OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

(Founded 24 January, 1895)

Meeting Number 1814

4:00 P.M.

October 20th , 2011



By: W. Leonard Taylor, M.D.

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


This saga is about an incredibly miraculous chain of events. The ending is still in progress but it has revolutionized our understanding of the genius of antiquity. Some of the events are entirely out of human control while others reflect the results of human interaction augmented by curiosity, passion, and competition. This paper, for the most part, is not about mechanical detail, but rather about people who strived to make the incomprehensible comprehensible – and how their lives were forever changed, as they unraveled a creation historians could not believe and still have trouble accepting.




There is a largely unknown saga of ancient and modern history spanning over two thousand years. During this period a series of coincidences occurred so unbelievably unique, that it stagers the imagination. If any one of them had failed to materialize, the chain of necessary conditions would have collapsed leaving historians on a shore of major misunderstanding. The magnitude of the word “major” cannot be overemphasized. Never before has there been a discovery so long enshrouded in mystery, which on being unraveled, resulted in such an unparalleled shift in traditional historical thought regarding the genius of deep antiquity. Without this information the world would have been left with a fateful historical blunder. So just what were the series of incidences, which if any had failed, would have caused this critical information to fall like a house of cards, leaving a quintessential misunderstanding of history. The very sole of scientific history would have been plucked from human knowledge. Plucked even before it could have been known, much less accepted.

My interest began in June 1959 upon reading an article in the Scientific American entitled, “An Ancient Greek Computer”, written by Derek J. de Solla Price. (Price, 1959) By contrast to men that literally gave their lives in the study of the mechanism, mine was limited in trying to keep up with the literature and a trip to Athens to see the instrument in person. Articles were few and far between for about three decades gradually leading to a trickle of information. Then about 15 years ago it became a torrent. So much so you would think that everyone in the world knew about the Antikythera mechanism. But even to this day, as monumental as this object is, one finds most individuals have never heard of it. Although I have not personally tried to find to what extent this is covered in mainstream history books, I suspect it is very little. (Seabrook. 2007).

So where should this enigmatic saga begin? And where did the chronicle become unbearably close to extinction on many occasions. It is an epic fitting the mythology of ancient Greece, and in ancient Greece is exactly where it begins.

A 300-ton ship laden with magnificent marble and bonze Greek artifacts, (Rice, 1995) set sail from Pergamum about 60 BC, headed for Rome. (Feeth, 2009) This was a period of transition in which the Roman Empire was in ascendency. The wealthy were decorating their villas with coveted works of Greek art and this ship was filled with objects to satisfy the demand. On this journey the first of a long series of unanticipated events occurred. First a great storm arose causing the overloaded ship to take on water. The ship sank with all its artifacts and began its decent to the bottom of the sea. But then the second of unanticipated events occurs that prevents the ship from going to the bottom of the deep abyss, where it would have been nearly impossible to find. Instead the ship came to rest on a narrow ledge 130 feet below the surface, on the side of a tiny island, where it lay avoiding detection for over two thousand years while Empires were formed, grew and crumbled. (Price, 1959) Historians pontificated. It was universally agreed that the Greeks could never have made the mysterious object, which was subsequently found on board that ship.

Therein lies the crux of this tale. The historians now have been proven wrong and the genius of the Greek civilization has been firmly established. The impact this has had on understanding Iron Age scientific knowledge is beyond monumental. (Marchant, 2009)

During the two thousand years it lay hidden in the sea, it escaped destruction along with many others creations of the demonized Greek civilization. (Freeman, 2002) So its watery two thousand year sequestration constitutes another link in the chain of fortunate coincidences.

As the two thousand year period came to an end, the hiding place of this mysterious object was about to be discovered. This discovery was made by a group of very hard working sailors who made their living harvesting sponges. Their profession resulted in high mortality and morbidity because of a danger they had no way of understanding. They knew, of course, the agonizing afflictions and frequent death of their fellow divers, but the high demand of sponges made for high incomes of those that survived. This affliction we now know to be caused by bubbles from nitrogen dissolved in the blood under the pressure of the deep water. The nitrogen in the dissolved state is actually not the main cause of the problem. It is rather due to a phenomenon the modern world observes every day as they open a can of carbonated beverage. There is an instantaneous release of bubbles. The bubbles that form as the can is snapped open is due to the dissolved carbon dioxide gas placed in the liquid under pressure during manufacture. In the situation of the sponge divers, it is dissolved nitrogen from the air, which is forced into the blood stream under the pressure of the deep water. The release of this pressure like snapping the lid of a pop bottle happens if the diver surfaces too rapidly producing bubbles in the blood stream. The tiny bubbles aggregate causing blockage of flow of blood through the small blood vessels. These small blood vessels are precisely where oxygen is transferred to the tissues to keep the tissues alive. The tissues then become necrotic, resulting in agonizing pain and death. This condition is known clinically as the bends. (Marchant, 2009)

