction vehicles suitable for battle and long-distance Antikythera mechanism an astronomical
or rolling resistance between the load and the transportation. Wheels steadily evolved, using calculating machine created in Greece around
ground. The use of wheels resolves this problem. materials such as iron and steel as they were 100 BCE but it is possible they were used earlier
Since only a small part of the wheel is in contact developed. Modern wheels use high-tech alloys in China. Gears and cogs eventually became
with the ground at any one point in time, the rest of titanium or aluminium that are light and allow common components of machines as diverse as
of it can rotate freely, without being impeded by
vehicles to move faster, using much less power. clocks and automobiles. Yet there were some
friction. The little friction that remains allows the
cultures where the wheel did not feature as
wheel to grip the ground without sliding. Wheels
THE WHEEL IN INDUSTRY prominently. Some ancient civilizations of
are mounted on sturdy shafts, called axles, which
facilitate the rolling motion.
Beginning with the potters wheel around Central America and Peru either did not develop
4500 BCE, the wheel was also adapted for use in wheels, or, as in the case of the Aztecs of Mexico,
industrial processes. By 300 BCE, watermills were used them only in childrens toys.

c.100 BCE 1848 1915

Wheelbarrow Mansell wheel Radial tyre
The Chinese create a The quieter and more Patented by Arthur
wheelbarrow with a large resilient Mansell Savage, radial ply
central wheel, which railway wheel had tyres are made of
makes all the weight fall a steel central boss rubber-coated steel
on the axle. Easy to push, (hub), surrounded by or polyester cords. They
each wheelbarrow can a solid disc of 16 are now the standard tyre
carry up to six men. Wooden ox wheelbarrow teak segments. Gazelle steam engine for almost all cars. 1960s Mini

c.1035 1845 1910 2010

Spinning wheel Vulcanized rubber tyre Early automobile Modern wheel types
In China, a hand-crank- Robert Thomson uses spoked wheel Ultra-lightweight
operated driving wheel vulcanized rubber Earliest automobile racing bicycles use
is added to a hand- invented by Charles wheels have wooden composite carbon
spindle, automating it Goodyear to make spokes, which are spokes, while car
and allowing multiple pneumatic (air-lled) more suitable for wheels are made of
spindles to be operated tyres, which are lighter narrow tyres, but tend magnesium, titanium,
Chinese spinner simultaneously. and harder to wear out. to warp and crack. Ford Model T or aluminium alloys. High-tech racing bike

1800 700 BCE

The ancient Egyptian Rhind Papyrus is based on an original text written before 1795 BCE . It contains a series of mathematical
problems and their solutions, including calculations of the areas and volumes of geometrical gures.


BCE, the composite bow was Made by Marshall Islanders
developed, probably in the SUFFERING IN HALF THE HEAD. THE in Micronesia, this chart
uses sticks to represent
steppes of Central Asia. Unlike SKULL OF A CAT-FISH, FRIED IN OIL. currents and waves, a
self bows made of a single piece
of wood, the composite bow was
ANOINT THE HEAD THEREWITH. technique that may have
been passed down from
ancient Polynesians.
made of laminated strips of horn, Ebers Papyrus 250, Egyptian medical treatise, c.1555 BCE
wood, and sinew, which together
provided greater range and Steppes to China, where they depictions of surgery have been India, where the
penetration, and allowed the bow were used during the Shang found on temple walls, but most earliest evidence
to be smaller and easier to use on (17661126 BCE) and Zhou knowledge of ancient Egyptian of ironworking is
horseback. The bow was further (1126256 BCE) dynasties, and medicine comes from papyri thought to date from
modied to become recurved, west into Egypt and Mesopotamia. written around 1550 BCE. These around 1300 BCE.
with the ends curving forward, There is evidence that doctors show that medicine had moved Until medieval
which added even more strength. existed in Egypt during the Old beyond a belief that disease was times, smelting in
Composite bows spread from the Kingdom (c.27002200 BCE) and a divine punishment. The Edwin the West produced
Smith Papyrus (c.1600 BCE) only bloom that needed to as the Rhind Papyrus. It is
air is blown in lime and crushed contains details of human be hammered to remove based on a text written before
with bellows to clay lining iron ore and anatomy, shows awareness impurities. It was only in China 1795 BCE and consists of a series
help raise the charcoal of the link between the pulse that furnaces capable of melting of problems and solutions. It
tuyres bowl-shaped and heartbeat, and also gives iron were developed and iron shows the use of unit fractions
furnace instructions for the diagnosis could be cast. Evidence of cast (1n), solutions for linear
and treatment of a range of iron production in China dates equations, and methods for
ailments and injuries. The from the 9th century BCE. calculating the areas of triangles,
Ebers Papyrus (c.1555 BCE), In mathematics, the rectangles, and circles. It also
dating from about the same time, Babylonians had made major shows the volumes of cylinders
includes descriptions of diseases, advances by 1800 BCE, producing and pyramids.
tumours, and even of mental tables of reciprocals, squares, The earliest boats recovered
disorders such as depression. and cubes and using them to date from before 6000 BCE, but
SMELTING The earliest intentional solve algebraic problems, such early navigation was not
production of iron was in as quadratic equations. Several sophisticated. The most
Pure iron melts at 1540C (2800F), higher than early technology Anatolia in Turkey, which was tablets are thought to show an effective navigators of this
could achieve, so instead it was smelted by reducing iron ore exporting small quantities of awareness of Pythagorass period were the Lapita people
with charcoal at around 1200C (2200F). The ore was packed with iron by the 19th century BCE. theorem (see 700400 BCE). The of the Pacic (ancestors of the
charcoal in bowl furnaces, and tuyres (clay nozzles) were used to At rst, iron was smelted only Babylonians also estimated pi Polynesians), who from 1200 BCE
blow air in to raise the temperature. The resulting molten metal on a small scale, but by 700 BCE to be about 3.125, close to the expanded eastwards to Vanuatu,
was cooled to form a bloom, a solid lump containing iron and production was widespread in actual value of about 3.142. New Caledonia, Samoa, and Fiji.
various impurities, which was then hammered repeatedly to Europe. Smelting also developed Most of what is known of ancient Their voyage to Fiji involved a
remove the impurities and extract the iron. independently in a number of Egyptian mathematics comes 850 km (530 miles) journey
places, including Africa and from mathematical texts such across open sea. To accomplish

ian l ns CE
ns s en
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i c ind d la
An Assyrian bronze relief of the mid-9th century BCE shows war chariots carrying
soldiers to assault the city of Khazazu (present-day Azaz, in Syria).

this, the Lapitan sailors must The invention of the spoked 1700 Melting point
crouching 1539
have used knowledge of winds, lion cub wooden wheel around 2000 BCE, of metals
stars, and currents. They may poppy pods along with the domestication 1350 Iron melts at


in crown a far higher
also have created stick maps, of the horse, opened up new 1083 1064 temperature
like those later used by possibilities in land transport, 1000 950 than other metals
the Polynesians who permitting lighter vehicles used in early
settled as far as and eventually the use of 700 metallurgy.
China was rst
Easter Island, adaptable riding animals. to master the
Hawaii, and Although harnesses 350 232 technology to
(by 1000 were in use from the melt iron.
1200 CE) 3rd millennium 0
Iron Copper Gold Bronze Lead Tin
New BCE, signicant
Zealand. advances began METALS

In Egypt and the to be made from c.1500 BCE. preserving bodies in the desert sophistication around 1000 BCE.
Near East, glass began to be The halter yoke, with at straps sand. These corpses were Bodies were mummied by
clay gure
made in signicant amounts glazed with across the neck and chest of the wrapped in linen bandages removing the internal organs
from about 1600 BCE. In the late quartz and animal, made horses more dipped in resin, which also helped (apart from the heart), washing
2nd millennium BCE, the metal oxides efcient at pulling light chariots. to prevent the bodies from out the body cavity, and packing
technique of bonding glass to Weighing as little as 30 kg (66 lb), decaying. By around 2700 BCE, it with natron for 40 days to dry
ceramics to produce glazes these chariots could carry two the Egyptians had discovered it out. The natron was removed
was discovered. Glass cloisonn warriors and became crucial to that natron (a mixture of salts) and replaced with clean packets
inlays and enamelling (fusing many Near Eastern armies. desiccated esh and could be of natron and linen soaked in
glass to metal surfaces) were The preservation of corpses used to mummify bodies. They resin to restore the bodys shape
developed by the Mycenaeans in had its origins in the natural gradually rened this process before being coated in resin and
Greece around 1200 BCE. Casting process of drying out and until it reached a peak of bandaged in linen.
glass (by pouring molten glass
into a mould) was discovered in EARLY SCRIPTS
Mesopotamia around 800 BCE.
Around 100 years later, the The transition from symbolic scripts to an alphabetic one, where Proto-Sinaitic
symbol for the
Phoenicians had developed each individual sign represents a sound in the language, seems to letter D
clear glass. have rst taken place among miners in the Sinai desert of Egypt
around 1800 BCE. The signs appear to derive from Egyptian hieratic
script (a cursive script that developed alongside the hieroglyphic Proto-Sinaitic
symbol for the
system), but there are few inscriptions in this proto-Sinaitic
Snake goddess letter H
Faience reached its peak in alphabet and it is not certain whether slightly later alphabets in
the Minoan civilization, with the region, such as proto-Canaanite (17th century BCE) and Ugaritic
works such as this goddess (13th century BCE), derived from it or developed separately. By Proto-Sinaitic
statuette (c.1700 BCE), but symbol for the
1050 BCE, proto-Canaanite had evolved into the Phoenician script letter K
with more available glass,
faience was replaced by that is the ancestor of Greek and other European scripts.
glass-glazed ceramics.

n s
e ian Iro ome
nc nic BC
ec e st ian
ra hoe Ca ced
pe P
00 ng
b th E h e e nic ss,
Ap ped c.1 elti on in BC du ft o a l
80 p ro E to Ph r gl ysta
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0 BC
v sm mm ast 0 rst 0 BC
lea ck c
05 de sc co ar E 0 0 pm a 0 c
c.1 fully etic c.9 n is a c.8 velo alph 0 p
c.7 velo ng r
Ne iro Chin De eek
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pt n s s
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c he las in el urop
0 B mi h t on st g ced ia m E
00 um eac icati Ca rodu tam n s ss
c .1 m s r t CE p o Iro cro
e his 0 B rst esop BC
d a
niqu sop c.8
0 M 00 rea
ch of c.7 esp
te eak d
p wi

700400 BCE

The School of Athens fresco by the 16th-century Italian artist Raphael contains idealized depictions
of a number of Greek thinkers, including Pythagoras (left, holding a book).

AS EARLY AS 2300 BCE, the around 250 BCE, but it was showed Earth surrounded cuneiform inscriptions
Babylonians had developed probably rst invented much by a great ocean. Hecataeus
a sexagesimal number system earlier, in the 7th century BCE of Miletus (c.550480 BCE) also
(based on writing numbers in under the rule of King drew a map to accompany
multiples of 60) and the principle Sennacherib of Assyria to water his Survey of the World
of position (where numbers his palace gardens at Nineveh. that showed three great
in different positions represent By the 1st millennium BCE, the continents, Libya (Africa),
different orders of magnitude). Babylonians had begun to make Asia, and Europe.
By 700 BCE they sometimes used maps of larger areas. By around The rst evidence of
a marker to indicate a null 600 BCE they had produced a scientic (as opposed
value (zero). world map, which showed to supernatural)
The screw pump (or Archimedes the city of Babylon in relation thinking about the
Screw) is a cylindrical pump with to eight surrounding regions. nature of the world
a central shaft surrounded by The rst known Chinese map, came from ancient
inner blades in the shape of a found on an engraved bronze Greek philosophers in
spiral and encased in wood. As plaque in the tomb of King Cuo the 6th and 5th centuries
the shaft is rotated, water is of Zhongshan, was a plan of the BCE. Thales of Miletus
pulled up the spiral, transferring kings proposed necropolis. (b. c.620 BCE) believed
it from a lower to a higher level. The ancient Greek cartographic that water was the
The invention of the pump is tradition began in Ionia in the fundamental material
traditionally ascribed to the 6th century BCE. Anaximander of the universe, and
ancient Greek mathematician (c.611546 BCE) is said to have that earthquakes
Archimedes (287212 BCE) in drawn the rst world map that happened when
the surface of Earth
Archimedes Screw rotation rocked on the watery
A hollow cylinder with rotors in the shape of shaft
surface on which it
of a spiral inside, the screw pump pulls
water upwards. The original version
oated. In contrast,
would have been turned by foot. Anaximander, who
was also from Miletus,
believed that the prime
rotors move material of the universe
water up shaft was apeiron, a substance Salt Sea
that preceded air, re, and
water. He also put forward an
early evolutionary theory, Ancient map
water expelled
from top suggesting that humans had This Babylonian
developed from a type of sh. map from around
600 BCE shows the relationship
water collected The rst atomic theory was
between Babylon and other
from bottom also proposed by a Greek, the important places in West Asia,
philosopher Democritus of city of Babylon including Assyria and Urartu.

se t
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0 B ke r (ze
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a e c ght s 0 BC ar olu 3 0 B s th f th iang eore
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al let t ds
ric Mi tha c uil a
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kn rew to ale e i e b se li n o
ro o
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ar r i un Eu nel on S
c.7 p, la des syri wate 80 orw ate the C E
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s p 30 er llsi
p p ia c.5 wat hi
Ar use er a
in at

The Tunnel of Eupalinos, built in the 6th century BCE, may have been excavated
accurately by surveying a series of right-angled triangles above ground.

Abdera (460370 BCE), who PLATO (424348 BCE) scriptures called the Vedas The Maya of Mesoamerica
postulated that matter was completed c.500 BCE contain developed a complex calendrical
made up of an innite number references to using astronomical system based on a series of
of minute, indivisible particles. One of the most inuential of observations for calculating the cycles based on the number 20,
The most famous the ancient Greek philosophers, dates of religious ceremonies which may initially have been
mathematician of the ancient Plato proposed a type of ideal and identies 28 star patterns developed by the Olmecs (the
world was the Greek, Pythagoras society ruled by philosopher- in the night sky to help track rst major civilization in Mexico)
of Samos (c.580500 BCE). kings, and espoused the the movements of the Moon. before the 5th century BCE. The
He established a school that importance of ethics as a guide In the 5th century BCE, Greek Mayan Haab (year) had 18 months
promoted the mystical powers to a just life. In his many works, thinkers moved away from of 20 days plus one of vedays
of numbers and particularly of he set out a theory of ideal simple cosmological theories one of the two elements of the
the tetraktys, the perfect forms, of which the material towards more sophisticated Calendar Round cycle. Mayan
arrangement of 10 as a triangle world is only a reection. Most ideas about the nature of the astronomers also oriented
of four rows. He is best known of his books are cast in the universe. Heraclitus (c.535 monuments to sunset positions
for the theorem bearing his form of dialogues by his 475 BCE) sought to explain at the equinoxes and solstices,
name (see panel, below), but teacher Socrates. phenomena in terms of ux and and were able to predict eclipses.
he also rmly believed in the change. He also believed in the The cities of the Indus Valley
transmigration of souls and unity of opposites, saying the were laid out in a grid pattern
his followers lived by a strict set Zhou Bi Suan Jing (some parts earlier, Chinese mathematicians road is the same both up and around 2600 BCE, but the rst
of rules, including a prohibition of which date to as early as also invented magic squares down. Empedocles of Acragas person to theorize urban
on eating beans. 500 BCE), contain proof of square grids of numbers in (494434 BCE) believed that all planning was Hippodamus of
The oldest major Chinese Pythagorass theorem. At about which the numbers in all rows, matter consisted of varying Miletus (493408 BCE). He is said
mathematical treatise, the the same time, or possibly all columns, and both diagonals proportions of earth, air, re, to have devised an ideal city for
add up to the same total. and water. This theory 10,000 citizens, laid
PYTHAGORASS THEOREM By around 530 BCE, Greek of four elements out on a grid. Using
surveying expertise had advanced remained his Hippodamian
The theorem of Pythagoras a2 + b2 = c2 sufciently to allow the engineer inuential for grid, he also laid out
states that the sum of the 9 + 16 = 25 Eupalinos of Samos to excavate many centuries. Piraeus, the harbour
squares of the two short a water channel 1.04 km town of Athens, and
sides of a right-angled (0.65 miles) through a hillside Thurii in Italy.
triangle are equal to by digging tunnels from each
the square of the end. The two tunnels met almost
hypotenuse (the long perfectly in the middle. Eupalinos Mesoamerican
c b glyph for Zapotec
side). Although associated may have used Pythagorass year Four
a This Zapotec stele
with the Greek mathematician theorem to survey right-angled Serpent
from Monte Albn
Pythagoras, the theorem was b2 = 16 triangles above ground to in Mexico dates
known to the Babylonians around determine the path of the channel. from 500400 BCE
and contains some glyph for
1800 BCE and possibly also to the Indian astronomy is thought Zapotec day
of the earliest
Egyptians as early as 1900 BCE. a2 = 9 to have its roots in the Indus calendary glyphs Eight Water
Civilization. Ancient Hindu sacred from Mesoamerica.

