Alexander Jones, "Recovering a lost work by Ptolemy from a medieval palimpsest"

Fri March 1st 2024, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Event Sponsor
Department of Classics
Building 110
450 Jane Stanford Way Building 110, Stanford, CA 94305

Talk description: An 8th-century codex in the Ambrosian Library, Milan has been known since the early 19th century to contain thirteen palimpsest pages reused from one or more manuscripts of Greek scientific texts. Working with multispectral imaging, Victor Gysembergh, Emanuel Zingg, and I have succeeded in transcribing much of twelve particularly difficult pages whose contents had not previously been identified. They turn out to preserve substantial parts of a hitherto unknown treatise by Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century CE) on an astronomical instrument of his own devising, the "Meteoroscope." In this talk I will discuss the manuscript and its challenges, as well as what we are learning about the Meteoroscope and its uses.

Short bio: Alexander Jones is Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at NYU's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. His research centers on the astral sciences (astronomy and astrology) of the Hellenistic and Roman imperial periods, encompassing observational and theoretical aspects as well as the public face of science. He has studied and edited hundreds of papyri with astronomical contents, most notably in his volume of Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus, which exposed for the first time the range of astronomical practices and resources of the astrologers of Roman Egypt and revealed how extensively this tradition was indebted to Babylonian astronomy. He has also worked with epigraphic sources and material culture, including leadership of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project's publication of the first comprehensive and accurate editions of the texts inscribed on and inside the Mechanism's fragments. His 2017 book A Portable Cosmos presents a broad and accessible account of the Mechanism in the light of recent research and in the broader context of ancient astronomy and Greco-Roman society. Ptolemy constitutes a third focus of Jones's interest, and next year he hopes to complete a monograph that will situate Ptolemy's astronomical works within his larger program of writing on the gamut of the mathematical and physical sciences.

This talk will not be available on zoom and will not be recorded.