Sponge diving had been a constant source of income from before the time of Homer, about 1000 BC. They could descend to 90 feet below the surface. The duration of their dives was limited by their lung capacity, so of necessity, was of short duration. This prevented the divers from developing the bends. Short duration dives are not a risk because it takes time for the nitrogen to go into solution. This all changed in 1837 when a prolific German inventor by the name of Siebe invented a diving helmet attached to a watertight suit. Air was pumped down by an air compressor. Now the divers could go down to 220 feet and remain there. By about 1865 the suits were bought to Symi, which was the home of most of the sponge divers. Fortunes were made. Of course it was all too good to be true. No one there knew at that time about the bends although it had been described in the 1840s in miners, and people working on the footing of bridges. The name bends came from the tortured body position, some of which simulated a popular pose known as the Gratian Bend. Between 1886 and 1920 around 10,000 divers died and 20,000 were paralyzed. One can imagine the adverse impact this had on the families and lives of the sponge divers. Subsequently most of the helmets and the suits were abandoned throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The divers, returning from Tunisia in the summer of 1900, risked death by continued use of the helmet. They traveled in small boats carrying 15 divers who would share one battered helmet. When they reached the passage between Cape Malea and Crete they encountered a great gale. Captain Kontos, sought shelter off a small island. Three days later the shrieking wind in the rigging began to abate and calmness returned to the surface. So there they were, next to this small island in a region noted for its lack of sponges – tired, with a boat full of sponges gathered in Tunisia and eager to go home. Then the last thing one would have expected happened – Elias Stadistis, one of the divers had an unusual thought. We will never know exactly why, but he decided to dive. This dive forever changed the world! He had no way of knowing the incredible and equally unpredictable chain of events that would follow. Then to the amazement of those on deck he surfaced in just 5 minutes in a very agitated state. (Marchant, 2009) He was convinced that a ship had recently sunk depositing a heap of naked women. (Wikipedia. Der Mechanismus von Antikythera). Captain Kontos immediately went down and discovered a 150-foot long deposit of bronze and marble statues corroded and encrusted with marine sediment. Keep in mind the miraculous coincidence of an ancient ship landing on a narrow ledge, which by chance was just below a sponge diver ship stranded by a storm. The sponge diver ship had by chance a helmet. These helmets had practically disappeared from the Mediterranean. Couple this with the pleasant coincidence that the ancient wreck was in range of the helmeted diver.

Knotos resurfaced carrying of all things, a bronze arm. The finding of a bonze arm from a statue generated tremendous excitement in Athens and throughout Greece. The Bronze arm dated the wreckage to be least 2,000 years old. Within days a Greek navy transport with Kontos, his divers and an archeologist aboard arrived at the site. It was the 24th of November 1900. As the artifacts were transported to the National Archeological museum, crowds came from long distances to see the treasures --corroded or not. Newspapers carried every day, the unfolding drama, in scintillating detail. It was the largest find of ancient Greek bronzes ever found.

Then problems arose. The divers were having problems finding the artifacts, partly because so many had been taken out and partly because large boulders obscured the objects. The archeologist determined that the huge boulders had been dislodged by an earthquake and fallen from the cliffs above the water. A scheme was devised to pull several of these monstrous boulders over the subterranean ledge into the abyss below, which extended down to 11,600 feet. Fortunately, another archeologist, by the name of Stais came aboard. He had another idea. Could those boulders be colossal statues so overgrown the divers could not recognize them. And of course that is exactly what they were!

Then for the next 40 years the experts argued the age of the artifacts and wound up with a very wide range spanning the second century BC to the third century AD. There was great interest in knowing the date because, taken out with the statues was an encrusted bronze mystery, the likes of which had never before been seen. So it was a double miracle – their boat was not only by chance above a major archeological site, but also the site contained a bronze encrusted object. The object would take more than a century to unravel. This object became known as the Antiythera Mechanism because the small island’s name, where Captain Kontos sought shelter, was Antikythera. The “anti’ part of the name comes from its close physical distance to a larger nearby island by the name of “Kythera”.