en r ise nd
us m at ced us rit he
e le a jo r e u Hi wn m
cata ces d e se ly e n m cal t prod e nt kno d da id oc es t
n r i te o m s
He odu orl i
Ch ians uare
s a
E E kno ma
w ti re c
An ture ple
s pp gr De opo ry
BC s p
r w BC e g a Hi wn CE r o
0 th
e B CE
t i c s q 0 st h
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rip o m BC
to s 0 B ra p c the
0 tu
c.5 Mile p of 00 ma ic 0 r
c.5 the e m an J 00 sc re c 1 s
45 sign aeu
2 e
c. 4 Abd tom
c.5 athe mag c.5 cred as a
of ma m n t of ines i Su a
s V e d d e Pi
r of st a
his inv
e Ch ou B as for r

s es s
tu nt cle
cli s za onte do ry
e ra se i x n
Da t M ring pe theo ts
H ve u r
ni of BC
d a ea les Em his en
00 he u ate 4 00 ecte o, b mp in CE
0 B ard r ele
. 5
c at t stt 0 er xic xa tes a 5
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Al rst f w Me
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2.5 MYA 7 9 9 CE B E FO R E S C I E N C E B E GA N

THE STORY OF 4 triangular

faces arranged

in same plane


The term geometry derives from ancient Greek words meaning Earth 6 edges

measurement, but this branch of mathematics encompasses more than

map-making. It is about relationships between size, shape, and dimension
and also about the nature of numbers and mathematics itself.
Geometry rst arose as a series of ad hoc rules BREAKTHROUGHS IN UNDERSTANDING
and formulae used in planning, construction, and Throughout medieval times, philosophers
mathematical problem-solving across the and mathematicians from various cultures
ancient world. Greek philosophers such as continued to use geometry in their models of
Thales, Pythagoras, and Plato were the rst to the Universe, but the next major breakthrough
recognize geometrys fundamental relationship did not come until the 17th century, with the
to the nature of space, and to establish it as a work of French mathematician and philosopher
eld of mathematics worthy of study in its Ren Descartes. His invention of coordinate
own right. Euclid, probably a student of Plato systems to describe the positions of points
and a teacher at Alexandria, summed up in two-dimensional and three-dimensional
early Greek geometry in his great work space gave rise to the eld of analytical
The Elements, written around 300 BCE, and geometry, which used the new tools of
established fundamental mathematical and mathematical algebra to describe and
scientic principles solve geometrical problems.
through complex Descartess work led to more exotic forms of
geometrical models geometry. Mathematicians had long known that
developed from a there were regions, such as the surface of a
handful of simple sphere, where the axioms of Euclidian geometry Octahedron
rules or axioms. did not hold. Investigation of such non-Euclidian
geometries revealed even more fundamental
12 edges
principles linking geometry and number, and in
1899 allowed German mathematician David
Axioms of geometry Hilbert to produce a new, more generalized,
Euclids approach to set of axioms. Throughout the 20th century,
geometry had a huge
and lasting inuence and into the 21st, these have been applied to
on later mathematicians. a huge variety of mathematical scenarios. 8 triangular faces

c.2500 BCE 360 BCE c.400 CE

Practical geometry Platonic solids Archimedean solids 1619
Early geometry is These ve regular, convex polyhedra Greek mathematician Keplers polyhedra
driven by the need to (solids with several sides) are long Pappus describes German
solve problems such known, but Plato now links them to 13 convex polyhedra, mathematician
as working out the ideas about the structure of matter. comprising regular Johannes Kepler
volume of material They comprise ve shapes that can be polygons of two or more discovers a new class
required to build formed by the joining together of types meeting in identical of polyhedra known
a pyramid. Pyramids at Giza identical faces along their edges. vertices or corners. as star polyhedra.

c.500 BCE 4th century BCE 9 th century

Pythagoras Geometric tools Islamic geometry
The Greek philosopher The hugely inuential philosopher Mathematicians and astronomers
lends his name to the Plato argues that the tools of a true of the Islamic world explore
formula for calculating geometrician should be restricted the possibilities of spherical
the hypotenuse (long to the compass and straight geometry; geometric patterns
side) of a right-angled edge, and so helps to establish used in Islamic decoration at this
triangle from the lengths geometry as a science rather Pair of time show similarities to modern
of its other two sides. Theorem of Pythagoras than a practical craft. compasses fractal geometry. Mosaic at Alhambra


Platonic solids
There are only ve convex polyhedra
(solids having several sides) that can
be formed by joining identical polygons
(shapes with three or more sides). Known
as the Platonic solids, they are the cube
(hexahedron), tetrahedron, octahedron,
dodecahedron, and icosahedron.

6 square faces

12 edges
Hexahedron (cube)


So-called spherical geometry allows the

calculation of angles and areas on spherical
surfaces, such as points on a map or the
positions of stars and planets on the imaginary
celestial sphere used by astronomers. This
system does not follow all Euclidean rules.
In spherical geometry, the three angles in
a triangle sum to more than 180 degrees and
parallel lines eventually intersect.
Dodecahedron Icosahedron

12 pentagonal

20 triangular
30 edges 30 edges Plato, Greek philosopher and mathematician, c.427347 BCE

1637 20th century
Analytic geometry (x,y,z) Fractal geometry
Ren Descartess inuential work Computing power allows fractals
La Gometrie introduces the idea x z equations in which detailed
that points in space can be measured Y patterns repeat on varying scales
with coordinate systems, and that y to be illustrated in graphical
geometrical structures can be X form, producing iconic
described by equations a eld Cartesian images such as the Mandelbrot
Keplers polyhedra known as analytic geometry. system famous Mandelbrot set. fractal

1858 1882 Present day

Topology Klein discovery Computerized proofs
Mathematicians become Investigating geometries Computer power solves
fascinated by topology edges with more than three problems such as the
and surfaces, rather than dimensions, German four-colour theorem
specic shapes. The iconic scholar Felix Klein (only four colours are
Mbius strip is an object with discovers a construct needed to distinguish
a single surface and a single with no surface Modern between regions of
Mbius strip continuous edge. boundaries. Klein bottle even complex maps). Four-colour map

400335 BCE

Euclids Elements is one of the most important mathematical texts from the ancient world.
It consists of 13 books and was originally written in Greek.



Hippocrates, from On the Sacred Disease, 400 BCE

Healing hands began the study of dynamics by

A marble frieze theorizing that speed could be
directly proportional to the weight
treating a sick of the body, the force applied,
woman. He and the density of the medium
advocated careful in which the body moved.
examination to
determine the
The foundations of geometry
underlying were laid in the mid-4th century
disease. BCE by the Greek mathematician
and father of geometry, Euclid
ASTRONOMERS IN GREECE on this theory. He claimed that from a rival school, taught that and water to include a fth of Alexandria (325265 BCE)
were interested in predicting Earth rotated on an axis, which diseases were caused by residues aither which caused the stars in his 13-book work called
the location of celestial bodies. explained the changing seasons. building up in the body and and planets to move in a circular Elements. In it he puts forward
This led the Greek astronomer Greek medicine moved in a advised that these be neutralized. motion. Aristotle modied a set of ve geometrical
Eudoxus of Cnidus (c.408355 BCE) more scientic direction when The Greek polymath, Aristotle, Eudoxuss theory to explain postulates and nine common
to develop a geometrical model Alcmaeon of Croton began to rened the theory of the four anomalies, adding additional notions (or axioms). From these
of the heavens, in which the teach that health is achieved elements earth, air, re, spheres to a total of 55. He also he deduced a set of theorems,
Sun, Moon, and planets moved by balancing the elements in including Pythagorass theorem,
in a series of 27 concentric the body. Hippocrates of Cos MOTION OF THE SPHERES and that the sum of angles in a
spheres. He also made an (460370 BCE), who valued clinical triangle is always 180 degrees.
accurate estimate of the length observation, including taking Greek astronomers explained irregularities in planetary motions Elements also included
of the year at 365.25 days. At the a patients pulse, applied this by theorizing that the Sun, Moon, and planets each sat in a series pioneering work on number
time, most Greek astronomers theory, teaching that imbalances of concentric spheres. The circular motion (at differing speeds) of theory, including an algorithm
believed Earth was stationary at in the body and impurities in each sphere generated the planets orbits. for the greatest common divisor.
the centre of the Solar System, the air could cause disease. In the early 2nd century, the astronomer Ptolemy replaced the
but Heraclides of Pontus In the mid-5th century BCE, spheres with circles in his model of the Solar System.
(388312 BCE) offered a variation Euryphon of Cnidus, who was

tes ces s t
oc alan ato ry de
p Pl theo cli tha s
Hi imb BC
E ra es axi
t 0 the e
H ach its
0 B s tha can 35 rd BC
te on
0 y 9 0 rwa ms 50 tus tes
c. 4 che bod ase c.3 ts fo l fo
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s m e
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s n es CE e
Pl my the ud s hi f CEB
De lt v
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CE e A E p o 00 22 e p
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th c.3 us d of m phe c.3 rtsp link r o
id y ls o
Hj rst
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Cn or tia
of the les e
28 c t h
334300 BCE


The acoustic properties of the theatre at Epidaurus in Greece, built by Polycleitus the Younger in
the 4th century BCE , allowed the actors to be heard perfectly up to 60 m (197 ft) from the stage.

GREEK MEDICINE MADE engineering was used in the

SIGNIFICANT ADVANCES hydraulic machinery needed
in the 4th century BCE after to raise fuel to the re that
the dissection of human bodies burned on top by night. During
was pioneered by Diocles of the day, a mirror of polished
Carystus, who wrote the rst metal or glass reected the
book devoted to anatomy. The Sun to create a warning beacon
foundation of the Museum, a for ships.
scientic academy set up by Pythagoras had experimented
Ptolemy I of Egypt (367283 BCE), with acoustics in the 6th century
helped give rise to an Alexandrian BCE. Aristotle advanced his work
school of medicine. One further in the 4th century BCE by
member, Herophilus of Via Appia theorizing that sound consisted
Chalcedon (335280 BCE), The rst major Roman road, the Via In Europe, wooden trackways of contractions and expansions
Appia, originally ran from Rome
identied the brain as the seat to Capua. It was gravelled; paving
had been used to traverse wet in the air. The Greek theatre at
of the nervous system and stones were added in 295 BCE. and marshy ground since Epidaurus used stepped rows of
made a distinction between Neolithic times, but proper seats to lter out low-frequency
arteries and veins. the force that pulls heavy roads needed a strong, background noise, which
Greek understanding of objects down. He argued for centralized political authority allowed actors to be heard
physics also progressed under the existence of a vacuum and to build and maintain them. In perfectly in the back row.
Strato of Lampsacus (c.335 showed that, because air can be 312 BCE, the Romans began to Compiled before 300 BCE,
269 BCE). He rejected the idea compressed, voids must exist construct a vast network of the Chinese text Huang Di Pharos of Alexandria
of a force pushing light objects, between the particles of which roads, that bound their empire Nei Jing explains human The Pharos of Alexandria was one
of the Seven Wonders of the World.
such as air, upwards to counter it is made up. together. The rst road they physiology and pathology in It was destroyed by an earthquake
built, which ran from Rome terms of the balancing forces in the 14th century.
ARISTOTLE (384322 BCE) to Capua, was called Via Appia. of the universe: the opposing,
Roman roads were 38 m but mutually dependent, thought to be caused by an
A founding gure in Western (1026 ft) wide and were laid principles of yin and yang; the imbalance of yin and yang, in
philosophy, Aristotle was a pupil out on solid clay beds or timber ve elements (earth, re, wood, the patients qi, and in the
at Platos Academy in Athens. frameworks, lled with loose water, and metal); and qi, the ve elements that had their
During his career he wrote int or gravel. Sometimes they essence of which everything is counterparts in the organs of
more than 150 treatises on were bound together with lime composed. Ill health was the body and the environment.

almost every aspect of Greek mortar and topped with paving
philosophy and science. He stones, or cobbles in cities.
taught an empirical approach, The Pharos of Alexandria THE NUMBER OF
that knowledge is gained from was commissioned c.300 BCE
experience, and that all matter by the ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy I. PLATONIC SOLIDS
consists of a changeable form
and an unchangeable substance.
It was the tallest lighthouse in
the ancient world at 125150 m
(410492 ft) high. Innovative IN EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY
otl m CE y, sis an
a ist eu 0 B es or s
ilu s e ba m a
E f xtr Ar Lyc ns 27 clud The ph ie y I aros E t h a s d e u i
0 us o ds e n
30 n i en t e ro ent at m h BC s s ru ds ar s dr I
Mu an
3 C E
4 B th th
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c.3 llipp s ad the xus c.3 u Ya lem e d se Eu ts fo the he Alex olem
33 nds in A hin E
ni tem
Pt the c.3 lycle er bu Epid T 00 ust ing
Ca zicu s to udo o u o l Zo e E is th of C ght BC do he
00 lce as t sys B C E
n s Po ng at
0 B C E
p u
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y P t
r e 3 oca heat ped
Cy here of E
f ho
Fiv ich tion hou . 3 a s 00 isio ria u e
Yo eatr ce 0 nts tri B
00 rar d b
y fo yp r lo
sc c Ch ain ou c.3 mm and e c.3 me me c.3 e lib nde Be st h oo deve
sp eory wh nda ic t of e br nerv co Alex th Gre E le geo h u Fir der- is
th fou ient th the of in for
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33 Ch incl l pl ps or c.3 se for c e ex num ing 0 0 u s o
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300250 BCE


Attributed to Archimedes, Greek inventor and philosopher c.287c.212 BCE
The Roman writer Vitruvius recorded that when Archimedes got into his bath he noticed that his
body displaced a certain amount of water. This gave him the idea for the Archimedes Principle.

MAGNETIC IRON LODESTONES compasses were iron ladles the best methods of cultivation Ctesibian pump pivot
were described in Chinese set on divining boards that for agriculture and companion The rocker arm pushes the
literature of the 3rd century BCE. pointed south. piston down on one side,
planting to combat pests.
creating pressure that water
By c.83 the Chinese text Lun- In Greece, Theophrastus of In astronomy, Aristarchus of closes the inlet valve and rocker arm forced up
heng (Discourses Weighed in the Lesbos (c.370287 BCE) a pupil of Samos (c.310230 BCE) rejected forces water through the moves pistons and out
Balance) had mentioned Aristotle and also his successor the prevailing view among early outow tube. Reduced
pressure on the opposite piston
the electrostatic qualities of as head of the Lyceum school in Greek astronomers that Earth goes up piston
side opens the valve to let
amber, which becomes charged Athens, extended Aristotles was at the centre of the Solar more water in. goes down
when rubbed. work, particularly in botany. System. He believed that Earth
At around this time, Chinese He wrote Enquiry into Plants and rotated in orbit around the Sun; chamber lls pressure
diviners may also have discovered On the Causes of Plants, which whether he considered the other with water pushes
that iron, when rubbed against a classied plants into trees, planets also orbited the Sun is reduced pressure valve open
lodestone, becomes magnetized shrubs, and herbs. He also unclear. Aristarchus estimated opens inlet valve
and will point in a particular began the study of plant the comparative sizes of the
direction. The rst primitive reproduction and discussed Sun and Earth at a ratio of about
water sucked in reduced pressure pressure
20:1, and calculated shuts outlet valve forces inlet
the distance valve shut
between Earth and
the Sun to be 499 an adjustable-height mirror for circumference of a circle. He
times the radius his fathers barber shop that used also produced methods for
of Earth. air compressed by counterweights calculating the volumes of solids,
The science to move up and down. He proving that the volume of a
of pneumatics developed this idea to produce the sphere inside a circumscribed
was founded by Ctesibian device, a two-chamber cylinder is two-thirds that of
Ctesibius of force pump that used pistons the cylinder. Archimedes was the
Alexandria in the attached to a rocker to create founder of hydrostatics (the
early 3rd century pressure. With the chambers of science of uids at rest). He
BCE. It is said that the device immersed in water, the showed that objects placed in
one of his rst rocker was moved up and down, water will displace a quantity of
inventions was alternately sucking water into liquid equal to their buoyancy.
one chamber and forcing it out He also developed a systematic
of the other. theory of statics, showing how
Another inventor, and two weights balance each other
Chinese compass
A Han-era compass philosopher, Archimedes at distances proportional to their
in the form of a (287212 BCE) was also one of relative magnitude. His aptitude
magnetized ladle the greatest mathematicians for practical applications led him
set on a bronze of ancient Greece. In On the to develop the Archimedes screw
plate, featuring
a diviners Measurement of a Circle he (see 700400 BCE) to pump out
representation presented a method for the bilges of a huge ship he built
of the cosmos. calculating the area and for the ruler of Syracuse. During

es e
us ed g th a
i m n
ch ch ati are
i star ps Ar lcul nd
Ar velo ory a
E a
BC c e
CE e e 60 on enc
5 0 B os d ic th c.2 rks fer
c.2 Sam entr o
w cu cl m e
of lioc cir a ci
he of

00 of
c.3 stus to of
a s
hr art ts us s
e op s st plan s ibi lop
e e p
Th sbo ify Ct dev um
Le lass 0 BC
r ia an p
c 5 nd ibi
c.2 lexa tes
A eC
30 th
249100 BCE

Erasistratus is said to have cured Antiochus, the son of Seleucus I of Syria, who was gravely ill. He identied the disease
as love-sickness for his stepmother Stratonice, one of the rst diagnoses of a psychosomatic illness.

