Archimedes Palimpsest

Saw a cool Nova episode this evening on the Archimedes Palimpsest, which had some fine storytelling leading us into the tale of how Archimedes, at something like 200 BC, prefigured the calculus.

He was using sums of infinite numbers of slices of non-trivial three-dimensional geometrical objects to calculate their volume. Smart guy. But the intriguing storyline of the Nova piece was how Archimedes’ work was lost, wiith what appears to be the surviving copy of his “Methods” torn apart and copied over by some dumbass monk around 1200 AD who needed paper to write his prayers on. Imagine, the Nova people suggested, how Renaissance science would have been accelerated if they’d had Archimedes to draw on.

update: Reader Ryan points out the delicious accidental pun – “to draw on”. I can’t claim credit. I’m a terrible punster.