After all the above-mentioned situations that nearly resulted in the total loss of the Antikythera Mechanism, there was another calamity. Bronze, which is 90% copper and 10% tin, is relatively safe as long as it remains in seawater. Had it been constructed of iron it would have soon become an amorphous lump of sludge. But by a fortunate coincidence of inorganic chemistry, sea waster reacts with the copper in the bronze, forming copper chloride. Tin in seawater forms tin oxide. The two compounds form a thin protective film of copper chloride and tin oxide on the surface of the bronze protecting it from damage. So it would seem that all was well. But, removing the bronze from the sea results in a series of chemical reactions in which the oxygen from the air along with moisture reacts with copper chloride forming hydrochloric acid. This acid attacks the underlying bronze to form more copper chloride, which again reacts with the oxygen in the air to form more hydrochloric acid. This will go on forever destroying the bronze and whatever object it is made into. This fate nearly became a reality as this object remained in a crate in the open courtyard of the National Archeology Museum, unnoticed and self-destructing. (Marchant, 2009) It could have remained unnoticed and would have self destructed except by a chance coincidence of a museum worker eight months later. (World-Mysteries, 2002) He picked up the decaying lump and carried it personally to the museum director, Valorios Stais. The outer layers of the artifact had been completely destroyed. The slightest touch caused the powdery material to crumble beyond recognition. Stais was an ambitious well-trained individual who had studied medicine and archeology and then at the age of thirty became director of the prestigious Archeologic Museum. Since 1889 he had been working on arranging and displaying the artifacts that found their way to Athens. This object was completely different. He had never seen anything like it. Recognizable gear wheels were present. Jo Marchant writing in “Decoding the Heavens”, from which much of this paper comes, comments. “The overall effect was eerie and otherworldly, like finding a steam engine on the ancient pitted surface of the Moon”. The cogs and gears had small carefully crafted teeth that required a magnifying glass to count. Stais was overwhelmed. This mechanism had to be 2000 years old. But it couldn’t be. Nothing like it had ever before been discovered in antiquity. Besides the Greeks were not supposed to have this degree of sophistication. Clock works didn’t show up in the Europe for another 1000 years. He knew he was in over his head. He made contact with two expert consultants; one was John Svovonos, director of the National Numismatic Museum of Athens. He was one of the most serious archeologists in Greece. The second contact was Aldof Wilhelm a young brilliant Austrian, expert in inscriptions, who just happened to be in Athens at the time. He determined the device to be dated between two centuries BC and 2nd century AD. Svoronas dated it to the first half of the 3rd century AD. Svoronas worked with Periclas Rediadis, a professor of geodesy and hydrography (Measuring the Earth and the Sea). He provided the first technical account of what he called “this completely strange instrument”. Svoranas noted the instrument was carried in a wooden box, and decided it was not a piece of cargo, but rather a navigational instrument used by the crew. He put great weigh on a very unusual technical Greek word referring to a graduated scale. This launched speculation that this object was some sort of Astrolabe. Without going into detail on the functions of an Astrolabe, suffice it to say it is an instrument dating back into antiquity, which could find the time and position of the Sun and Stars. It was used until the 17th century. They were not used aboard ships to any great extent, as they could not give longitude or latitude. During the next few years, additional scholars at various archeological institutes became involved in trying to understand what this device was. The battle heated up as to whether this was or was not a modification of the Astrolabe. Then an investigator by the name of Albert Rehn from the university of Munich discovered a previously hidden word, ”Pynchon”. This is a Greek word, derived from an ancient Egyptian Calendar, meaning month. Astrolabes had nothing to do with months; therefore the mechanism had nothing to do with Astrolabe technology. (Marchant, 2009)

The First World War completely stalled the work. Then an Admiral, John Theophanidis in the Greek Navy, became interested and found what he thought was a zodiac scale. He became convinced it was a navigational instrument. With him began a series of unexpected obsessions by many people. He spent many years studying and analyzing the inscriptions and construction of a model of the gear work. His work became so passionate that he had to sell real estate in the center of Athens to finance his research. But unfortunately – he didn’t publish, and his years of work lay hidden in piles of papers after his death. Many other individuals subsequently made contributions, but their story must regrettably be omitted from this paper.

In the meantime, Albert Rehm who had discovered the word “Panchon”, had become a prominent individual at the University of Munich, and became a rector. His increasing recognition came during the rise of Hitler, but he eventually lost his position because of his hostility to Hitler. After the war he was reinstated only to loose it again in 1946 after a disagreement with the new authorities regarding the importance of classical studies in German education. Despite his academic dissonance he, for the rest of his life, constantly studied and analyzed the geared mechanism. But its mystery eluded him and the keystone paper was never published. In 1949 he died. (Marchant, 2009)

During the Second World War this priceless mechanism was in great peril. The invasion by the Nazis put everything in the museum at risk. The museum staff hid objects in caves and in bank vaults, buried them in underground deposits or hid them under the floors of the museum and covered them with sand. The invading army came with no food supplies. This resulted in the death by starvation of tens of thousands of Athenians. After the war it took 20 years to get the museum back together. It was clear that in the confusion, many of the artifacts had been lost. By another miracle the Antikythera mechanism survived. However, the previous excitement was gone and the device was largely forgotten. It was not displayed, and languished in the bottom a storeroom box.