the Roman conquest of Sicily, in ANATOMY ADVANCED as the Sieve of Eratosthenes

214 BCE, he was employed by the CONSIDERABLY IN GREECE with (see panel, right). circled numbers crossed-out numbers
state to build various machines the work of Erasistratus of Cos Greek geometry advanced are primes are non-primes
to defend Syracuse from attack. (c.304250 BCE). He developed a further in the late 3rd century BCE
This included the Claw of theory of vascular circulation, with the work of Apollonius of 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Archimedes a type of crane in which he said that blood Perga (c.262190 BCE), whose
with a huge grappling hook that passed through the body in veins, major work was entitled On 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
could capsize enemy ships. while arteries distributed pneuma Conics. In it he described
(air) to vital organs. He also gave the properties of the three 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
volume of water displaced an accurate description of the fundamental types of conic
is equal to volume of object brain, including the cerebellum, section the ellipse, parabola, 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
and distinguished sensory from and hyperbola. He also developed
motor nerves. the theory of epicycles circular
Eratosthenes of Cyrene orbits rotating around a larger
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
(c.275195 BCE) made the rst circumference to rene the
map of the world featuring theory of the motion of the SIEVE OF ERATOSTHENES
lines of longitude and latitude spheres (see 400335 BCE).
in around 240 BCE. He also The Romans found a way This is a simple algorithm for nding prime numbers. Starting at 2,
calculated the dimensions of of bonding small stones to without striking it out, strike out all multiples of 2 to the end of the
upthrust equal Earth by comparing the angles produce concrete in the late 2nd series. Return to the next non-struck out number (3) and without
to weight of
water displaced
of shadows at noon at Alexandria century BCE. By adding pozzolana striking it out strike out every multiple of 3 to the end. Repeat the
and Syene in Egypt, which are stone (ash from prehistoric process; eventually all the non-struck out numbers will be prime.
ARCHIMEDES PRINCIPLE on roughly the same longitude. volcanoes) to lime, they produced
He yielded a gure of 250,000 a strong binding mortar. This
This states that a solid object, stades about 48,070 km meant they could build stronger using concrete was the Porticus Hipparchus also calculated the
partly or wholly immersed in (29,870 miles) which is within and cheaper monumental Aemilia in Rome in 193 BCE. length of the year to be 365.2467
a liquid, has a buoyant force one per cent of the true gure. buildings. The rst structure built Observational astronomy was days very close to the true value.
acting on it that is equal to Eratosthenes revolutionized by Hipparchus of At this time, the Chinese were
the weight of the uid it also worked out Nicaea (c.190120 BCE), who made busy rening the production of
displaces. The relative density a simple method a new map of the heavens that paper. The process of soaking
of the object can be worked of nding prime catalogued 850 stars. He invented and pulping textile rags then
out by dividing the weight of numbers, known a new astronomical sighting tool drying them out on a screen to
the object by the weight of the and surveying instrument called produce a brous mat for writing
displaced liquid. The boat the dioptra that was in use until on, probably dates from the late
above can support a heavy Basilica it was replaced by the armillary 3rd century BCE. Although the
load because it displaces Maxentius sphere. Using the dioptra, he invention of paper is often
a lot of water, therefore the This early 4th- discovered the phenomenon ascribed to Cai Lun (50121),
century concrete
buoyant force supporting it of precession, by which stars he probably just rened this
Basilica was the
is equally great. largest building in appear to move gradually in process and introduced new pulp
Rome at the time. relation to the equinoxes. materials, such as tree bark.

s es ve
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100 BCE49 CE

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Roman architect and engineer, from
Ten Books on Architecture, c.15 BCE

A medieval depiction of a Vitruvian undershot waterwheel. Operated with a hand lever, the buckets ll with
water as the wheel rotates and the buckets dip into a water source. The water is deposited at the top.

THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM time cycles, such as the 19-year The Romans also advanced
IS A COMPLEX DEVICE that shows Metonic cycle the basis for engineering in this period. The
the earliest understanding of the ancient Greek calendar. architect Vitruvius (c.8415 BCE)
gears. Dating from around By the 1st century BCE the Roman interest in veterinary was the rst to explain
80 BCE, it was recovered in 1900 Maya calendar had developed science sprang from the needs the use of siphons
from a shipwreck off the Greek a 5,125-year era known as the of farmers and also of the to lessen hydraulic
island of Antikythera. Made up Long Count. Twenty tun (years) army, which had large cavalry pressure in pumps.
of a series of bronze toothed made a katun, 20 katun were units. In the army, specialists He also described
dials and at least 30 gears, it a baktun, and 13 of these called mulomedicus cared for the Vitruvian turning
is thought to have been used completed the whole era. The military donkeys and horses. wheel. When the wheel was
to predict solar and lunar earliest known date inscribed Around 45 CE the Roman turned, buckets emptied water
eclipses and to track other in the Long Count system is writer Columella wrote into a channel at the top and
9 December, 36 BCE; this is found extensively on the care and early terracotta lled up from a water source
driven gear rotates on a stele at Chiapa de Corzo diseases of farm animals. horse head at the bottom. This type of
anti-clockwise in Mexico. The Maya also used undershot waterwheel had
a 52-year Calendar Round, probably been invented earlier,
with two elements working in relating them to the phases were the practices of his follower but Vitruvius may have rened
combination the 260-day Tzolkin of the Moon. Themison of Laodicea, who was it to make it more effective.
calendar and the 365-day Haab. Around this time, the Greek the rst recorded physician to Glassblowing was developed
Around 90 BCE Posidonius of physician Asclepiades of Bithynia use leeches to bleed patients. around 50 BCE in Roman-
Apamea, (c.13550 BCE) used (c.12940 BCE) put forward his The Roman writer Celsus controlled Syria. Glassmakers
the relative position of the star idea of the brain being the seat (c.25 BCE50 CE) produced one obtained a more even ow by
Canopus, seen from Alexandria of sensation. He developed a of the most important blowing molten glass through a
and Rhodes, to calculate the theory of disease based on the texts on medicine, tube (either freely or into
driver gear rotates
size of Earth. His calculation ow of atoms in the body, a De Medicina, an a mould), rather
was 240,000 stades, only slightly doctrine he derived from the encyclopaedic than just pouring
GEARS smaller than the estimate of atomic theory of the 5th-century- summary of medical it. The higher
Eratosthenes of Cyrene (see BCE philosopher Democritus. His knowledge of the quality glassware
Mentioned c.330 BCE by 250100 BCE). Posidonius also treatment methods were very time. In it, he gave that resulted led to
Aristotle, the Romans calculated the size of the Moon subtle, prescribing baths and accounts of the use the establishment
brought gears into common and made a study of tides, exercises. Perhaps less humane of opiates for calming of glassworks
use during this period in patients and laxatives throughout the

waterwheels and hoists. to purge them. He Roman Empire.

Gears are made up of sets of also detailed many
interlocking toothed wheels. surgical techniques,
They work when a larger including the removal Roman glass
wheel engages with a small THE DIAMETER OF THE SUN of kidney stones The strong colours
of this 1st century CE
wheel and alters the speed of
a driving mechanism.
IN STADES, ACCORDING and how to operate
on cataracts (clouding
vase from Lebanon
are typical of the early
TO POSIDONIUS of the lens in the eye). Imperial period.

es ine
g hin st to y br g
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C r b lin
ing es ai at ite l
c.1 e the t sa d bo
t i
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E n ou a u ar trac an
c. nst tik
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Co e An nism EG d Le s L Ro escr mp m
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et an l a w erin s CE e d i a
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ide re niu tes d M lep elo ry c.1 ribe veyi educ olu tise dise 2 5 the Med
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c.9 ac CE .7
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Dioscorides, Greek physician and botanist, from De Materia Medica, c.5070

An illustration of the common bilberry, traditionally used for circulatory problems, from
a 6th-century manuscript of Dioscoridess Materia Medica (Regarding Medical Materials).

Moche medicine Much of what is known about The Greek geometer and sphere is spun by steam forced through
This ceramic from medicine in ancient South inventor Hero of Alexandria steam power pipe and into sphere
the Moche culture
of Peru shows a
America comes from (c.1070 BCE) described a variety
doctor treating examination of the ceramics of of cranes including the barulkos,
a recumbent the Moche people from the late which operated using a toothed
patient. 1st century CE onwards. These worm-gear that could not
depict a variety of injured patients, reverse and which prevented
bung blocks
including some with facial loads from slipping. He provided
steam from
paralysis, and also show the the rst description of a lathe exiting the
bent pipe allows
use of crutches, and primitive for the precision cutting of steam to escape, cauldron
prosthetic legs for amputees. screws, and was also the rst which pushes the
The rst pharmacopoeia to describe the use of a wind sphere around
(compilation of medicinal wheel, in which the
plants) was compiled by rotating vanes
Dioscorides in Greece. In it operated pistons
he described over 600 plants, that made the
INDIAN MEDICINE HAD ITS including their physical pipes of a water
ROOTS IN THE VEDIC PERIOD properties and effects on organ sound. Hero is
before 1000 BCE, but in the period patients. Hugely inuential, perhaps most well known
100 BCE100 CE, the Caraka it was used by physicians for his studies into the
Samhit (Compendium of Caraka) throughout the Middle Ages. properties of steam. He used
appeared as one of the earliest The Huainanzi (Master Huainan) his knowledge to build an
Indian medical texts. The book is a compilation of Chinese aeolipile. This is a primitive cauldron
highlights the importance of knowledge composed before form of steam engine that uses lled with
clinical examination and the 122 BCE. It touches on a range of steam to spin a hollow sphere. water
use of careful regimes of drugs or subjects, including philosophy,
diets to cure illnesses. Traditional metaphysics, natural science, cauldron
Heros aeolipile
Indian, or ayurvedic, medicine and geography. It is notable for stand
The aeolipile is the only known
came to stress the importance its analysis of mathematical and ancient machine operated by
steam. It makes the sphere spin by
of balancing humours in the body musical harmonies, including
channelling steam from a cauldron fuel for re
and ensuring srotas (channels) in a description of the traditional into a hollow sphere and out of the
the body transport uids correctly. 12-tone Chinese scale. bent pipes that are attached to it.

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2 . 5 M YA 7 9 9 C E B E FO R E S C I E N C E B E GA N


Mechanical devices are composed of different working parts. Among the INCLINED PLANE
most important are six basic components called simple machines, which People have used simple ramps (inclined planes)
to gain a mechanical advantage since prehistory.
mathematicians and engineers have studied since ancient times: the wheel A person raising an object by pushing it up a
and axle, the inclined plane, the lever, the pulley, the wedge, and the screw. ramp pushes with a lesser force than if they were
lifting the object directly; however, they have to
Greek engineer Hero of Alexandria (1st century the pivot at which those forces act. So, to push along the ramps length, while the load
CE) was the rst person to bring together the gain a very large mechanical advantage moves, vertically, a much shorter distance.
simple machines, in his book Mechanica, (multiplication of force) and move a heavy
although the inclined plane was not included load a very long lever should be used, but
small effort force
in his account. Hero illustrated and explained the load needs to be close to the pivot point. can lift a heavy load
various devices for lifting heavy objects. Others What the ancient engineers didnt realize is that
before him had studied why these devices there is always a pay-off between force and the distance travelled
by the effort force
work most notably, Archimedes of Syracuse distance to gain a large mechanical advantage,
(3rd century BCE), who studied levers. Archimedes the long end of the lever moves through a large distance travelled
worked out that the ratio between the input force distance, while the load moves only a small way. by the load
(the effort) and the output force (the load) is Similarly, using pulleys to lift a heavy load, the
equal to the ratio between the distances from length of rope you must pull is much greater
than the distance the RAMP
HERO The simplest example of an inclined plane is a ramp.
Hero (or Heron) of load moves. The amount
A heavy load can be pushed up a ramp in a continuous
Alexandria was one of work done by the motion that requires a smaller force than would be
of the most prolic effort is the same as required to lift the load straight up.
engineers of ancient
Greece. He is seen here the amount of work
demonstrating his done by the load axe blade (load)
aeolipile, an early (neglecting friction).
example of the use effort force
of steam power.
wood splits apart

handle on wheel horizontal force

(crank) turns in a
larger circle than
the axle

Two inclined planes back to back make a wedge. An axe
WHEEL AND AXLE blade is a wedge, which forced vertically into a block of wood
produces a strong horizontal force. The force splits the
The wheel was invented in Mesopotamia around wood but the two pieces move only a small distance apart.
3500 BCE. When a wheel is xed to an axle, the two
turn together; ancient engineers used wheels in axle
devices such as the windlass by winding ropes effort
rope lifts weight force
around the axle. The mechanical advantage of a the longer the inclined
plane (and the shallower
windlass is the ratio of the crank wheels radius the thread), the more
to the axles radius if the crank wheel has weight moves turns it takes to drive
the screw home
twice the radius of the axle, the effort force will less distance
effort force than the handle
be doubled. Door handles and bicycle cranks inclined plane
equivalent to the
are modern examples screw thread
of the wheel and axle. TURNING FORCE
Gears are interlocking A rope is pulled by an axle
turned by a wheel. By making
wheels without axles; a wheel much larger than the
the mechanical axle, it is possible to gain a
advantage is the ratio large mechanical advantage A screw thread is equivalent to an inclined plane wrapped
but the handle moves around a shaft. Turning a screw inside a material pulls it
of diameters between through a much greater inwards. Screws are also used to move water, grain, and
one gear and the next. distance than the weight. load other bulk materials in screw conveyors.


A simple pulley a rope passed over a free-moving wheel effort is The mechanical advantage of a lever is the ratio
half the
has no mechanical advantage, because the rope is continuous. load of distances from the fulcrum (pivot) to the effort
But by passing the rope underneath a pulley, the load is shared and the load. The ratio can be equal to one, or
between two sections of the rope, and the effort is reduced by greater than or less than one. There are three
half; in that case, the load moves half as far as the end of the types of lever, distinguished by the positions of
rope is pulled. By combining two or more pulley blocks, the the effort and load relative to the fulcrum.
mechanical advantage can be increased further.
xed pulley block
SINGLE PULLEY A class 1 lever has the fulcrum
A rope passed over one pulley can fulcrum between the effort and the
raise a weight attached to the load. A seesaw is a familiar
end of the rope. This set-up has moveable example normally, the pivot
no mechanical advantage, but pulley block is in the centre with the load
pulley wheel
it does change the direction and effort at an equal distance,
around which
of the force and it can effort so there is no mechanical
the rope moves
be more convenient than advantage. However, an adult
simply lifting the weight. sitting close to the pivot can
be lifted by a child sitting
weight rises on the opposite end.

load is raised
half as far as
rope is pulled load effort

end of the rope

moves the HALF THE EFFORT fulcrum
same distance A single pulley block can be used to
as the weight create a mechanical advantage of
two. If the rope is slung under the fulcrum
load is the pulley wheel, the force is shared CLASS 2 LEVER
weight of between the two sections of load In a class 2 lever, the load is
effort is the object rope either side of the pulley.
equal to load
closer to the fulcrum than the
effort is so the mechanical
advantage is greater than one.
This can make it easy to lift heavy
weights, as in a wheelbarrow.
A block and tackle with more block with NUTCRACKER
An arrangement of two pulley
blocks, one xed and one pulley wheels gives an two wheels
moving, is called a block and increased mechanical
advantage. In this example, effort movement
tackle. The mechanical
advantage is still two, the job of lifting the load
because the load is is shared between four
pulled by two ropes sections of rope, so
but pulling the rope the mechanical
downwards is more advantage is four. load
rope must be
xed pulled four
pulley times as far as fulcrum effort
block the weight rises

In a class 3 lever, the effort is
closer to the fulcrum than the load,
load so the mechanical advantage is
moveable always less than one. The load
moveable pulley block moves further (and faster) than
pulley block with two wheels
the effort; a golf club benets
from this effect.

effort force is effort force is one

half the load quarter the load movement


load is the load is the

weight of weight of fulcrum effort
the object the object


Pliny the Elder, from Natural History, Book VIII, 77

Pliny the Elder holds a pair of surveyors dividers in this

medieval frontispiece of his book entitled Natural History.

THE ROMAN HISTORIAN AND stool, explained the use of the in China in the early 2nd century direction of one of eight dragons
PHILOSOPHER PLINY THE ELDER speculum mirror for internal included calculating a value heads, which opened and
(2379) compiled Natural examinations and how to for pi, the identication of 124 released a ball into the mouth
History, a 37-volume summary administer intra-uterine constellations in the sky, and of a bronze frog below, indicating
of ancient knowledge, which injections, as well as giving a the construction of an armillary the direction of the earthquake.
he completed in 77. It contains detailed description of specic sphere with moving parts to In 138, Zhang Heng used the
much of what we know about gynaecological conditions. show the rotation of the planets. seismograph to successfully
Greek and Roman science, Soranus of Ephesus also He is best known for the detect an earthquake that
covering mineralogy, astronomy, pioneered the science of construction of the earliest had happened more than
mathematics, geography, paediatrics. His work contained seismograph, which he 640 km (400 miles) from the
and ethnography, as well as advice on the early care of completed in 132. It consisted of Chinese court, where he was
including detailed sections on infants, including the making demonstrating it.
3:10 a bronze urn with a pendulum
Infant mortality
botany and zoology. Natural rate in Rome of articial teats for feeding, and inside. When a tremor occurred, In the 3rd century BCE, the
Despite medical
History is also signicant accounts of childhood afictions the pendulum swung in the Romans discovered the principle
advances, in the 1st and 2nd
because it contains the only centuries, the infant mortality rate in such as tonsillitis, a variety of
references we have to the Rome was still roughly 30 per cent. fevers, and heat-stroke. Zhang Hengs seismograph
work of earlier scientists. Zhang Heng (78139) was Earths vibrations caused a pendulum in
the seismograph to move, which released
During this period three Greek and was the rst to identify a polymath whose work a ball from a dragons teeth into a frogs
physicians published notable the optic chiasma, where the mouth, indicating the direction
works on anatomy and diseases. optic nerves partially cross in of the earthquake.
In the late 1st century, Aretaeus the brain. He was also the rst
of Cappadocia wrote The Causes to name the pancreas and crank opens
and Signs of Acute and Chronic made a detailed study of dragons mouth
Diseases, describing a vast range melancholia (depression).
of diseases, their diagnosis, In the early 2nd century, the
causes, and treatment. He was Greek physician Soranus of
the rst physician to describe Ephesus produced On the
both diabetes and coeliac ball
Diseases of Women. This was
disease. Among the other the most comprehensive work ball drops
conditions he dealt with were on the subject from the ancient into frogs
pleurisy, pneumonia, asthma, world. In it, he described mouth
cholera, and phthisis the appropriate training
(tuberculosis), for which he for midwives and
prescribed trips to the seaside. gave instructions
In 100, Greek physician for managing
Rufus of Ephesus wrote On the childbirth, such
Names of the Parts of the Human as the use of
Body, summarizing the Roman the obstetric
knowledge of anatomy. He gave chair or
a detailed description of the eye, birthing

es s, ian n
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Pl mp l Hi sc rk incl s t tria ve
l wn ing
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wo s l
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Na e ne pher m
36 M s
One of the most complete, original Roman bridges, the Pons Aelius was built by Emperor Hadrian to provide a processional
route to his mausoleum (now the Castel SantAngelo). In its original form the bridge had eight arches.

