Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Lewis Carroll’s “Eligible Apartments”

Between 1880 and 1885 Lewis Carroll published ten very short stories in The Monthly Packet, each of which posed mathematical problems. Carroll referred to these stories as “knots” and invited readers to send in answers to the problems in each. Carroll printed the answers he received and at times chided the readers who answered incorrectly. […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Apollodorus’s Siege Tower

Apollodorus of Damascus is generally thought to have written the “Πολιορκητικά,” a treatise on siege engines, addressed to an unnamed emperor (probably Trajan). The text first treats siege engines used to besiege a hilltop fort, machines to protect troops from objects rolled down the hill as well as devices for protecting men attacking the base […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Astrolabes on Iraqi Banknotes

In late 2003 the Coalition Provisional Authority governing Iraq introduced new banknotes and coins to replace the Hussein government’s currency. Celebrating the contributions Islamic scholars made to science, the new 250 dinar note was decorated with an engraving of an astrolabe on the obverse (and the Great Mosque of Samarra on the reverse). It wasn’t […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

A Tabernacle-Shaped Earth

Although Cosmas Indicopleustes is far from a household name, he enjoys an outsized reputation (at least in the abstract) as a representative of the benighted medieval belief that the earth was flat. To be sure, in his “Topographia Christiana” he says the earth is a parallelogram surrounded by oceans. Moreover, this parallelogram-shaped earth was stuffed […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Making Saltpeter in the 1690s

In the late 17th century Allain Mallet published a three volume work Les Travaux de Mars, ou l’Art de la Guerre,[1] illustrated with dozens of engravings showing all aspects of warfare. He includes chapters on different fortress designs, the benefits and drawbacks to them, and their construction. There are chapters on encampments and engagements. Chapters […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Eratosthenes Measures the Earth

In this 13th/14th-century copy of Cleomedes’ textbook on astronomy, typically referred to as “De motu circulari corporum caelestium,” is this illustration of Eratosthenes’ method for calculating the circumference of the earth. The outer oval is the signs of the zodiac in their zoomorphic/anthropomorphic forms, each labeled with its name. The sun is located in Cancer, […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Joseph Grünpeck’s “Prodigiorum potentorem”

In 1501 Joseph Grünpeck had to leave his service at the imperial court because he had recently contracted the French Disease.[1] In his absence, however, he continued to maintain connections with bureaucrats at Maximilian’s court. In 1502 he dedicated his “Prodigiorum potentorem” to Blasius Hölzl, Maximilian’s finance secretary. In this manuscript, Grünpeck recounted the many […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Another Byzantine Wind Diagram

This Byzantine wind diagram, also titled “Diagram about thunder, storms, rainstorms, and earthquakes,” closely resembles the previous Byzantine Wind Diagram. Both come from latter 16th-century manuscripts. This particular copy was never finished—the elements are missing from the center of the diagram, the “παναχῆ” is also missing in this copy.[1] Once again, we see the aspects […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Johannes Stabius’s “Figura Labyrinthi”

In 1504, shortly after Johannes Stabius was crowned Poet Laureate and probably about the time he was appointed Imperial Historian, he produced three labyrinths. Two of these take the traditional shapes, one was a square and one a circle. The other one, in the shape of a triangle, is a little more unusual. The set […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Byzantine Wind Diagram

This diagram, titled “Diagram about thunder, storms, rainstorms, and earthquakes,” seems to be a type of wind diagram, which arranged the terrestrial elements, planetary aspects, meteorological phenomena, and winds, signs of the zodiac, and the cardinal directions. Starting from the center we see the four elements—earth, water, air, fire—surrounded by the common planetary aspects. The […]