During the 20 years the museum was reorganizing, important things were happening. Jacques Cousteau and Frederic Dumas visited the underwater ledge with theirimproved diving equipment -- once in 1953 and again in 1976. They found additional objects, but their main contribution was a chance finding of two stacks of coins. One was silver and the other bronze. These finds resolved the questions of previous efforts to date the sinking of the ship and to determine where it had been before it departed on its ill-fated voyage. The finding of coins in an archeological site is an archeologist dream. Inscriptions on the coins tell who issued them. This information along with the fact that the coins do not stay in circulation for very long helps to determine date, better than anything else. The silver coins were from the city of Pergamum and had the initials of a ruler who ruled in Pergamum from 85 to 76 BC. The bronze coins were from Ephesus – 100 miles south of Pergamum. These could be dated from 70 to 60 BC. (Marchant, 2009)

During this period an American archeologist, Peter Thockmorton, was working at the Museum in Athens. One of his goals was to get a fragment of the boat wood tested by radiocarbon dating. He had an impatient personality that did not always follow accepted protocols. He was frustrated that the museum staff refused his desire to remove some of the wood from Athens. However, a tiny fragment was spirited away to the laboratory of Elizabeth Ralph, in America. She was one of a very few scientists that knew the technique of radiocarbon dating. The radiocarbon dating of the boat gave an age of 260 BC to 180 BC. This established an earliest date of 260 BC for the wreck. Keeping in mind that the boat was made of wood older than the boat itself, and that the boat had likely been sailing for some time before it sank, there is excellent correlation of the radiocarbon and coin dates. Of interest is the construction of the boat. It was similar to techniques that had lasted for 3000 years. In contrast to the to the modern less expensive boat construction in which the first thing built is the frames and then the planking – it is the other way around. The hull is built first and then the frame. Furthermore the hull was built with the labor-intensive mortem and tendon construction used in fine furniture, which made for a very strong sturdy ship.

Another captivated individual was Derek J de Solla Price who, as previously mentioned, caught my attention. He was born January 22, 1922, in England and obtained a PhD degree at age 24 in experimental physics. He went on to obtain a second PhD degree in the history of science. Then he came to the United States as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institute, and a fellow of the institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton. He spent the remainder of his life at Yale. Price took interest in the Antikythera Mechanism in 1951. His great contribution in addition to understanding this instrument was to popularize it. His main background was in the history of science, and proposed esoteric considerations concerning the science of science itself. He drew attention to the exponential expansion of published scientific information. Even with all these academic activities the Antikytherya mechanism was always on his mind. He spent inordinate amounts of time counting the teeth in the gears and attempting to make sense of their interrelation. Price said, “Nothing like the instrument is preserved elsewhere. On the contrary, for all that we know of science and technology, it could not exist”. Price had personality traits, however, that presented problems. His enthusiasm on just about any subject caused him to jump from one thing to another. He did not ingratiate himself by telling those who had carefully studied a subject all their lives that they were wrong. But his mind was always active. He knew his conclusions had a high chance of error because of limited information.

Subsequently he read a technical report from the Oakridge National laboratory on how gamma rays could be used to study archeological objects without their destruction. He wrote to Alvin Weinberg who was a senior coordinator at Oakridge. Weinberg put Price in contact with a radiography lab in Athens. As so often happens in science, such networking lead to a major discovery. Deep within the encrusted object were even more gear trains than had been expected. Getting the newly discovered gears to make sense in terms of the periods of the sun and moon lead Price to only one conclusion – he was convinced that he was looking at a differential gear train! Had he not had enthusiasm and drive, it may have taken decades longer to piece everything together. (Marchant, 2009)

Price’s last paper, “Gears from the Greeks”, sparked another life long obsession with the Antikythera Mechanism. This time the torch was passed to Michael Wright. Price moved on to computer technology and artificial intelligence while Wright scrutinized every detail of Price’s publications. He was a 26-year-old assistant curator at London’s Science Museum. His close study began to unravel some of Price’s work. Questions arose about the differential gears supposedly used to calculate the phases of the moon. The emphasis Price had given in his earlier Scientific American article, to the motion of the planets, was hardly mentioned.

It was 1983 and Wright wanted a discussion with Price on his next visit to the Science Museum, but unfortunately within a fortnight Price was dead at age 61. But as he studied Price’s work more and more details worried him. In particular he found that Price had discounted and altered many of the tooth counts. Wright had studied carefully the ancient clocks in the Science Museum and understood gear trains well. Price’s conclusions didn’t make any sense. Price had argued that a particular dial exhibited a 4-year cycle. Wright noted that the mechanism had 7 gears and a dial of seven concentric rings. Why, Wright wondered, did someone go to all the trouble? Price had a lot of insights, but Wright could see that he had barely scratched the surface. As Wright dreamed of going to Athens, he studied ancient astronomy and brushed up on his Greek. (Marchant, 2009)

An extremely energetic astrophysics from the University of Sydney came into Wright’s life, by the name of Allan G. Bromley. His expertise was interstellar gas, which required high power computing and subsequently to the study of the history of computation. From this foundation he became aware of Charles Babbage, who worked with the famous astronomer, John Herschel in the early 1800’s. Through Herschel, Babbage saw the tremendous need for precise astronomical tables. So Babbage, at that time a 29-year-old mathematician, began a project to do just that. He wrote out numerous notebooks and drawings of his ideas. A fortune was paid toBabbage by the British Government to produce this machine. But not a single one was completed. Fortunately for Bromley, the London Science Museum held the largest collection of his work.