Ptolemys map a gladiatorial school, where he through the Arabic world,

The coordinates and topographic gained valuable knowledge of acquiring the popular name
lists in Ptolemys Almagest enabled
human physiology and surgery. of Arabic numerals.
maps to be composed of his view of
the world. This map dates from 1492. He championed the theory Chinese mathematics had
that the body had four basic made signicant advances by
are on mathematical geography humours (see panel, below). the time Jiuzhang Suanshu (Nine
and astronomy. In Geography, he The Bakshali manuscript, Chapters on the Mathematical
gave a description of the known found in what is now Pakistan, Art) was in existence in 179.
world, including coordinates for dates from around 200 and It included rules for the
longitude and latitude (the latter contains instructions for the calculation of the area of arcs
derived from the length of the computation of square roots. of circles, for solid gures such
longest day) and gave instructions It is probably the earliest as cones, and for the treatment
for the creation of a world map. document to use a specic sign of vulgar fractions (written in the
In Mathematical Compendium, for zero in the decimal system, form x/y). It contained instructions
also known as Almagest, Ptolemy making it the rst complete for the calculation of linear
presented a star catalogue with decimal notation with a single equations, including the earliest
over 1,000 listed stars and 48 sign for each number value. appearance of equations with
of the weight-supporting arch, Trajans bridge was destroyed constellations. He rened the This system spread westwards negative numbers.
and used it in bridge-building. by his successor Hadrian c.120. theory of the celestial spheres,
In around 104, the engineer Hadrian himself had several introducing additional epicycles THE FOUR HUMOURS
Apollodorus of Damascus had great bridges built, including to explain irregularities in the
constructed a great bridge the Pons Aelius in Rome c.134. motion of the Sun and the Moon The theory of the four air
across the Danube to facilitate The best-known works of and the apparent retrograde humours stated that the body
the Emperor Trajans invasion GreekRoman astronomer motion of certain planets, when is composed of four substances:
of Dacia (modern Romania). Ptolemy of Alexandria (c.90168) they appear to orbit in a contrary blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and
direction to other bodies in the black bile. In blood, the four blood

CLAUDIUS GALEN (c.130c.210)

Solar System. He was the rst elements of the universe

astronomer to convert (re, air, earth, and
Born in the ancient Greek city observational data into a water) are mixed Chi





of Pergamum, Claudius Galen mathematical model to back equally, while yellow

consolidated the works of his up his theories, using spherical in the other

predecessors to create a single trigonometry to do so. His model humours, one Old age
scientic framework. His of the Solar System remained element predominates. Autumn
insistence on direct observation the basis of astronomical theory An excess of one humour



of the body cut across his view until the Renaissance. was believed to cause bile
that each of the bodys organs In 169, Claudius Galen became disease. Too much yellow bile
functioned according to a personal physician to the Roman led to jaundice, too much black
divinely ordained scheme. emperor Marcus Aurelius. Galen bile to leprosy, and too much
He wrote 350 medical works. specialized in anatomy and had phlegm to pneumonia. earth
earlier worked as a surgeon to

of dge y l
us ri on em ica es ro g
or a b cti tol om om n li ins ze tin
o d s tru elius ed P n ec icia s ha nta for ro
w nit yria
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250 499

This 15th-century painting depicts the seven liberal arts, core subjects such as arithmetic, music, astronomy, rhetoric, and grammar
that the 5th-century writer Martianus Capella established as the basis of early medieval European education.

DIOPHANTUS OF ALEXANDRIA Roman surgical instruments

(c.200c.284) founded the Ancient Roman physicians
used a wide variety of surgical
mathematical discipline of
instruments, including spatulas
algebra around 250 by and hooks (right), specula for
introducing a systematic notation internal examinations, and saws.
to indicate an unknown quantity
and its power; for example, In around 320, Pappus
in the equation x2 3 = 6, x2 of Alexandria
represents an unknown number (c.290c.350)
raised to the power of 2 (or compiled Collections,
squared). In his Arithmetica, an eight-volume work
Diophantus provided solutions that contained the In the 3rd century, Plotinus including divine beings, and that drink, and diets. Oribasius
for linear equations (in which no major results of the great (c.205270) created a modied numbers themselves had a form also described a sling to bind
variable in the equation is raised mathematicians who preceded form of Platos teachings (see of concrete existence. a fractured jaw, which he
to a power greater than 1 as him and also introduced novel 700400 BCE) known as In line with the general trend attributes to the 1st-century
in ax + b = 0) and quadratic concepts. Among these new Neoplatonism, which remained in the 3rd and 4th centuries for physician Heraklas. Oribasius
equations (in which at least one ideas were work on the centres inuential into the Middle Ages. gathering together the work of became personal physician to
of the variables is squared as of gravity and the volumes Plotinus taught that there is a earlier scientists, Oribasius of the Roman emperor Julian,
in ax2 + bx + c = 0). Diophantus created by plane gures transcendent being (the One), Pergamum (c.323400) produced but failed to save his patron
also made a particular study revolving. He also proposed what which cannot be described, Collections, a set of 70 volumes when he was struck by a spear
of indeterminate equations, is now known as Pappuss from which emanated a series that brought together the during a battle in Persia in 363.
proposing a method of solving hexagon theorem, which states of other beings. These included works of Galen and other In China, mathematicians
them that is now known as that the intersections of three the Divine Mind and the World earlier medical writers. Only continued to make advances.
Diophantine analysis. Fermats collinear points (points along the Soul, from which human souls 20 of these volumes survive, of Hai Tao Suan Ching, which dates
Last Theorem (see 163537) same line) with three similar are derived. Plotinuss follower which four, collectively titled from 263, contains a discussion
is probably the most famous points along a similar line will Iamblichus of Apamea Euporista, give advice on food, of right-angled triangles and in
example of such an equation. themselves be collinear. (c.245c.325) developed

these ideas, adding number
symbolism derived from
Pythagoras (see 700400 BCE).
Iamblichus believed that


mathematical theorems

applied to the whole universe,


ALL THINGS ARE BUILT. The Maya cut drainage channels
through swamps, heaping up the
fertile silt to create raised elds,
Diophantus of Alexandria, Greek mathematician, from Arithmetica, c.250 similar to the ones seen here.

s rm Zi un of es
ay el
d inu fo un he S us uc
0 M sed ill P lot ied S t a pp rod ne s
5 i 70 od no is
w m 00 les ing P p la se
c.2 e ra s, h and ls 2 a m s, ton c.3 mpi Ch 40 dria n p po em
us stem ing, ana 55 ops idea pla co Sua n c.3 xan rk o d pro eor
c. vel os Neo e
Al wo an n t h
sy rac ion c Zi o
ter igat de Plat as his ures xag
irr of own g e he
kn th

e m
es A pa ve a
us hin ians of s ha and
nt C c ao us r ly
ha aic 3 i
26 mat ai T ng
ch mbe tenc app e
i op ebr ns e e H hi l i
b nu is s ers
D lg io h m x
50 s a uat at c C Ia at e e rem iv
c.2 uce eq m odu uan 00 s th ret eo e un
d pr S c.3 ose onc al th ntir
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the to
38 m
Martianus Capella, from On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury, 410439

THE NUMBER Mathematics progressed only
slowly during the later Roman
OF LIBERAL ARTS empire. In about 450, the

IDENTIFIED BY ROMAN Neoplatonist philosopher

Proclus (c.410485) produced
WRITER CAPELLA his Commentary on Euclid, in
which he preserved the work
around 300, Sun Zi compiled the a gure that was not improved of earlier mathematicians.
Sun Zi Suan Ching, which includes upon until the 16th century. Procluss contemporary,
an analysis of indeterminate Martianus Capella, from Domninus of Larissa (c.410480),
equations. It also contains what Madaura in North Africa, wrote Manual of Introductory
is now known as the Chinese established the basic structure Arithmetic, which included a
remainder theorem, which of early medieval European summary of number theory.
provides a method of nding education. In his On the Marriage By the 5th century, the Maya
solutions to problems in of Philology and Mercury (410439), had devised a sophisticated
modular arithmetic (also called he presented a compendium of calendrical system and a
clock arithmetic, because knowledge, which he divided into notation system for numbers
numbers are arranged in a circle, the trivium (grammar, dialectic, that could express any number
rather than along the number and rhetoric) and the quadrivium using only three symbols:
line). In the 5th century, Zu (geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, a dot for 1, a bar for 5, and a
Chongzhi (429500) wrote Zhui and music). In this work, he stated shell for 0. Maya astronomers
Shu (Method of Interpolation), in that Mercury and Venus orbit were particularly concerned
which he calculated pi to be 355/113. around the Sun, a view that with lunar cycles, the Sun,
He rened this to produce a value Copernicus used to support his eclipses, and movements
for pi that was accurate to seven heliocentric view of the solar of the planet Venus.
decimal places (see panel, below), system (see 1543). There is also evidence that the
Maya were practising raised-
THE VALUE OF PI eld agriculture from as early
as the mid-3rd century to utilize
Pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle fertile land that would otherwise
to its diameter, was estimated at 3.125 by have been too waterlogged for
the Babylonians. The Greeks discovered a agricultural use.
method of calculating it by using the sides
of a polygon inside a circle to approximate
the circumference, and Archimedes used
this method to give a gure of 22/7. In
about 475, Zu Chongzhi calculated pi as Astronomical codex
A section from the Dresden Codex,
3.1415926 accurate to seven decimal places. Computers have
a 9th-century Maya astronomical
now calculated this value to trillions of decimal places. work that includes detailed tables
for movements of the planet Venus.

ia r
dr he
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lex of s o s zh
i n
f A od ot hil ng eve
n o eth ro k p his lid ho to s
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T s u r
G r n Zu pi s
00 ce g sq ion 5 0 s w ry o 75 tes ace
c. 4 rodu atin imat c. 4 oclu enta c. 4 lcula al pl
t l
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P mm ca cim
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40 a
a te riss f ian
lla o l La l o Ind cian
of pe y - t s of anua etic 9 9 ti 0)
ius s Ca rcur it id
m ninu is M ithm c. 4 ema 55 pi
as rite s s 6 s
i b
Or m w etic nu e rb m h Ar t h 7 e
tia t M o n Do rites ory a 4
m ta ( mat 1416
60 mu iet ar tha enus e Su w uct a i .
c.3 rga on d 3
M s
9 ert d V d th d a bh est be 3
Pe 4 s an un ro Ar
0 as o Int
41 ar

Procopius, Byzantine scholar, from The Buildings Book, c.50065

The dome of Hagia Sophia was completed in 537 and collapsed in an earthquake in 558. It was rebuilt
by Isidore the Younger, who raised it by about 6 m (20 ft) to make it more stable.

MUCH ANCIENT KNOWLEDGE geometry and Ptolemaic

reached the Middle Ages through astronomy. Without his work,
the efforts of Roman nobleman much ancient knowledge might
Boethius (c.480c.524). He acted have been lost in western Europe. Pendentives, such as those employed domed top
as a link in the transmission Flavius Cassiodorus in the church of Hagia Sophia in section of
of Greek and Roman science (c.480c.575), who succeeded Constantinople, are curved, concave
to scholars of his time. He Boethius as the leading Roman sections of masonry that are used to supporting
translated sections of Aristotles nobleman at the court of the join a square lower section of a building pillars and concave
Logic, produced an adaption Ostrogothic kings of Italy, retired to the circular base of a domed top arches pendentive
at corner of
of GrecoRoman mathematician around 540 to a monastery he section. They allow the weight of the
the square
Nicomachuss (c.60c.120) founded at Vivarium in southern dome to be equally distributed onto section of
square lower
Arithmetike Eisagoge (Introduction Italy. There, he composed square supporting walls or piers, which section of the building
to Arithmetic), and compiled Institutiones Divinarum et allows far larger domes to be built. building
manuals of the liberal arts, Humanarum Lectionum (An
including accounts of Euclidean Introduction to Divine and Human
Readings). This treatises were collected. He stone oysters, or stone swallows; examples of problems involving
handbook on instituted the practice of copying they were said to emerge from arithmetical progressions
monastic life manuscripts, thus ensuring that the rock and y about during (where the difference between
included a important works survived into thunderstorms. By the mid-7th successive terms is constant).
compilation of the later Middle Ages. century, such fossils were being Around 53237, Byzantine
secular knowledge, Before the 6th century, scholars dissolved in vinegar for use as architects Anthemius of Tralles
divided according to had largely accepted Aristotles medicine in China. (c.474c.534) and Isidore of
the seven liberal view that motion was inherent in In early 6th century, Chinese Miletus succeeded in setting a
arts (see 250500). a body or caused by the medium mathematician Zhang Qiujian round dome over a square room
Cassiodorus also through which it travelled (such gave the rst example of the using pendentives. The dome of
established a as air). Greek philosopher John modern method of division Hagia Sophia (in Istanbul, Turkey)
library in which Philoponus (c.480c.570) inversing the divisor and remained the largest in the world
many ancient opposed this view, arguing that multiplying. He also gave for nearly a thousand years.
scientic and the medium actually resisted the
philosophical bodys movement. He proposed
that motion is caused
externally through energy
impressed upon it by the person
or thing moving it. This was the
Great minds
Boethius is shown rst expression of the theory of
here calculating impetus and inertia. Brachiopod
with written numbers Around 500, Li Tao-Yuan fossil
in a competition Resembling
recorded fossil animals in his birds wings,
against Pythagoras,
who is using a Commentary on the Waterways these became known as grooved, shell-like
counting board. Classic. He called these fossils stone swallows in China. birds wing

on se or ius t ,
ott rm t u ks f th es irs in rch s a
s oe on lat 7 F me chu er a ste tian
0 C h wo ed Fir loc ina ua
n B s
4 ok d ans 3 leu hris
0 00 n b Ch -Y 2 2 do hia ov p
c.5 wit g us c.5 ode g in ao il ina 0 bo an tr 53 und Sop set o
dic ia
gin arin a i T s Ch 51 ites etic and ic ro gia is m In ph
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in c.5 cord opo ar ome les Tu uare Co To
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r 5
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an n o
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Qi thod m oir l Art re
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g g a r
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c.5 cribe divi of d e w a i s
as m D Lec
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de Xu t wa Pe 54 Vivia utio arum
ro hra t in
cip Na buil tit an
re Ins Hum


The Madaba map is a mosaic showing Palestine and lower Egypt, with particular focus
on towns and other sites of Biblical importance. This part of the map shows Jerusalem.

THE FIRST DESCRIPTION of the One of the leading medical

bubonic plague was given by practitioners at the time of the
Roman historian Procopius Byzantine emperor Justinian was
(c.500c.565). He was present Alexander of Tralles (c.525c.605).
in Constantinople (now Istanbul) His Twelve Books on Medicine
when the disease struck the described a range of diseases
Byzantine empire in 542. He including those caused by
described the characteristic intestinal parasites. He was
swellings (or buboes) under the the rst physician to identify
arms and around the groin, and melancholy (depression) as
a type of delirium brought on by a cause of suicidal tendencies.

