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This Day in History

World History

Saturday, May 17, 1902. :   Archaeologist Spyridon Stais discovers the Antikythera mechanism, believed to be an early clockwork mechanism from circa 87 BC.

     Spyridon Stais was a leading archaeologist working a shipwreck that had been discovered at a depth of about 40 metres off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1900. On 17 May 1902, divers retrieving staues and other items from the wreck brought up a piece of rock which had a gear wheel embedded in it. The item, which has become known as the Antikythera mechanism, is one of the oldest surviving geared mechanisms, made from bronze in a wooden frame.

Since its discovery, scientists have theorised over its purpose. The most commonly accepted theory of its function is that it was an analog computer designed to model the movements of heavenly objects. Recent working reconstructions of the device support this analysis. The device is all the more impressive for its use of a differential gear, which was previously believed to have only been invented in the 16th century.

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