Bromley would come each winter to London while his students in Australia were away on summer vacations. By the mid 1980’s he understood enough of Babbage’s notes to start construction but had questions about how the parts would have to be made and assembled. He made inquiry to the Science Museum staff if any one there knew about making geared mechanisms. They all agreed that Michael Wright was his man. So it was, Wright, a highly intelligent curator and a master craftsman, knowing clocks inside and out, meets Bromley a PhD astrophysicist who knew a lot about the theory of Babbage’s calculating machine, but without practical knowledge of how to assemble it. With Wright’s insights the most ambitious scientific reconstruction began, costing a quarter of a million pounds. By November 1991 their computer turned out its first calculation, one month before the Bicentennial celebration of Babbage’s death.

During Bromley’s many visits to the London Museum of Science he and Wright became friends and discussed the whole field of mechanical marvels. It was then that Wright introduced the Antikythera Mechanism to Bromley. At the same time talked of his dream to go to Athens and study the mechanism personally. Price’s paper was discussed and Wright indicated the areas where Price had gone wrong. Bromley immediately, like many before him, became totally captivated. His mind began to form a new plan of action. He would be the first man to solve its mystery.

Bromley returned to Sidney and put together a working alternative sequencing of the gears. Wright, by contrast, was even more rapidly loosing faith in Price’s reconstructions. This rekindled his dream of going to Athens and study the fragment for himself. Then a disconcerting incident took place. Just before Christmas 1989 Bromley suddenly burst into Wright’s office announcing he had just returned from Athens where he had obtained permission to work on the Antikythera mechanism! This was more than Wright could bear. How could this man from Australia, his friend and confidant steal his ideas? There was a written code of Greek antiquities that no researcher could work on an artifact until the person working on it had finished. His dream perished. Emotionally depressed; he looked at a black future, with all his hopes and dreams crushed. It was only a few weeks before Bromley would return to Athens and all would be lost. Then the nature of Wright’s character and dedication broke thought the clouds. His intense historical captivation with this 2000-year-old encrusted mystery overrode his depression. He went to Bromley and asked if he could go to Athens – as his assistant.

Incredibly Bromley agreed. For the next 30 days they photographed and measured everything in detail. It became clear that Price was wrong in many important details. His model had to be completely discarded. Additionally, a fragment was discovered, not known to Price. Standard x-rays were taken of every fragment. But for unexplained reasons the images were fogged and discolored. They ran out of time and left disappointed. Subsequently in England Bromley gave a lecture to the Antiquarian Horology Society. He referred to the project as if it was entirely his. Despite this belittling of Wright, Bromley’s lecture had a positive outcome. In the audience was a retired physician who had a real interest in Price’s work and had attempted a reconstruction. He also had practiced medicine in Africa. His name was Dr Alan Partridge and he knew how to do things low-tech. He came forward and suggested they use a technique he had used to locate bullets and shrapnel called linear tomography. With it, the x-rays could be reconstructed to see deeply into the interior of a human at sequential levels. Wright went home, studied tomography and built an improved liner tomograph suitable for metal. It worked beautifully resulting in separating the layers to less than a tenth of a millimeter.

The next winter Bromley and Wright were back in Athens with Wright’s tomography machine. Their first task was to find out why the x-ray images were fogged. The culprit was an incredibly careless technician using extremely old chemicals. Wright took over the darkroom work while Bromley took the photographs. They repeated this routine every winter with Wright spending his vacation time. After three years, they had taken and processed 700 exposures. Wright knew that the films would provide the answer. Then Bromley dropped another bombshell. He was taking the tomographic x-rays back to Sidney! He left in February 1994. Wright after five years of hard work was horrified, totally depressed, and exhausted. The pressures of life and his work had taken their toll. He was separated from his wife. He was now living in small quarters without his tools. His superiors at the Science Museum were urging him to take time off to help his depression. He thought they were trying to get rid of him. He went through a lot of introspection and concluded that without the Antikythera he was not sure what he was doing on the planet at all. The years went by and correspondence from Bromley trickled to a stop.