Bubonic plague
septicemia (blood poisoning) death toll Around 570, Chinese
that caused sufferers to run At its peak, mathematician Chen Luan
about screaming. the bubonic plague, which struck the mentioned the abacus for the
By the 6th century, the Byzantine empire in 542, killed 10,000 rst time in a commentary on an
people a day in Constantinople alone.
cartographic tradition inspired earlier work of the 2nd century.
by Ptolemy was waning, to be He described 14 methods of
replaced by a religiously inspired Christiana (Christian Topography), arithmetical calculation, one CHINESE BLOCK PRINTING
view of Earth. The Madaba map, which controversially presented of which he referred to as ball
thought to be the oldest surviving the world as a at space dividing arithmetic, in which a series Printing using wooden blocks was probably invented in China in the
map of Biblical cities, dates the heavens from the underworld, of wires were suspended on a 6th century, although the rst complete surviving printed book dates
back to this time. In around and in which Jerusalem occupied wooden frame, with four balls to 868. A manuscript was prepared on waxed paper, which was
550, Cosmas Indicopleustes, a central position. Cosmas strung on the lower half of each rubbed against a wooden block to transfer a mirror image of the
a merchant from Alexandria, located Paradise just beyond the wire representing a unit each, characters onto it. The block was then carved and used for printing.
composed the Topographia ocean that surrounded Earth. and a ball on the upper half
ve units. greatest project was the cutting Chinese engineer Li Chun
Although the of the Grand Canal from completed construction of the
Chinese had a long Changan to Loyang, under Anji Bridge in Hebei. The arch
tradition of canal the Sui dynasty, which joined up was attened by two smaller
building, their earlier, smaller canals. Its main arches in its spandrels (the
section, the Pien Chu canal, triangular area bounded by
which was 1,000 km (621 miles) the outer curve of an arch and
Rainbow bridge
long. was completed in 605 and adjacent wall), which spread the
This bridge over a side
section of the Grand was said to have taken ve weight more evenly and meant
Canal at Wuxi, China, million labourers to build. that only one main arch was
arches in a dramatic By the early 7th century, needed to span the river.
fashion, which gave
Chinese engineers had worked
this type of construction
the nickname out that bridges did not need
rainbow bridge. semicircular arches. In 605,

de es s, ia he
ek us an rib on ag is er ft s
re eti a lex esc diti on e H me aft 558 n o ina i
0 G an A vul ps A d n i h m st e i o
5 i u 60 les c co ess 2 T d te
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s d onic ntin
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p b
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a 0 a ory a o c.5 i ro brid an, t
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This illustration from a 12th-century manuscript graphically depicts the use of Greek Fire. Flames
are being projected from a hand-held tube onto a eet of invading soldiers.

IN CHINA, in the year 610,

court physician Chao Yuanfang
contemporary knowledge,
entitled Etymologiae, using the
(550630) compiled the rst work of earlier encyclopedists
comprehensive Chinese MAN OF KNOWLEDGE WILL ECLIPSE such as Roman author Marcus
treatise on diseases. One THE FAME OF OTHERS IN ASSEMBLIES Terentius Varro (11627 BCE). It

of the diseases he described helped disseminate classical
was smallpox; he explained OF THE PEOPLE IF HE PROPOSES knowledge in the Middle Ages.
that lesions with purple or black ALGEBRAIC PROBLEMS, AND STILL In the eld of surgery, Greek
colouration were far more deadly MORE IF HE SOLVES THEM. physician Paul of Aegina
than those that contained white (c.625c.690) compiled The
pus. He also recommended Brahmagupta, Indian mathematician, from Brahmasphutasiddhanta Epitome of Medicine a digest of
(The Revised System of Brahma), 628
brushing teeth daily and medical treatises by ancient
proposed a routine of rinsing authorities such as Galen. It ISIDORE OF SEVILLE
and gargling then gnashing Before 644, windmills had been which could be used to grind also contained descriptions of (C.560636)
the teeth seven times. developed in Persia. They used wheat. The earliest windmills had new surgical procedures, such as
wind to drive wooden vanes set in vertical windshafts, unlike the tracheotomy (surgery to the wind The Bishop of Seville for
a circle around a windshaft. This more familiar horizontal types that pipe) and sterilizing wounds more than 30 years, Isidore
generated rotational energy, were later developed in Europe. through cauterization. wrote several important texts,
Spanish bishop Isidore of Chinese mathematician Wang including the encyclopedic
Seville was a prolic author who Xiaotong (c.580c.640) was the Etymologiae, a dictionary of
wrote books on cosmology and rst to provide solutions for synonyms, and a manual
arithmetic. In the 7th century, cubic equations (of the form of basic physics. He also
he compiled a 20-volume a3+ba2+ca=n). It was a technique established a system of
manuscript of that European mathematicians seminaries to promote
did not master until Fibonacci ecclesiastical education.
(see 122049) in the 13th century. He was canonized in 1598
In India, one of the greatest by Pope Clement VIII.
early mathematicians was
Brahmagupta (598c.668).
His Brahmasphutasiddhanta two negative numbers multiplied
(The Revised System of Brahma) together yield a positive number.
contained rules for using In the late 7th century, a new
negative numbers in arithmetic incendiary weapon was developed
and also rst stated the rule that in the Byzantine empire. Known
as Greek Fire, it was discharged
by tubes and burnt even in contact
Vertical windmills with water. Its exact composition
As the area around Nishtafun in
is still unknown, but it was
Persia (Iran) experienced high
winds, but had little water, windmills probably a compound of naphtha
were a very useful adaptation. (a hydrocarbon mixture).

s is
ng ain
a nfa e ng igh rcel ina gin
Yu as n oto 50 p
H o h ine s es Ae t
ao ise tio Xia tion s c.6 ality ed in
C nt lu rit o f s of y
Ch on d crip g
n lu n za phi s w y ul ea se er
1 e es Wa so atio qu ent
B eo iu g Pa s br he u surg
c.6 atis ns d x 25 ibes equ inv 50 Th har rolo 0
6 be t in
tre ntai llpo . 6
c sc bic r c.6 ctor pat on u c.6 scri and ion
co sma de cu
o s
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of for Pr reat ca uter
at ca

eo t
or les rs
I sid mpi iae e s ) ire
0 co og us ill (Iran
3 l re an m k F in
15 ille mo e cu Indi ts ind rsia ree ped re
c.6 Sev Ety t s in ex l w Pe G lo pi
95 ve em
irs ro al t tica i n
8 F f ze atic er ned c.6 de ine
2 o m 4 V tio za
he 64 en By
at m
42 m

This image depicts Jabir ibn-Hayyan giving a lecture on alchemy in his home town, Edessa, modern Turkey. The
town played an important role in the transmission of Greek science into the Islamic world.

As knowledge of Greek a major Islamic centre for the
MAJOR TREATISES on zoology astronomy spread to the Islamic
THE NUMBER OF study of science.
were produced by al-Asmai, a world, Ibrahim al-Fazari TEST SITES SET UP Jabir ibn-Hayyan (c.722804)
philologist from Basra, Iraq. His
Kitab al-Khail (Book of the
(d. c.796), an astronomer from
Baghdad, wrote the rst BY YI XING FOR HIS was an early Islamic alchemist
who has become known as the
Horse) and Kitab al-Ibil Islamic treatise on the ASTRONOMICAL father of Arab chemistry. He
(Book of the Camel) astrolabe a device that invented the alembic, an
described in detail SURVEY enclosed ask for heating
the physiology of these liquids, established the
animals. He also wrote Astrolabe transferred observations of the planetary movements, classication of substances
A Greek invention rened by
books on sheep and wild Arab astronomers, the astrolabe celestial sphere onto at plates conjunctions, and eclipses, into metals and non-metals,
animals, as well as a helped perform complex and helped to predict the although he rejected the idea and identied the properties
book on human astronomical location of celestial bodies. that Earth rotated. of acids and alkalis.
anatomy. calculations. In China, around 725, engineer A few years later, in 762, the Jurjish ibn Bakhtishu was
and astronomer Yi Xing city of Baghdad was founded the rst of a dynasty of Islamic
(683727) invented the rst by the caliph al-Mansur. The physicians who served the
escapement for a mechanical rst planned city in the Islamic Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad.
clock. The device was attached world, its perfectly round shape He rose to prominence when
to an armillary sphere (a model was laid out by al-Naubakht, he cured the caliph al-Mansur
of the celestial sphere) that was a Persian astrologer. His son, of a stomach complaint in 765.
pivoted powered by water. It used al-Fadl ibn Naubakht, founded His grandson Jibril founded
sighting rule a toothed gear to transfer the House of Wisdom in the rst hospital in Baghdad
energy to the moving parts Baghdad, which became some time after 805.
of the sphere and to
regulate their movement.
Yi Xing also carried out
a major astronomical
survey to help predict
climate plate with solar eclipses more AIR EARTH GOLD MERCURY TO PURIFY MAGNET
coordinates to locate
users latitude
accurately and reform
the calendar. ALCHEMY
In India, mathematician and
astrologer Lalla (c.720790) First developed in Hellenistic Egypt (4th1st century BCE) by scholars
became the rst to describe a such as Zosimos of Panopolis, alchemy was advanced further by
perpetuum mobile, a machine Arab practitioners such as ibn-Hayyan and al-Razi in the 8th9th
that once set in motion would centuries. It was concerned mainly with the transmutation of base
carry on moving forever. His metals, such as lead, into noble metals, such as gold, through the
Sisyadhivrddhidatantra (Treatise use of the philosophers stone. It led to the development of many
plate with for Increasing the Intelligence practical chemical processes, such as distillation and fermentation.
star map
of Students) also gave details of

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a ra
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ma 43
Classical knowledge was revived and expanded by Islamic
scholars attached to the mosques and the courts. Subsequently
translated into Latin, their Arabic texts circulated through
Western Europe and formed the basis of modern science.
80020 82160

Al-Khwarizmi, Persian mathematician, c.780850

The House of Wisdom in Baghdad was a major centre of Islamic scholarship,

attracting the foremost thinkers from across the Islamic world.

THE ARABIC AND PERSIAN astrolabe an instrument used ONE OF AL-KHWARIZMIS

EMPIRES had a long tradition of
scholarship, and this continued
after the birth of the Islamic
to observe the position of stars.
Although not the rst to produce
a work on the astrolabe,
treatise on mathematics entitled
The Compendious Book on
ax 2 + bx + c = 0
religion. Islam encouraged al-Khwarizmis contribution Calculation by Completion and ALGEBRA
scientic and philosophical was signicant, especially in Balancing, published around 830.
pursuits, which were not seen the Islamic world, where the It contained a description of the Algebra is a branch of mathematics that uses letters to represent
as incompatible with theology. astrolabe could be used to branch of mathematics now unknown quantities (called variables), and symbols for operations
Libraries and other centres calculate the time of daily prayers. known as algebra. Although he such as addition and subtraction. These can be combined in an
of learning were established The Chinese were pioneers drew on sources such as Greek algebraic statement known as an expression, such as a + 3.
in many Islamic cities during in the technology of printing, and Indian texts (see 250500), A mathematical statement, such as a + 3 = 7, is known as an
the Islamic Golden Age. largely due to their invention of he is considered to be the equation. Equations in which the highest power of an unknown
Perhaps the greatest of these paper possibly as early as the inventor of algebra. In his book, quantity is two are known as quadratic equations (as above), and
was the House of Wisdom 2nd century BCE which lent al-Khwarizmi explained the those in which the highest power is three are called cubic equations.
(Bayt al-Hikma), founded in itself better to printing than the process of balancing both sides
Baghdad at the beginning of the papyrus and parchment used of an equation (al-jabr in Arabic,

hence the modern term algebra), balancing an equation by as al-Kindi) who in the mid-9th

THOUSAND and gave a systematic way of

solving quadratic equations,
transposing terms from one side
to the other and cancelling out
century wrote a large number of
treatises on various scientic
THE NUMBER which had been described terms that appear on both sides. subjects, ranging from
OF BOOKS IN almost 500 years earlier by Greek
mathematician Diophantus of
Another prominent scholar at
the House of Wisdom was the
mathematics, astronomy, and
optics, to medicine and
THE HOUSE Alexandria. Central to his polymath Abu Yusuf Yaqub geography. A scholar of theology
OF WISDOM method was the principle of ibn Ishaq al-Kindi (also known and philosophy, he was also
responsible for the translation
9th century. As well as housing elsewhere. Developing a form of AL-KINDI (C.801873) of many classic Greek texts
thousands of books, the House woodblock printing on silk that and their incorporation into
of Wisdom encouraged had appeared around 200, they Born and educated in Kufa, near Islamic thinking. It is largely
research and the translation applied the technique to paper Baghdad, Al-Kindi was one of through al-Kindis translations
of mathematical, scientic, and used it for the mass the rst major scholars of the and commentaries on Indian
and philosophical texts from production of books. By the newly founded House of texts that Indian numerals
ancient Greece. 9th century, it was being used Wisdom. He translated Greek were introduced to the Islamic
Persian mathematician and to print promissory notes scientic and philosophical texts world, and subsequently
astronomer Muhammad ibn Musa that were in effect a form of into Arabic, and incorporated became the basis for the
al-Khwarizmi (c.780850) was paper money issued by the Hellenistic ideas into Islamic modern system of numbers,
one of the most important Chinese government. scholarship. He wrote treatises although zero was probably
scholars at the House of Wisdom, on many subjects, including discovered later (see 86199).
studying both Greek and Indian medicine, chemistry, astronomy, Al-Kindi was very sceptical
scientic treatises. In around and mathematics. about alchemy, refuting one
820, he described the use of the of its central ideas the

i is se
ay se ed izm h ine
ar ra in n Ch ists e
e B Hou ound h w b o ion 5 h
T a( sf -K ge ok et 85 hem be t of
1 m )i Al s al s Bo mpl alc scri ery r
c.8 Hik dom d 0
3 be ou Co d co wde
e v
al- Wis hda c.8 scri ndi by
de mpe ation ing dis npo
of Bag gu
in C o l cu l l a n c
Ca d Ba

e es
rit ,
hin ent i i w ptics ,
he rnm o
f izm d
in o ine
ar labe
2 T gove form ney w
h ro l-K on dic hy
8 1
s a mo l-K ast 5 0 A tises , me grap
ue er 0 A the c.8 trea ctive ypto
iss pap 2
c.8 ibes pe cr
r rs and
sc pe

This statue of Al-Khwarizmi stands The Chinese edition of the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, printed using woodblocks
in Khiva, Uzbekistan, his birthplace. on a scroll of paper, is the earliest surviving printed book.

transmutation of metals. A CHINESE EDITION OF THE indicates that this was one
However, alchemy was at the BUDDHIST TEXT, Diamond Sutra, of a number of copies printed sealed ask cold water outlet
root of another discovery this was discovered in 1907 in for distribution.
time in China. In the early Dunhuang, northwest China. An inscription on a stone cold water
9th century, Chinese alchemists Although it is probably not the in Gwalior, India, dated 876, inlet
one liquid
were experimenting with various rst example of a woodblock contains one of the earliest boils into
mixtures of substances to nd printed book, it is the earliest known uses of the symbol vapour cooling cooled
the elixir of life. One of the known one, and bears the for zero 0. Prior to the water jacket vapour
by-products of this quest was date 11 May 868. The text appearance of a specic symbol, around condenses
condenser into droplets
the discovery, in about 855, of and illustrations of Diamond a space was used to indicate mixture of pure liquid
gunpowder the rst man- Sutra exhibit a great deal of zero, which led to ambiguity and liquids collects
made explosive. It consisted of a sophistication, suggesting that prevented the development of a in ask
mixture of sulphur, carbon (in the the techniques of printing on place value system of numbers source
form of charcoal), and saltpetre paper were well known in China (a system in which the position
(potassium nitrate) all of which by this time. An inscription at of the numeral indicates its DISTILLATION
occur naturally as minerals. The the end of the manuscript value). The introduction of
mixtures explosive properties a symbol for Distillation is a method of separating the components of a liquid
meant that it was initially used in zero in Indian mixture. The liquid mixture is converted into vapour by heating. As
the manufacture of reworks, mathematics the components of the mixture have different boiling points, they
but gunpowder later came to fuel was a vital step in vaporize at different rates. The vapour is then cooled so that it
rockets, and was eventually used the development condenses back into a liquid, which can be collected separately.
in the development of rearms. of the decimal Distillation can be used to extract liquids such as alcohol and
system of notation gasoline, and also to purify liquids, such as salt water.
we use today. This
10% 15%
decimal system
came to Europe replaced the use of cumbersome the Arabic al kuhl, originally
through the Roman numerals. used to describe a powder
inuence of Islamic Towards the end of the century, extracted from a mineral,
mathematicians, Arab alchemists developed but which later came to
and eventually the process of distillation mean the essence or spirit
a method of separating the of a liquid. The apparatus
ingredients of a liquid mixture. developed by al-Razi for
Muhammad ibn Zakariya distillation has remained
Alchemist Jabir
al-Razi (c.854925/35), along fundamentally unchanged
ibn-Hayyan at work
Alchemy in the Islamic with other alchemists, perfected to the present day.
world involved much the technique and was
Composition of gunpowder experimentation, and successful in extracting a form
Sulphur, carbon, and saltpetre, while led to the development
of alcohol ethanol or ethyl
quite innocuous individually, become of many processes
highly explosive when mixed in the that were later used alcohol by distilling wine.
correct proportions. in chemistry. The word alcohol derives from

a zi ine
-R w
Al om
8 90 ol fr
c oh

e ar ted
i n
he pr ond ian
8 T ng m d nd a
86 vivi Dia rinte a 76 I use o
r e n
su , th , is p Chi 8 ns zer
ok tra in cia or
b Su ati ol f
e m b
ath sy

Al-Razi, Arab physician, 10th century

Arab doctor and chemist al-Razis belief in practical experimentation on

substances led him to propose an early classication of elements.