Then an unexpected letter came from Bromley’s wife. “If you want to see him you have to come soon”. Wright was torn. He knew a trip to see him, uninvited by Bromley, would make it clear that he knew Bromley was dying. But a letter of invitation from Bromley arrived and Wright, in November 2000 left for Australia with great misgivings. It was approaching ten years since they had begun their work together and six years since he had seen Bromley. His on again – off again friend was dying of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Even then Bromley tenaciously refused to release the films. Mercifully, Bromley’s wife intervened, allowing Wright to bring the majority of the films back to England. Bromley died September 2002 and Wright was asked to give an obituary. It was a painful experience. He said, “I sometimes resented the way in which Allan took, and kept control of the project, I recognize that without him I might never got to Athens at all – I will miss him.”

Back in England, Wright was working nights and weekends publishing significant discoveries. He was remarried and had a new workshop full of tools. By now Wright’s son was at Oxford University and had the equipment to scan the radiographs at high resolution. At the end of 2003 things were really starting to move. He discovered what is known as a pin and slot component in the mechanism. This predated by 1,500 years anything like it in Europe.

A cloud arose on the horizon. An English mathematician and filmmaker, Tony Feeth, with the urging of Mike Edmonds, chief of astronomy at Cardiff University, was trying to get access to the fragments! According to protocol this was not possible with Wright’s ongoing work. Feeth had read Price’s publications, and like Wright saw that the details didn’t add up. Soon Feeth was beyond obsessed – not only was he going to make a film about it but also like Bromley, was determined to be the man to solve the mystery. As he researched the project he became aware of Wright’s publications and mistakenly considered the technique too crude to be useful. But this lead him into discovering the usefulness of micro x-ray imaging and about Roger Hadland’s XTec Company that made micro x-ray equipment. He also read about the incredible technique developed at Hewlett-Packard by Tom Malzbender, which made it possible to read unreadable ancient clay tablets from the 4th Millennium BC. He was working in Computer graphics in Southern California, and the last thing he ever considered was studying ancient archeology. Now Feeth had two state of the art companies working on the Antikythera mechanism. There were, however, big problems. He had no money. And even worse he had no permission to study the mechanism! He couldn’t have picked a more difficult time. Greece was angry that England had hauled off the Elgin Marbles. They wanted them back in time for the Greek Olympics in 2004. Feeth was growing more and more impassioned, producing petitions, papers, grant applications, emails and lobbied every important person he knew. He amassed a team of scientists including Greece’s most eminent astronomer and astrophysics of the University of Athens, including the director of the Center for History and Paleontology. The astrophysicist was a good pick. He turned out to be another totally smitten miracle worker. By 2005 the team had persuaded the soon to be founder of Unilever to fund the project. So one of the two major hurtles was solved. Now all their attention was directed to gaining access to the mechanism. They did everything they
could think of to do this.

But in spite of all this the answer was still no and another year was gone.

The Astrophysicist took up the challenge. He went directly to the Greek Ministry of Culture. He phoned them over and over. Finally by approximately the fiftieth call he had literally worn down the secretary of the Ministry. Through his incredible persistence -- at the discomfort and expense of Wright, Feeth was permitted access to the fragments. He was allocated a very short period --the month of September, which was only a few months away. Then the high drama of the Antikythera mechanism came to a head. It was 2006 and Wright after a lifetime of work was very close to solving the mystery. Feeth had gained access to the coveted fragments! Unbelievably, considering the fury of activity, Roger Hadland had never heard of the project or of the promises his workers had made! He immediately realized his current equipment could not do the job. It was June and the time slot was in September. The situation made no economic sense. He couldn’t afford to do what was necessary with no immediate financial returns. In addition he would have to come up with an X-ray machine two times more powerful than anything in the world. Ordinarily such a project would take two to three years. As Hadland reached for the phone to decline his support for Feeth, he expected a short conversation. At this point it is unfortunate the conversation wasn’t taped. Feeth erupted with mighty waves of persuasion, admonition and drama the likes of which Hadland had never before been subjected. One hour later, with his emotions rather than his common sense prevailing, Hadland was aboard the project! He was captivated by the encrusted mystery and also the excitement of invention in building a new instrument. He immediately shut down his company and put all his research and development staff on the new project. All the inventive genius of the company was thrown into high gear. Feeth was in a state of panic as September closed in. Would Hadland be able to produce the equipment necessary to do the job? It was then he learned Wright was the one who had obstructed his access to the fragments. Feeth’s anxiety was increasing as Wright’s papers systematically were taking the wraps off the great archeological secret. Feeth worried that there wouldn’t be anything else to discover by the time they could bring all his team’s expertise together. By then a third level of stealth rose to the surface. In the process of improving the museum catalogs three large fragments and many small fragments of the mechanism were found for a total of 82! If these fragments had been available to Wright he probably would have by that time, solved the mystery.