MUHAMMAD IBN ZAKARIYA dismissed the idea that body melting and extraction. He overlapping plates for mathematics underlying
AL-RAZI (Rhazes) was one of temperature is automatically described the distillation of making astronomical the instrument. He
the greatest physicians of the raised or lowered when a patient kerosene and petroleum from observations. Although presented formulas in
Arab world. Around 900, he drinks warm or cold uids. His crude oil and gave recipes for al-Fazari was the rst spherical trigonometry,
wrote Al-Shukuk ala Jalinus clinical practices were advanced preparing hydrochloric and to describe it in the replacing Ptolemys
(Doubts About Galen), in which he for this time; he ran a psychiatric sulphuric acids. 8th century, al-Battani geometrical
criticized Galens theory of the ward and wrote a treatise Around 920, Arab astronomer worked out the methods.
four humours (see 75250). He attacking untrained physicians. and mathematician al-Battani
rejected the notion that a balance The Kitab al-Hawi (Comprehensive (c.858929) proffered greater
of these humours was necessary Book), a collection of his clinical insights into the working of
for the health of the patient, and notes, ran to 23 volumes, and the planispheric astrolabe
contained medical diagnoses, a device with a number of
including the rst description
of hayfever (or rose-cold). He
map of bodies
also wrote a monograph, Kitab
on the celestial
al-Judwar wal Hasba (Treatise on sphere
the Smallpox and Measles), which
was the rst work to detail the star pointer
symptoms of smallpox, although indicates
his explanation that the disease position of
was caused by the impurities specic star

from menstrual blood that stay

in the fetus during pregnancy mater, or
main section
and then bubble up to the skin
into which
AL-RAZI (C.865925) in later life betrayed a belief in latitude
sympathetic magic. He was plates slot
Born in Rayy, Mesopotamia particularly concerned with
(now in Iran), al-Razi was a preventing blindness caused rotating bar
physician and philosopher, by smallpox pustules, and
as well as an alchemist. He advocated regularly bathing ecliptic ring
encouraged experimentation the eyes in rose-water. shows path of
as a means of discovery and An alchemist as well as Sun through sky
his clinical notes became a a physician, al-Razi devised a
key medieval medical text. He classication of elements into Astrolabe
headed a hospital in Rayy, and spirits and metals and minerals. The user of an
then two in Baghdad. Among He divided the latter into stones, astrolabe adjusted its
his innovations was the rst vitriols, boraces, salts, and other moveable parts to indicate
a specic date or time, and
recorded clinical trial on substances, and gave a detailed the markings on the plates
patients with meningitis. account of the behaviour of each would then indicate the position
under various processes, such as of the various heavenly bodies.

m n ps ra
s az ic
I sla ticia velo lgeb a wr 0 Al alen
0 0 a de a s q s 3 G ry
c.9 athe mil zmi owe
s r Lu nes 0 es eo es
rit rap
ibn umb 90 iticiz r th
m u Ka ari th p ta n cr mou a b i w the
A Kh g w an 2
b i
Qu on hu ar usic
al- alin r th 12 ise -F
Al on m
de eate c.9 reat 5
2 e
gr at c.9 atis

30 rs
0 zi ve
90 -Ra s co les
Al ribe f dis ncip be ted
an ri ola da is
sc s o st abe ic
de tom pox att al p str i e
rl ol
p all A l-B atic he a Ea str sla lus
sy sm 20 em ng
9 27 ng a by I astu
c.9 ath rlyi .
c ivi uil r N t
m de rv b me
un su no
48 tro


A 14th-century manuscript shows two innovative surgical instruments introduced

by SpanishArab physician al-Zahrawi (Albucasis).

THE MODERN Abacus treatises by ancient scholars also known as Albucasis. He was
NUMERALS for This is a modern such as Boethius, studied the court surgeon to al-Hakam, the
example of an
expressing the work of Islamic mathematicians, Umayyad Caliph of Cordoba. His
abacus, a counting
decimal system rst device that appeared and introduced the abacus to Kitab al-Tasrif (The Method of
appeared in Europe in Mesopotamia Europe, giving instructions for its Medicine) containing detailed
in 976 in a treatise around 2700 BCE. use in multiplication and division. descriptions of human anatomy
It was introduced
written by the monk The greatest Arab surgeon of and the pathology of diseases
to medieval Europe
Vigila in the northern by Gerbert in medieval times was Abu al- became the main textbook for
Spanish convent of around 990 CE. Qasim al-Zahrawi (c.9361013), medieval European physicians.
Albelda (although
he included only the Ancient Ancient Ancient Ancient Modern
symbols for 1 to 9 and not zero). the astronomer Zhang Sixun out by mechanical jacks that Babylonian Egyptian Greek Roman Chinese Mayan HinduArabic
This number system, now known in 979. It was powered by a emerged to strike bells and
as HinduArabic, had originated waterwheel with scoops that drums, or to display the time on a
in the numerical notation of the deposited the liquid into a tablet. The clock also showed the
Brahmi script used in India in clepsydra (a device that measures position of the Sun, Moon, and
the mid-3rd century BCE, which time by the ow of liquid through ve planets on a celestial globe,
then spread westwards after the a small hole) as it turned around, and was said to be so advanced
Arabs came in contact with India which in turn regulated the that after Sixuns death no-one
in the early 8th century CE. measurement of the hours. In could keep it in working order.
Although mechanical order to avoid the liquid freezing In 984, Persian mathematician
armillary spheres and up in winter a problem that had Ibn Sahl (c.9401000) wrote
mechanical escapements for aficted earlier such clocks Yi On the Burning Instruments, a
clocks had been devised in Xing had substituted mercury for treatise in which he examined the
China by Zhang Heng in the water. Zhang Sixuns improved bending of light by lenses and
2nd century and Yi Xing in version made one complete curved mirrors. He was the rst
the 8th century, a superior revolution each day, with each to express a geometric theory of
version was constructed by quarter-hour and hour sounded refraction. He suggested that the


amount of light that is deected
when it enters another medium
(such as glass) varies, depending DEVELOPMENT OF NUMBERS

on the refractive index (see

HIMSELF TO SURGERY 162124) of the substance.

Christian monastic scholar
Many early number systems, such as the Egyptian, were additive
the value of the number symbol did not depend on its position; to

Gerbert (c.9431003), who make 20, the symbol for 10 would be written twice. Around 2000 BCE,
became Pope in 999, was one the Babylonians began to use a partly positional system where the

of the rst Western European order of magnitude depends on the position in which the symbol
mathematicians of the Middle appears. Positional systems using 10 as the base developed in India,
Ages. He sought to recover and gradually evolved into the modern HinduArabic numerals.
Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis), in Kitab al-Tasrif, c.990 mathematical and astronomical

i n l l
n zin ixu ica ah of
ish be ha g S chan b n S aw
ew and aac s K n I l t
J s e al- r s ha e d 84 he igh er
32 ian r I rib bu s fo isk 9 Z a m ere 9 es t of l rb
c.9 ysic ophe esc 0 A able be d 97 ilds ow y 9 s
97 opo tion Ge es o
ph ilos on d ever 6 t la bu ck p rcur pr frac
9 c t pe
ph lom ial f 50 es tro clo me c.9 rodu acus uro
c.9 oduc g as re int e ab val E
So lar r
p kin by
a a th die
m e

az n
es aly
l-J es o d od ction
(H i,
bn ti
s an r le b as al ik ic er
9 I rea ics ers ip e Ab l-M ab om s
ijz tris ang on over lt
7 tes t iatr ord -S al- s A Ar oks r
5 ri r s Al the f an bn rite ain tbo t
as isc l ti g
c.9 w ge p di 9
96 k on
o i
w f m tex
e u
Ab as) ian i d xia in
sle r o l
80 Abb one dica rs jand s a eas
wo e h r
c .9 e 4 P hu rt ec
m 99 al-K t Ea is d

Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Arab polymath, from Canon of Medicine, c.1005

A page from Avicennas Canon of Medicine shows the heart and skull as part
of an illustration explaining the theory of the four humours.

AROUND 1005, THE ARAB The Persian astronomer and HOW LENSES WORK
MEDICAL SCHOLAR and polymath mathematician Abu Sahl al-Quhi
Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna (c.9401000) was head of the
in Europe) wrote the Canon of observatory founded by Sharaf A convex lens is thicker in the ray of light focal length
Medicine, a major compendium al-Dawla in Baghdad in 988, but middle than at the sides. When
that sought to provide a he was particularly noted for his light rays strike the lens they are principal axis
systematic understanding of work in solving equations of diffracted and converge behind principal
converging focus
medical knowledge of the time. greater than the second degree the lens at a single point called rays of light
Avicenna tried to reconcile (in which the highest power of a the principal focus. Convex CONVEX (CONVERGING) LENS
theories of four humours variable is more than two). He lenses are used to treat long-
(blood, yellow bile, black bile, employed a geometrical method sightedness as they bring objects
and phlegm; see 100250) with of intersecting curved lines to that are closer, into focus. A principal focus focal length
Aristotles idea of three life achieve this. Around 1000, he concave lens is thinner in the
forces (psychic, natural, and wrote On the Construction of an middle than at the sides. Light
human). Avicennas careful and Equilateral Pentagon in a Known rays diverge and seem to focus virtual ray

comprehensive account in ve Square, in which he demonstrated in front of the lens. These lenses
volumes of physiology, diagnosis, the solution by solving an address short-sightedness. CONCAVE (DIVERGING) LENS rays of light
therapy, the pathology of diseases, equation to the fourth degree.
and pharmacology made it an In 1005, the Fatimid caliph
extremely valuable medical al-Hakim founded the House from Islamic philosophy and and 1021. He proposed that the the eyes physiology, describing
handbook. It was commented of Knowledge (Dar al-ilm) law to physics and astronomy, blinding effect of bright light and it as being made up of various
on by many subsequent Arabic in Cairo. Equipped with a vast it became a centre for the existence of after-images humours and separated into
physicians and was printed as library covering subjects ranging philosophers and theologians. proved that vision was caused sections by spherical sheaths.
Latin translations 36 times. At rst, the House of Knowledge by light coming into the eye. He
hosted a series of public also developed a new theory of
lectures, but these
ended in 1015 IBN SINA (9801037)
after fears
that religious Born near Bukhara, Uzbekistan,
dissidents were Ibn Sina (Avicenna) was a
establishing a medical prodigy. He claimed
presence there. to have successfully treated
The Arabic patients by age 16. He served
sage Abu Ali ibn the Samanid rulers of Bukhara,
al-Haytham but their overthrow in 999 led
(c.9651039), also to his exile. He ended up at the
Alhazens eye known as Alhazen, is court of Shams al-Dawla of
Shown here is a
best known for his Kitab Hamadan, where he wrote
diagrammatic eye from
a 1575 Latin translation of al-Munazir (Book of Optics), his great Canon of Medicine.
Alhazens Book of Optics. which he wrote between 1011

er an ind
i m
no rst a ici ar m
l-Q the kim ro v 15 hys l-M ge e
A s d Ha f t
as es rno
10 ab p jah a the ast ms
00 be f on al- se o m giv upe Ar swi ibes a p d ge ia
10 scri n o bey gree h o l i
s an s
de lutio ons de lip ou air Mu dw f a Ma escr ary oun hol
Ca e H n C pr ctu of gr lanc
so uati cond 04 s th ge i 06 Ri n o
1 nd ed 10 i ibn ptio ele de me
eq e se Al scri a
th fou owl m cure
Kn de to

nn f
v ice on o l
A a
a ( Can dic s
Sin he me ium se
I bn es t e, a end po n
ro visio s
05 os in p n p f ic
10 omp edic com ze y o Opt
c M
A lha eor k of
1 t h o
2 his n Bo
11 i

The earliest movable type in China was made of clay, and later of wood. Metal movable type such as these blocks
did not become common until the Ming dynasty in the 17th century.

IN THE EARLY 11TH CENTURY, carved for each individual page. weather using an iron sh. The Anatomy of a crossbow
SpanishArab astronomer Abu Around 1040, a commoner needle of this early compass This 16th-century German
crossbow could not be used without ight
Abdallah ibn Muadh al-Jayyani named Pi Sheng developed probably oated on top of a bowl
a crannequin a toothed wheel
(9891079) carried out work a form of movable type by of water and the technique was attached to a crank which was
integrating trigonometry and creating thin strips of clay later adapted for navigation at used to bend the crossbow.
optics. His Book of Unknown each impressed with a single sea. One document referring to
Arcs of a Sphere was the rst character, which he baked in a
comprehensive work on spherical re. He then placed these on an crannequin curved claws
trigonometry. Around 1030, iron tray to compose the page to grip bowstring
al-Jayyani used this work in his be printed. The clay letters could
Book on Twilight to calculate afterwards be rearranged as
the angle of the Sun below the desired to create a new page. toothed
horizon at the end of evening The method fell into disuse after rack
twilight to be 18 degrees. By Pi Shengs death until its revival cord loops
onto tiller pins rotating pin
taking this as the lowest angle in the mid-13th century. By then, released by trigger
at which the Suns rays can far more durable type made of
meet the upper edge
of the atmosphere,
he worked out the
height of Earths
atmosphere as 103 km (64 miles). steel pin to engage composite lathe of
Printing using carved wooden spanning mechanism bone, sinew, and wood
blocks had appeared in China
around the 6th century, but the iron had been invented in Korea, the period around 1086 tells of their power was limited by the
process was cumbersome, where it was rst used in 1234. a south-pointing needle used ability of the user to pull back
requiring a new block to be The Chinese had understood for nding bearings at night. the bow string by hand. By the
the properties of magnetic In 1123, an account of a mid-11th century, a stirrup
12 lodestones in transferring diplomatic mission to South was placed at the end of the stirrup

polarity to a needle several Korea describes the sailors stock, so that the user could
10 centuries earlier (see 300 use of the compass. It would push against this with his legs
250 BCE), but no real application be another 67 years, howver, while pulling the string back.
was made. In 1044, the rst before such knowledge spread Mechanical cranks were also
mention is made of a south- to Europe. invented that could be turned bolt
pointing carriage used to nd Crossbows had made an to tighten the string. By the
4 directions on land during gloomy appearance in China as early early 13th century, complex
as the 8th century BCE and are windlasses (contraptions
wooden tiller
The deadliest weapon? recorded in Greece in the early used to move heavy objects) veneered
Medieval crossbowmen red at as
0 3rd century BCE. Hand-held were devised, which imparted with bone
little as a tenth the rate of longbow
Longbow Crossbow crossbows came into use in high tensile strength to the
archers, although their bolts had
WEAPON more power. France in the 10th century, but crossbow bolt.

ian at ts g
rs th nd
Pe er ts u en
0 g es aro i
aw s s i nv intin
.1 03 nom sug tate he N as uclid ribe ng pr
he or
c tro un i o s - c
as -Bir may ut sa
y Al s E es ion P i S pe f s
t 30 arize nd d ract 0 t y ck
Al rth n, b ve i 0
c.1 mm nts a r ext 04 le blo
Ea e Su t pro c.1 ovab clay
su me d fo ots m ing
th nno Ele tho e ro
ca e us
m cub

zo f Bu ihha
ez f no b n s g
Ar ry o tio ss 0 I al- isin
d o d en mpa n, 05 im as ood
ido he an f t m o tio c.1 aqw mph of g ene
Gu w t tion m o irs ic c iga ina sT e ce ygi
0 e
03 s n ota ste rd
s 4 F net nav n Ch ite tise an h
c.1 vise al n s sy acho
10 mag for i wr rea ort and
c p t p t
de usi elo hex ed im die
m dev us 51
From The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, describing the comet of 1066

mathematician Jia Xian described
a method of calculating square OF MONTHS THAT
and cubic roots using numbers THE SUPERNOVA
arranged in rows. Each row
contained one more number
than the row above it, to form a FROM 1054 TO 1055
triangle in which each number
is the sum of the two directly Nebula) was visible from Earth. by European astronomers.
above it. Known as the Jia It was observed by Arabic and Astrologers viewed the comet as
Xian triangle, it is also often Chinese astronomers, who an omen, and found it especially
referred to in the West as described it as a guest star, signicant in the year of the
Pascals triangle, after French but its signicance was not Norman invasion of England.
mathematician Blaise Pascal realized by observers in Europe.
who described it 600 years later. In 1066, the comet now called The Bayeux tapestry
This embroidered record of the
In 1054, the massive explosion Comet Halley made one of
events surrounding the Battle
of a supernova (which formed its regular 76-year periodic of Hastings in 1066 shows the
what we now know as the Crab appearances and was described appearance of Halleys Comet.

outward pressure inward pressure neutron

of gas and radiation of gravity balances compressed shock wave star or
supports star outward pressure core implodes blows star apart black hole
hydrogen creates exhausted neutrinos material
envelope iron core released thrown out
by explosion

form in
active outer
core CORE IMPLOSION layers


A supernova is an explosion of a massive supergiant Subatomic particles called neutrinos are released
star at the last stage of its life. Over a long period of as implosion occurs. Now out of control, the star
time, a star builds up a core of iron, which eventually explodes with a huge amount of energy billions
collapses in on itself as the star runs out of fuel for of times more than the Sun, which is also a star
fusion. This results in an implosion that rapidly shining brighter than other stars and scattering
reheats the star and restarts the process of fusion. debris in all directions, over vast distances.

s ea s va
Jia ibe n es mer erno
0 50 escr n C
h on up o
c.1 an d Xia ater s
54 str e
Xi e Jia le, l the 10 ab a e th the
th ang as ngle Ar serv rms la
tri own l tria ob at fo ebu
kn sca th ab N
Pa Cr

r kn hted
e g
lat si
et y is
com alle
e H
Th et
66 om
10 s C


Omar Khayyam, from Treatise on Demonstration of Problems
of Algebra, 1070

This manuscript is one of the many treatises that Omar Khayyam wrote
on mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, and philosophy.

PERSIAN MATHEMATICIAN AND At Isfahan, he also worked on OMAR KHAYYAM (10481131)

ASTRONOMER Omar Khayyam his poetry, later collected in
began work on his Treatise on The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Demonstration of Problems of In 1079, he calculated the length Born in Persia (now Iran), Omar
Algebra in 1070, the year that he of a year as 365.24219858156 Khayyam showed a talent for
moved to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, days a greater degree of astronomy and mathematics at
and devoted himself to study and precision than ever before, and an early age; he wrote many of
writing. In it, he gave a complete remarkably close to the modern his treatises before he was 25
classication of the types of measurement of 365.242190 years old. In 1073, he was invited
cubic equation (an equation days. This led to the introduction by Sultan Malik-Shah to set up
involving a term to the power of a new calendar in the Islamic an observatory in Isfahan. Here,
of three, such as x+y3=15) and world, which was more accurate he worked on calendar reform
described for the rst time a than the Julian calendar used and astronomical tables, before
general theory for solving them in Europe at the time. returning to his home town.
using geometry. The method he Meanwhile, in China, the
used involved the use of conic polymath Shen Kuo retired from
sections and curves. He realized a successful career as a civil Pool Essays, named after his used in navigation to determine
that some equations, such as servant and military leader in garden estate, were nished in the direction of North. He also
quadratic (involving a squared the court of the Song dynasty, 1088, and included an overview contributed to the elds of
term) and cubic equations, and devoted his time to study. of the sciences of the time, as palaeontology and geology.
had more than one solution. He wrote an extraordinarily well as some innovative ideas. Describing the discovery
Khayyam was also wide-ranging collection of For example, Shen was the rst of the remains of marine
an accomplished essays on subjects as diverse to give a description of the creatures in the strata of a
astronomer: from 1073 he as politics, divination, music, magnetic compass needle. cliff hundreds of miles from
worked at the observatory and the sciences. The Dream He explained how it could be the coast, he suggested that
in Isfahan, Iran. Much of
his work was concerned
with the
of astronomical
these must have been covered
by silt over a long period
of time which would have
been later eroded and also
proposed that the cliff must
tables, but he
also helped to
SHOOTS WAS REVEALED have at some time been a
coastal area. He described
improve the accuracy THESE WERE SEVERAL fossilized bamboo unearthed

of the calendar. by a landslide, in an area where
bamboo does not grow, and

Bamboo THE PRESENT SURFACE came to the conclusion that this

was the remains of an ancient
Shens discovery of fossilized bamboo
in a cool and dry area led him to OF THE GROUND. forest from a time when the
climate of the area had been
conclude that the region would have
been warm and humid in the past. Shen Kuo, from Dream Pool Essays, 1088 signicantly different.

s am
ar in n yy h
m eg e o ha ngt s
7 0 O am b atis of ra K e
ar e l abl
10 ayy Tre tion geb Om es th d en
Kh iting stra of Al 7 9 t n m
wr mon ms 10 lcula ar a efor
De oble ca a ye ar r
Pr of lend

ple ays
m s
co Es
K uo ool
n P
he eam
8 8 S Dr


Our galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars and there are hundreds
of billions of galaxies, each containing similar numbers of these huge balls
of plasma (hot, ionized gas). A star glows because it is hot, and most of the
heat is generated by nuclear reactions in the stars core.
Around 6,000 stars are visible to the naked eye in LIFE CYCLES OF STARS In the 1930s, German-born physicist
the night sky. Apart from the Sun, they are so far Stars form in huge masses of gas and dust Hans Bethe (19062005) worked out
how nuclear fusion builds elements
away that, despite their enormous size, they called molecular clouds. Gravity causes matter inside stars, for which he was awarded
appear only as tiny points of light, even through in denser regions of these clouds to clump the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics.
powerful telescopes. together to form protostars. This gravitational
collapse produces heat, which causes atoms to nuclear fusion reaction releases energy,
THE SUN IS A STAR lose electrons, becoming ions, so the matter in which heats the protostar further: a star is
The Sun is by far the closest star: the light and the protostar becomes plasma a mixture of born. When the hydrogen runs out, nuclear
other radiation it produces takes eight minutes to ions and electrons. At the protostars centre, the fusion ends, and the star cools and collapses
reach Earth, compared with over four years from high temperature and pressure cause nuclei of under its own gravity. A stars nal destiny
the next nearest star. Like other stars, the Sun is hydrogen atoms to fuse together to form nuclei depends upon its mass; the most massive
composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, with of helium and some heavier elements. This stars end up as black holes (see opposite).
small amounts of other elements. Its luminous
surface (photosphere) is white hot, with a
temperature of about 5,500C (10,000F), and its
outer atmosphere, the corona, is much hotter.
The Sun is about 5 billion years old, and is about
halfway through its life cycle.

The molecular cloud in the Carina Nebula (part of which
As stars of low to intermediate mass near the ends of their
DIAMETER IS COMPARED is shown in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope)
is one of the largest known regions of star birth in our
lives, they eject haloes of hot gas, forming objects known as
planetary nebulae. At the centre of each such nebula is a small
WITH THE EARTHS galaxy, the Milky Way. remnant of the once much larger star, called a white dwarf.

STAR SIZES supergiant Sun

Stars come in a huge variety of sizes.
Supergiants, among the largest stars, large, hydrogen-
burning star white dwarf
can be over 1,500 times bigger than
the Sun. The Sun itself has a neutron
diameter of about 1.4 million km star
(about 870,000 miles) roughly
average for a star in the main part of black hole
its life. The smallest stars, neutron
red giant
stars, are only about 20 km (12.5
miles) across. Large stars Small stars
The main types of large star include supergiants, red Sun Small stars result from the death of larger stars. Stars
giants, and large hydrogen-burning stars.The Sun is like the Sun become white dwarfs, while more massive
an average-sized hydrogen-burning star. stars become tiny neutron stars or even black holes.

solar prominence,
a loop of plasma

corona extends millions

radiative zone of kilometres into space

sunspot, convection
a cooler region of zone
core, at a temperature
the photosphere
outward pressure, of 15 million C
generated by reactions in (27 million F)
the core, counteracts the
inward pull of gravity

photosphere, the
Sun's luminous
visible surface

gravity pulls

INSIDE THE SUN chromosphere,

Nuclear reactions in a layer of
the core generate huge atmosphere
amounts of energy, which above the
passes out through a layered photosphere
internal structure and escapes into
space. The outward pressure exerted
by this radiation would blow the star
apart were it not for the force of
gravity acting in opposition.

NEUTRON STARS AND BLACK HOLES star, even this force cannot halt collapse and the
Towards the end of a stars life, nuclear fusion star continues to shrink, eventually becoming a
falters. The star starts to cool and collapse under black hole a region of spacetime so dense that
its own gravity. Inside a star like the Sun, a force even light cannot escape from it. two-dimensional
representation of BLACK HOLE

160,00 0
called electron degeneracy pressure resists four-dimensional According to the general
further collapse and the star becomes a white spacetime theory of relativity, gravity
dwarf. However, in some more massive stars, is curvature of spacetime
due to mass (see 1916).
gravitational collapse overcomes this force and steep-sided A black hole is a region of
gravitational well
pushes electrons and protons together to form spacetime with a central
neutrons. The result is a neutron star, which is point of innite density
prevented from further collapse by a force called YEARS FROM EARTH TO a singularity that
produces an innitely
neutron degeneracy pressure. In a very massive THE NEAREST BLACK HOLE singularity deep well in spacetime.

110049 115099
A 17th-century painting shows workers at Venices Arsenale. Innovative construction
techniques enabled the Venetians to dominate the seaways for centuries.

AROUND 1104, THE CITY The Chinese had started to Raymond of Toledo INDIAN MATHEMATICIAN AND
AUTHORITIES IN VENICE ordered print on silk using stencils Archbishop Raymond is ASTRONOMER Bhaskara II
seen standing before King
the construction of the Arsenale, before the end of the Han (111485) described a perpetual
Alfonso VII at his coronation
a state shipyard and armoury, Dynasty (220 CE), but they in 1135, a demonstration motion machine, one that would,
which would employ 16,000 began to use multiple of the importance of royal once a force was imparted to it,
workers by the 17th century. colours in the wooden block patronage. carry on working indenitely.
The Arsenale pioneered new printing of pictures c.1107. Bhaskaras device was a wheel
production techniques, By 1340, the technique was whose spokes were lled with
Around 1121, in the mercury. He theorized that
Persian city of Merv,
al-Khazini wrote Book
of the Balance of Wisdom
mercury was sufciently heavy
so that as the wheels turned it
would ow to the edge of the

JUDGEMENTS MAY BE REGARDED in which he put forward a
theory of centres of
spokes and impel the machine
around another part-turn.
AS CERTAIN, EVEN WITHOUT OUR gravity. He suggested Bhaskara II was better known
KNOWING THE REASON. gravity varies according for his astronomical and
to the distance from the mathematical works, which
Abul Barakat al-Baghdadi, Kitab al-Mutabar, early 12th century centre of the world made him one of the most
the farther the objects are, respected Indian mathematicians
producing prefabricated parts applied to an edition of the the heavier they seem. of the Middle Ages. In Lilavati
and using a method of frame- Diamond Sutra (see 86199) had theorized that the motion English philosopher Adelard (named after his daughter), his
building for ships that made it where the main text is in black, of a projectile continues because of Bath (10801152) spent seven
possible to construct a vessel and the prayers are in red. of the mail (inclination, or motive years in Salerno and Sicily, where
in a single day. In the 11th century, Avicenna power) imparted to it by the he learned Arabic. His extensive
projector, but said that only one knowledge of Arabic culture and
TRANSLATING ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS such force could exist in a body at language led him in 1126 to
any time. This was later conrmed translate al-Khwarizmis
The works of many classical by French priest Jean Buridan astronomical work, the Sindhind
philosophers had been lost in (see 135062). Around 1120, Zij, (Astronomical Tables of
the Christian West, but they Baghdad philosopher Abu Sindhind) into Latin, bringing
were preserved through lBarakat (c.10801165) proposed his work to a wider audience.
translations made into Arabic that more than one mail could exist Raymond, Archbishop of Toledo
in the 8th and 9th centuries. in a projectile. As it fell, the mail in Spain from 112652,
These manuscripts in turn pushing it forwards weakened, and encouraged the translation of
became available in Europe another mail took over, causing it books from Arabic into Latin.
from the 12th century, where to accelerate downwards. These The rst translators were
they were translated into Latin mail forces caused acceleration. In succeeded in 1167 by Italian- In perpetual motion
This 13th century version of a
by scholars such as Gerard this way, he expressed the idea of born Gerard of Cremona
perpetual motion machine is an
of Cremona. the relationship between force (111487) who translated more overbalanced wheel with hinged
and acceleration. than 80 Arabic works. mallets around its rim.

ho th
on sc ses ory Ba II a re
n o
sia op he of ds ic ra t a
tru er i pr of t
d i
lar cl ab s ka s tha squ d
ns e 1 P zin rm de Eu Ar ha ate wo e an
Co nic gins 2 a 6 A ates from
B r t
4 e e 11 Kh ly fo ion 2 50 st s itiv
0 V
11 the ale b al- ear vitat 11 nsl nts 11 mon r ha pos tive
of sen an gra tra me tin d mb on ega
e e
e nu ots, er n
Ar of El o La
int ro e oth

at sh of
ar he do wi ne e
B of t en ole y Je orda , o mal t
eu n l f T man
h s on l a
es rs i g u n
Ab tio twe on o
ni va otu f
e sa
i n u et d of from pa Sa work ons Tr wn tise taly
Ch olo ntin 20 no be ati e c on tin
S n i 50 kno rac o, I
07 le c pri 11 ses hip ler se neti n m ns s 45 ia es a t
1 e ay atio ork o La 11 atic duc equ
1 rst , p rn
c. ultip lock
1 es ns acce i n g o R l l w int m ians Sale
pr io Ch ma ass ea 1 s
5 tran sica bic e pr ato i c s
m odb ex elat and 25 es p or ath r pe ysic
wo r e 11 us com to K 26 s a ad o
c 11 ders cla Ar m
qu ur ph
for ing ge o r E
at ya
56 o vo

Ibn Rushd (Averros), from Commentaries on the Physics, late 12th century

The philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averros) is banished from the court of the Almohads, after their
overthrow of the Almoravids, whom he served as court physician.

Worlds rst striking clock restricted this analysis to celestial stone, which included grid lines
An illustration from al-Saatis treatise on the bodies. Its extension to bodies and an indication of the scale
water clock shows the two falcons at each end
who would nod forwards every 60 minutes and on Earth would be made only of the map.
release a pellet onto a cymbal to sound the hour. in the 13th century by Thomas While waterwheels had long
Aquinas (c.122474). been used in Europe for the
In 1154, Arab engineer grinding of grain, around 1180
al-Kaysarani constructed the the idea was adapted to the use
worlds rst striking clock, of windpower. Unlike earlier
near the Umayyad mosque Persian windmills, which were
in Damascus. It was horizontal, the European
powered by water and vertical mills used a post
was described by al- design, with sails mounted on
Kaysaranis son Ridwan al a vertical tower that itself was
Saati in his 1203 treatise free to rotate as the wind varied.
On the Construction of By the 1190s, windmills had
Clocks and their Use. become so commonplace that
Islamic water clocks Pope Celestine III imposed a
became so sophisticated tax on them.
that in 1235 one was

built in Baghdad that
told people the times
most comprehensive treatise, he scope than those of prayer, day and night.
discussed fractions, algebra and developed by Isaac The advanced state of both
algorithms, permutations and Newton or Gottfried cartography and printing in
combinations, and the geometry Leibniz ve China are indicated by the
of triangles and quadrilaterals. centuries later. rst printed map, which dates
He also introduced the idea of The Spanish-born philosopher from around 1155 (at least three
negative quantities in geometry. Ibn Rushd (112698), known as centuries before its rst
In his Bija-Ganita (Seed Counting),
he concluded that the division
THE NUMBER Averros in Europe, commented
extensively on Aristotles work
European counterpart in 1475).
Contained in the Liu Ching Tu
of a number by zero would OF SQUARE in the 4th century BCE, seeking (Illustrations of Objects
produce innity. He also ROOTS OF to integrate his ideas with mentioned in the Six Classics), it
became the rst mathematician Islamic theology. Around 1154, depicted parts of western China
to realize that there are two ANY NUMBER in his work on Aristotles theory with rivers and provincial
square roots of a number, one of motion, Averros made a names given, and showed the
positive and one negative. In his of motion that came close to distinction for the rst time line of the Great Wall. Vane power
astronomical work of 1150, the an idea of differential calculus, between the motive force of A more grandiose cartographic This German windmill shows the
typical arrangement of four sails
Siddhanta-siromani (Head Jewel of which studies the rates at which an object (its weight) and the creation of the Chinese Sung
attached to a vertical post, but unlike
Accuracy), Bhaskara II performed quantities change. However, his inherent resistance of a body dynasty was the Yu Ji Tu, an 1137 earlier post-mills only the cap of the
calculations on small increments ideas were of much narrower to motion (its mass), although he map of the country carved in mill rotates to face the wind.

s) ch rry al lar s y
s en ie lic ho o te db
s ro
er tics Fr Th rites Bib ith sc ona oled nsla ke ng l
es en Ibn v 5 n n
lia e m T ra tin al in ac adi hoo
bb ing (A ne ea 15 gia s w ling w f
Ita of Cr ad o ol; t o La nt s
is I le sc
8 A of B s on ny 54 s i id c.1 eolo rtre nci ation y izo pear ope
5 11 shd of k the ve 67 e o t r no y V cal
51 ar tis bo
e ta
R eor ses s ha sts
u y th Cha reco cre olog 11 rard es h sch ks in o p
0H sa Eu
a ler enr edi
11 ldeg trea nd th pres ject resi of rks t of sm Ge com tion wor 18 ill ern S H m
c.1 ndm est 91 or of
i s
H ite ine a
ex at ob hat ce wo coun ic co be nsla 90 11 per line
wr dic t ac aton tra arly wi rthw Em dec
e th ss for no
m a
m tive Pl ne to

d r es
te ola os n
rin of ch ates
ni t p part na s l n M ise o s
Fir of Chi ian ns Latin ia
sic ea
t ot
sa st tal ra hy s tr ntid
ay s r in 55 p, n 0 I isa t into p
- K 11 ma ster 8
1 P n e
ish rit ir
Al rld ock us we c.1 of ale ew s w the
54 wo cl c
dio of G 8 J nide and
11 ilds ing mas u n s 9
bu stri
k Da rg rk 11 imo ns
Bu wo Ma pois

Donald Hill, Studies in Medieval Islamic Technology, 1998

ITALIAN MATHEMATICIAN that were useful for the Pisan

Leonardo Pisano (Fibonacci) merchants of his day, including a
published the Liber Abaci (Book method for multiplication using
of Calculations) in 1202, the rst a grid, advice on the barter of
major western European work goods, and the use of alloys
popularizing the use of Hindu to make coins. The Fibonacci
Arabic numerals and place sequence (below) is derived from
notation (see 86199). The book a problem that concerned the
also presented rules for growth of a rabbit population.
algebra, which he probably In 1206, Arab engineer Ibn
derived from al-Khwarizmi (see Ismail al-Jazari published the
82160), as well as solutions for Book of Knowledge of Ingenious
nding square and cube roots. and Mechanical Devices, detailing
Fibonacci described techniques 50 machines, including the rst
descriptions of crankshafts
Ingenious devices and camshafts. The most
This illustration of one of al-Jazaris spectacular of these was a 2 m-
mechanical devices shows an
(6.5 ft-) high water clock in the
automaton that pours water from
a pot, then returns to a chamber form of an elephant with a
where it is scooped back up again. phoenix that marked half-hours.

each number in sequence continues

sequence is sum of in same way
two numbers before it indenitely
starts with 1 1+1 1+2 2+3 3+5

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8

The Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each

successive number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it.
Any number in the series is known as a Fibonacci number. These
occur surprisingly often in nature, with the number of petals of
many owers being Fibonacci numbers (daisies have 13, 21, or
34), while the arrangement of leaves on a plant stem is also
determined according to a ratio connected to this sequence.

i r
cc be
o na e Li g ian gh ne
F i b t h din bic tal Hu wi
02 he un Ara 14 I ian ses ic
12 blis xpo du 12 ysic ca u ept ole
pu aci Hin ph Luc ntis ves r ion
Ab e of als of an a ser fect
us mer as d ob in in
nu an pus

f ola
ko ch ates
B oo ous d
sh s l ry
i no tti an ta
is gen ices
ar sy he co ot tr lane atin
az f In ev fts ch of t at S L
l-J ge o cal D sha fts r
hu dy tle y 17 Sc s P to
A 12 ael ruji y in
06 led an an sha
i k A c stu to sit ch -Bit eor
12 now ech s cr am 2 10 the Aris iver i
M al Th
K d M ibe d c 1 s
n of Un
an escr an ba orks aris
58 d w P


A 13th-century illustration shows the ow of blood through the body by

means of veins. The top of the heart can just be seen.