It was now September 2006, and the x-ray machine lay in pieces all over Hadland’s research floor in England. Malzebender was already in Athens and in seven days he had taken 4,000 photographs. Hadland’s team was working night and day. Customer’s orders were not processed. All that Hadland would think was that if the Antikythera project failed there would be no company. At this point there was only one week left and he was in a panic. The meters were registering only one tenth the voltage needed. In frantic desperation, a cable was yanked from the generator, which resulted in a terrific explosion associated with an enormous electrical discharge that leaped into the room. Silence fell on the scientists as they slowly one by one began to move. Another miracle -- no one was dead! After a few seconds Hadland begin to grin. This near lethal explosion told him the generator was working just fine. He immediately knew the fault was with the recording instruments. But the explosion destroyed all the computers used to control the machine. Miracles were coming fast and furious, in two days the apparatus was fixed and packaged for shipment – all 12 tons of it. The hired forklift couldn’t handle the weight without tipping. They put a ton of counterbalance on, but then it didn’t have enough power to move. Time was running out. A second forklift was called to push the first one. One can only imagine the tension as this unlikely duo carefully transferred this one of a kind cargo onto the truck. Five days later the rig, 20 meters long, had crossed Europe and was trying, without success, to get through the narrow streets of Athens. A police escort was called to clear the streets and they were finally outside the museum. Another day was lost in obtaining three forklifts with combined strength to get it up a slope. One week later the research room was packed. Every spare part Hadland could think of was there. Three thousand images were collected in just one hour. Then all the fragments were scanned. The pictures were spectacular with resolution down to a few thousandths of a millimeter. Feeth’s team had increased the number of legible characters to approximately 3,000. It is estimated there were originally 15,000. They found that operating instructions were written directly on the instrument! Feeth’s major contribution came in realizing that the apparatus had the capability of predicting eclipses. (Feeth, 2008) And six months later he realized that also built into its gears, with the pin and slot, was the measurement of a nine-year lunar cycle tracking its elliptical orbit around the earth. Wright had predicted it and Feeth had proved it. (Marchant, 2009)

Feeth published his work to be released on the 29th of November 2006 and set up a conference in Athens on that date, to announce their findings to the world. Wright was invited. As the last fragment was being scanned, the persistence and competition of Wright was exhibited in the completion of a working model of the Antikythra mechanism. His model was ready for his lecture. At last he had not been upstaged. Over 500 were in attendance. At the end of Feeth’s talk there was a standing ovation that would never end. After decades of lonely work this ovation was almost too much for Wright. He gave a half hour presentation described by others as continually controlled rage. He said, “ . . . I have conducted (my research) on my own time and my own cost in the face of professional and personal difficulties: intrigue, betrayal, bullying, injury and illness, loss of years of my data, the long illness and death of my collaborator, and more . . .” Then he paused and said “even so I am still here”. He then challenged Feeth on several points, which although heated at the time were found later to be true. Then it was time for dinner. Wright, Feeth, Hadland, Malzbender and others were sitting at the same table. The encrusted mystery had finally given up “most “of its secrets. History was rewritten. (Marchant, 2009)

I use the word “Most”, because there is at least one more consideration. This is related to a proposal by Rick Sanders that the device had the potential to determine longitude aboard ship. (Sanders, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009) I have been in personal contact with Sanders regarding this proposal because of my interest in celestial navigation. He has studied how the ancients used the moon in the determination of longitude. Around 232 BC Captain Rata and Navigator Maui set out from Egypt to circumnavigate the earth. Maui’s expedition was under the guidance of Eratosthenes who had by other means determined the earth to be a sphere with a circumference of 24,500 miles. Maui’s had with him an ancient navigational instrument that he called a Tanawa-- later called a Torquetum. (Wikipedia, Torquetum, 2011) He would have used tables brought from Alexandria drawn up by Eratosthenes. If a known star is in a given position on the celestial sphere (measured by azimuth and right ascension) a table can be drawn up at a given location for each night, showing how distant the moon appears to be from the star. And from this a longitude can be determined. We know they traveled as far as Irian Jaya, in Western New Guinea. Here there is a cave, on the walls of which are drawings that Maui left, of his Tanawa. Also on the walls was written out a proof of Eratosthenes experiment to measure the earth’s circumference. Further east in Chile, more evidence of Maui’s trip is reported (Saunders, Fall 2001) Discoveries were made on Pitcairn Island with evidence they were there to observe an eclipse predicted by Eratosthenese. (Perfect, Winter 2001-2002)

The Antikythyra mechanism, as we know, was constructed with the motion of the moon integrated in amazing detail, including its elliptical orbit and oscillations. From the work of Wright and Feeth we know the instrument was capable of depicting the positions of the stars, the planets, the sun, and the moon, and in predicting the eclipses of the sun and moon as well as giving the dates of the Olympic games.

But why, as Sanders asks, was so much attention was given to the intricate detail of the moon’s celestial mechanics. What would justify the creation of a “Mount Palomar” instrument and then carry it on a ship. Was it there as cargo or more importantly – was it an aid to navigation. From a navigational standpoint it has two significant capabilities: one is the prediction of eclipses and the other to forecast lunar distances among the stars and planets, both of which are critical for determination of longitude. As noted earlier one must have tables as a point of reference to reduce the sights. The advantage of a geared mechanism is that it provides a portable almanac, which would make tables unnecessary. (Saunders, 2001, 2002, 2009)

In modern times we know that Nathanael Bowditch published in 1802, a comprehensible method by which the moon was used to determine longitude. This revolutionized the spice trade and provided a great economic advantage for the newly formed United States. (Taylor, 2001) It wasn’t until accurate affordable mechanical clocks capable of maritime use were introduced in 1850, that the moon was no longer used for longitude determination. Saunders work with the Torquetum using the moon in the determination of longitude should refocus discussion on longitude as the real reason for the Antikythera mechanism.





Cooper, Bertram and Sanders, Rick, “Building and Using Maui’s Tanawa”. 21st Century
Science and Technology Magazine, Fall 2001

Feeth, Tony. Alexander Jones, John M. Steel and Yanis Bitsaklis. “Calendars with
Olympiad Display and Eclipse Prediction on the Antikythera Mechanism”. Nature Vol
454, (3 July 2008): 52-60 (Letters)

Feeth, T. “Decoding An Ancient Computer”. Scientific American, Dec 2009
Freeman, Charles. “The Closing of the Western Mind. The Rise of Faith and the Fall of
Reason. Vintage Books, 2002

Jinx, School of War. “The Antikythera Mechanism”. News 12-01-2009

Marchant, Jo. “Decoding the Heavens”. Da Capo Press. 2009

Pasek, Richard A. “TheTorquetum”. http//
Instruments/Torquetum/Turg.html 16 March 2011

Perfect, Ross, “Pitcairn Island Petroglyphs Deciphered”. 21st Century Science and
Technology Magazine, Winter 2001-2002

Price, Derek J. de Solla “An Ancient Greek Computer”. Scientific American (June
1959): 60-67 Vol 200, No. 6

Rice, Rob S., “The Antikythera Mechanism: Physical and Intellectual Salvage from the
1st Century BC”. USNA Seventh Naval History Symposium Paper for Collected Volume,

Saunders, R., “Ancient Navigators Could Have Measured Longitude!” 21st Century
Science and Technology Magazine. Fall 2001

Saunders, Rick, “Ancient Navigators Could Have Measured Longitude – in Egypt in 232
BC”. 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine. Fall 2001

Saunders, Rick, “Was the Antikythera an Ancient Instrument for Longitude
Determination?” 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine. Spring 2003

Seabrook, John, “Fragmentary Knowledge”. The New Yorker, May 14, 2007

Taylor, W. Leonard, “America’s First Mathematician Astronomer and Philosopher:
Nathaniel Bowditch”. The Fortnightly Club Meeting Number1649 March 29, 2001

Wikipedia, Torquetum, http//Wikipedia. Org/wiki/Torquetum April 20, 2011

Wikipedia, Antikythera Mechanism. mechanism

Wikipedia. Der Mechanismus van Antikythera

Wikipedia, Lunar Distance (Navigation)

World Mysteries-Strange Artifacts-Antikythera Mechanism.

The Economist Newspaper 2002



W. Leonard Taylor M.D has been a Pathologist Redlands Community for 46 years. For the majority of this time he has been the Chief of Pathology and Medical Director of the Department of Pathology.

He was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez California on the Sacramento River. His undergraduate degrees were in Physics and Mathematics. He came to Loma Linda University to obtain his M. D. degree. He spent three years in the U.S. Navy stationed at the U.S. Navy Radiological Defense Laboratory in San Francisco examining the effects of radiation on living systems following the nuclear testing at Bikini. It was during this time he became interested in Pathology. This lead to the University of Washington for his residency in Pathology.

He is a Fellow of the College of American Pathologists and past member of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. He is a past member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the San Bernardino – Riverside County Blood Bank and has served on numerous quality assurance committees of Redlands Community Hospital and is currently on its Medical Executive Committee. For 36 years he was active in the San Bernardino County Medical Society serving on the Board of Directors and as President. He is a member of the Redlands Sunrise Rotary Club. For the past three decades he has been active as a volunteer on many worldwide projects working with PhD level researchers in most of the continents. He has been active in many community organizations. His hobbies are Astronomy, Sailing, Amateur Radio, and reading.

He has been married to his wife Carlene for 57 years, has three children and eight grandchildren--the oldest of whom has just begun studies in engineering at Stanford University.

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