EARLY CHINESE GUNPOWDER Rockets in the making axiom that equal weights at
WEAPONRY had been relatively Shown here is an early equal distances from a fulcrum
Chinese rocket of the
low powered, in the form of are in equilibrium (see pp.3435),
kind used at the siege
hand-hurled grenades or of Kaifeng in 1232. The Jordanus introduced the idea
re-arrows, with a small charge soldier is about to light of virtual displacement
attached to the shaft. In 1231, the fuse on the bamboo (which looks at the effects
gunpowder container.
faced with a Mongol invasion, the of innitesimal changes on
Chinese defenders of Ho Chung a mechanical system) into the
deployed the Heaven-Shaking science of mechanics. His De
Thunder Crash Bomb, which Ratione Ponderis (On the Theory
contained gunpowder rich of Weight) also investigated the
enough in saltpetre to burst problem of downward forces
an iron casing. The resulting acting along the trajectory of a FIBONACCI (C.11701250)
explosion could be heard 50 km moving body. He demonstrated
(31 miles) away, and the shrapnel that the more oblique the objects Leonardo Pisano (Fibonacci)
from the explosion was said to explosive charge. Another form of a key role in reconciling trajectory, the smaller the was born into a wealthy
have torn iron armour to pieces. the weapon was used as an early Aristotelian philosophy and downward forces (later merchant family in Pisa, Italy.
In 1232, the Chinese also used an form of amethrower, which scientic method with Christian understood as positional gravity). His father was in charge of
early form of rocket consisting of could shoot re up to 2 m (6.5 ft) thinking through his commentary Jordanus also developed proof to the Pisan trading colony in
a spear with a bamboo container towards an enemy, causing on Aristotles Posterior Analytics, show the point at which weights Bugia in Tunisia, and there
packed with gunpowder attached appalling injuries. published from 1220 to 1235. His supported by angled (or bent) Fibonacci came into contact
to it. When lit, these re-spears Robert Grosseteste (c.1168 logical method was rigorous, a levers on a fulcrum will be with Arabic mathematical
were propelled forwards by the 1253), Bishop of Lincoln, played process he called resolution and in equilibrium (balanced). ideas. Aged 32, he published

composition, which involved the
testing, by experiment if possible,
of hypotheses, and the rejection of
any conclusions that were not
Syrian polymath and anatomist
Ibn al-Nas (121388) produced
a major medical compendium
the Sharh Tashrish al-Qanun
the Liber Abaci, which
brought him great fame and
he gave a mathematical
demonstration to King
based on observation. His theory (Commentary on Anatomy in Ibn Frederick II of Sicily.
FIGURES IS OF THE that all changes were caused by Sinas Canon). It contained a host

GREATEST UTILITY SINCE the action of forces acting

through a medium led him to
of anatomical discoveries, but
al-Nass major breakthrough to the left through pores in the
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR study optics and to write treatises was his discovery of how blood wall that separated the two

on rainbows and astronomy. circulated between the heart chambers. However, he did not
NATURAL PHILOSOPHY Around 1230, European and lungs. He showed that blood explain how the blood then

TO BE KNOWN WITHOUT mathematician Jordanus de

Nemore produced a new theory
circulates from the right-hand
side of the heart to the left
returned from the hearts left
ventricle to the right. A full theory
THEM. of levers in his Elementa Super
Demonstrationem Ponderum
through the lungs, in contrast to
the traditional view of Galen (see
of bloods circulation would not
be formulated until William
Robert Grosseteste, English philosopher and theologian, in On Lines, (Elements on the Demonstration 100250), who held that blood Harvey in the 17th century
Angles, and Figures, c.1235 of Weight). Building on Aristotles seeped in from the right ventricle (see 162830).

t ba ian e ple
er of of s l sic th
ob te f t y ica hy iles n Sim l
0 R tes Li ud ari em p
2 31 st t P h ic mp k o tia eia
12 osse hes ry 12 the le a 0 C of am co oo en po
Gr blis enta es y tics on istot sity 4 dia he he
d Isl tar e B u aco
30 ope ew t blis 8 y
24 Ba nsi st i rm
v n
pu mm totl nal Ar iver 2
c.1 cycl lom n pu c.1 al- ehe mo pha
co Aris ior A Un en rtho hma n r
Ib mp , th ra e b
on ster Ba glis Co ugs val A
Po En Dr die

c ian rces
de hs
at f
ys ou es ce
us y ue t o ph s S ass of du n
d an heor s eq en for i an ishe e Cl ory e ro rk o e
or s t er b r
y b l n i p o in
0 J op lev al ar shm ly in 6 S pu on
th ist ici
g C r w ic
23 evel of virtu nt hw li ive e, 4 ah ion rst me
h d on eve med
. 1
c e d ium of me ak stab clus icin cus 5 S
- D e s 4 bi at , ic 47 rst nsic
or r a ce Al for l ex ed ma 12 say rm ians rab 12
m ilib ide la 31 ey hoo of m Da i U f I nf o y si c A for
Ne equ the disp 2 n
1 o sc in g b
A o Ph
o and m st ch f
r tea o

Roger Frugardi, Italian surgeon, from Chirurgia, late 12th century

Surgeon Roger Frugardis surgical treatise, Chirurgia (Surgery), was one of Europes earliest
books on surgery. This illustration shows a hernia operation in progress.


PHYSICIAN Gilbert the
(see 100029). He examined the
properties of differently shaped
Englishman completed the lenses, and described the use
Compendium Medicinae THE QUEEN OF and mathematics behind
(Compendium of Medicine). It SCIENCES AND magnifying lenses although he

became one of the most widely did not, as commonly supposed,
used medical works of the THE GOAL actually invent spectacles.
Middle Ages and was translated OF ALL Italian surgeons Hugo
from Latin into German, Hebrew, SPECULATION. (c.11801258) and Teodorico
Catalan, and English. The work Borgognoni (120598) came
had separate volumes devoted Roger Bacon, in Opus Tertium, 1267 from a family of doctors who
to the head, heart, respiratory practised in Bologna, a leading
organs, fevers, and womens convince the Church of the centre of medicine. By the 1260s,
diseases. In the books, Gilbert virtues of new learning. It also Teodorico was advocating the
also wrote about the diagnosis contained the rst description of cleansing of wounds with wine
of leprosy by its numbing gunpowder in western Europe, and their rapid closing up. This
effect on skin. and ideas for ying machines practice was in contrast to
In 1266, English friar and scholar and steam ships. The section on most contemporary medical
Roger Bacon completed his Opus optics was particularly important. practitioners who went along
Majus (Greater Work). Ostensibly In it, Bacon agreed with Arab with Greek physician Galens
a plea for church reform, the scholar Alhazens view that vision insistence that pus be allowed
work included large sections on is made possible when rays to form in wounds. The
experimental observation and emanating from the object Borgognonis also advocated
natural sciences, intended to viewed enter into the eye using dry bandaging for
wounds discarding the salves
ROGER BACON (122092) and poultices used at the time.
They also used an early form of
Educated at Oxford University, anaesthesia by holding sponges
England, Roger Bacon soaked with narcotics such as
travelled to Paris, where he opium or hemlock near the
lectured on Aristotle. In 1247, noses of patients who were
he gave up his post to research about to undergo surgery.
privately. He joined the
Franciscan Order in 1257 in
order to continue his studies.
He was commissioned by Pope Opus Majus
Clement IV to produce a work This diagram from Roger Bacons
major work shows the structure
on church reform, which led to
of the eye, the curvature of its lens,
his Opus Majus in 1267. and how light rays striking the
lens produce vision.

m s
iu er be he s
nd s og scri of t rtie
he mpe ico te ith ic 7 R de ure ope es
t Co es or voca ds w thet 6
er d
eo ad un aes 12 acon uct e pr lens
ilb ns lud sy 0 T ni o n s B str th ng
0 G hma e inc pro 26 gno of w f a tion e d i
12 glis icin of le c.1 rgo ing se o era th e an nify
En Med sis o s
B an nd n o u p ey mag
of gno cle ne a ics i of
dia wi rcot

M ag oes
s a n by
rtu lc d
l be at vo ause inds
A h c w
60 s t are ean
12 rite n
w r ra

126979 128099

Pierre de Maricourt, French scholar, describing the compass in Epistola
de Magnete, 1269

Figures wearing eyeglasses soon found their way into religious art, as is shown here

in this 1491 detail from the Betrayal by Judas in Notre Dame, Paris, France.


nally completed his calendar. SECONDS
According to his calculations, a THE DIFFERENCE
year had 365.2425 days.
The earliest surviving cannon
is from China and was made CALCULATION
c.1288. Before cannons were AND ACTUAL
strengthened by the use of cast
iron barrels, the Chinese had
probably used bronze tubes to
eject projectiles using gunpowder (c.12601310), who wrote that he damaged their eyes by viewing
explosives. Manuscripts of 1274 had seen them in 1286. Early the Sun directly. In order to
and 1277, however, refer to huo glasses were convex (curving prevent this, William used a
pao explosive weapons used by out) to correct long-sightedness. camera obscura a type of
Gaocheng observatory the Mongols to demolish the Concave lenses (curving in) for pinhole camera in which light
IN 1269, FRENCH SCHOLAR Of its two towers, one contained an ramparts of Chinese cities so short-sightedness did not appear goes into a dark chamber and is
armillary sphere. Between them lay
PIERRE DE MARICOURT the invention may have occurred for more than a century. projected through a tiny aperture
a sky-measuring scale to measure
wrote Epistola de magnete (Letter the shadow of the 12-metre gnomon. a little earlier. In 1290, French astronomer onto another surface, such as
on the Magnet), the rst work Although the magnifying William of St Cloud gave an a card, opposite it. The technique
to describe the properties of calibrated with a ring representing properties of glass lenses had account of a solar eclipse had been used by earlier
magnets. In it, he set out the equatorial coordinates, a system been studied by English bishop witnessed by him ve years astronomers, such as Alhazen in
laws of magnetic attraction and not used in Europe until the time Robert Grosseteste (11751253) earlier. Many of those who the 11th century, to prove that
repulsion, and explained how to of Tycho Brahe (see 156574) and Roger Bacon earlier in the had observed the eclipse had intersecting rays do not interfere
identify the poles of compasses. three centuries later. He then 13th century, the with each other. William,
Maricourts work led to the established astronomical rst description however, was the rst to explain
construction of better magnetic observatories at Peking (Beijing) of eyeglasses its use in solar observation.
compasses, which became and Gaocheng, near Loyang, was given by a He also calculated an accurate
invaluable aids in sea navigation. China, between 1279 and 1280. Dominican friar value by which the Earth tilts on
He also described the operation At the latter, a 12 m- (39 ft-) high Giordano da Pisa its axis, by observing the Suns
of a perpetual motion machine, gnomon (shaft on a sundial) sat position at the solstices. In
which worked using magnetism. on top of a pyramid, casting addition, he produced an
In 1276, the Mongol ruler of shadows, which were measured almanac with detailed positions
China, Kublai Khan, asked at the time of the Suns solstices Camera obscura of the Sun, Moon, and planets
This 16th-century
mathematician and engineer to help determine the length of at various dates between 1292
illustration of a
Guo Shoujing (12311316) to the year. Guo used advanced camera obscura and 1312.
reform the calendar. To perform trigonometry to calculate the shows how an image
this task, Guo rst had a series length of a year. of the Sun is reversed
after light passes
of astronomical instruments
through an aperture
constructed. This included a vast on to a surface in a
equatorial armillary sphere darkened room.

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coiled springs beneath

chassis store and
programmable gears can release energy tiller alters
be set to steer the car
direction of
in a particular direction
front wheel for
manual steering

like a childs toy

car, spinning the
wheels in reverse
stores energy in
the spring brake mechanism keeps
the car stationary
until released


c.230 BCE South-pointing chariot c.125 BCE 13th century

Early gears Zhang Hengs armillary sphere Mechanical clocks in Europe
The Chinese south-pointing Chinese scholar Zhang Heng builds The rst mechanical clocks
chariot probably uses a an armillary sphere driven by gears using gears to drive the rotation
gear arrangement that and water. His model, showing the of pointers and to control the
ensures the gure at the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars, striking of chimes are invented.
front points to the would go on to inuence not only They are powered by the
south as the Chinese gear technology, but also controlled drop of a weight
wheels turn. later clockmakers (see 700799). Clock at Salisbury Cathedral attached to a drive chain.

c.200 BCE c.7th century 1206

Watermills Persian windmills Book of Ingenious Devices
Greek watermills that use gears to The rst functional Arab polymath al-Jazari
harness hydropower begin to spread windmills, developed writes a treatise describing the
throughout the GraecoRoman world. in Persia, have construction of 100 remarkable
The Chinese develop their own water horizontal sails that machines including
wheel technology about 200 years drive the rotation the crankshaft
later, with gearing mechanisms to of a vertical shaft. many of which rely Al-Jazaris
Chinese watermill drive various motions. Windmill gear on gears. treatise



The ability to alter the direction of a force, transmit it from one

axis of rotation to another, or trade force with movement, is rack and pinion gear
converts linear motion to
a vital aspect of many modern machines. Yet, such mechanical rotary motion or vice versa
functions often rely on gearing techniques that are centuries old. bevel gears,
with their tilted
edge, transmit
A gear is a wheel mounted on a central In ancient Greece, gear technology reached rotation from
rotating axis, with a series of teeth or its apex with devices such as the Antikythera one axis to
cogs around its outer edge that can engage mechanism a complex astronomical calculator
with the cogs of another gear. The teeth allow recovered from a Mediterranean shipwreck screw-like
the gear to transmit its angular motion to its around 1900. helical gear
engages with a
neighbour, forming a pairing known as a worm gear spur gears, the
transmission. The ratio of teeth between the two PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS whose teeth simplest form
are arranged of straight-
wheels determines the speed and force with which More immediate practical applications of gears, at an angle toothed gears
the second gear rotates, providing a so-called such as their use in harnessing power from
mechanical advantage; a smaller secondary owing water and wind, gradually spread arrangement of spur
gears causes the gear
gear rotates more rapidly, but with less torque throughout the ancient world. Treadmills powered with fewer teeth to
or rotational force. by animals or even humans became common. rotate more rapidly

The earliest specic devices known to Gears found various applications in mills our bevel and spur
have used gears were the Chinese south- mills are perhaps the most familiar, but saw transmissions change
direction of motion
pointing chariots direction-nding mills also used gears to turn rotating cutting
devices used in the 3rd century BCE. blades, and hammer mills used gearing to lift
and drop heavy hammers for beating metal TYPES OF GEARS
or minting coins.
Leonardo da Vincis vehicle New advances led to the development of Gears can be designed or arranged in a variety
This model of self-propelled traditional clockwork in Europe in around of ways to transmit motion from one direction
automobile was built from the 13th century, and the Industrial Revolution to another. Complex transmission assemblies
a Leonardo da Vinci sketch.
The force from the saw the development of further ingenious can take the motive power from a single rotating
expansion of two wound transmissions to harness the power of steam drive shaft and apply it to drive a range of linear
springs is transmitted engines. The use of gears has continued to the movements or to propel further rotating shafts
through ingenious
gearing to drive present day in modern machines ranging from at any speed required.
the rear wheels. automobiles to inkjet printers.

1781 1835 1990s

Murdochs gearing Gear hobbing proccess Nanotechnology
1480 Scottish engineer William British engineer Joseph Machines created on a
Leonardo da Vincis work on gears Murdochs sun and planet Whitworth invents nano-scale often rely on
Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci utilizes gear transmission converts hobbing the rst the same gearing
complex gear assemblies in many of his vertical motion, such as process for the principles as larger
inventions, such as lens-grinding and that of a steam-driven production of high devices, except that the
metal-rolling devices, and shows a deep beam, into the rotational precision gears, on gear wheels are mere
theoretical understanding of their function. motion of a driveshaft. Sun and planet gearing an industrial scale. Plastic gear micrometres across.

18th century 19th century Safety 1950s

Industrial Revolution Development of bicycles bicycle Plastic gears
The rise of steam power during the Through the 19th century, Gears made from new
Industrial Revolution drives advances bicycles gradually develop from plastics materials are
in gear technology. The linear motion the scooter-like velocipedes introduced from the 1950s.
of steam pistons is applied to the that were invented around They lack the strength of
rotation of locomotive wheels. 1817 to pedal-powered properly machined metal
machines that use gears gears, but are far more easily
Steam locomotive and a drive chain. and cheaply manufactured.