open to public
A cohort of basic technologies appears frequently in ancient meteorological explanations, whether in the theories of the Presocratic physikoi and Aristotle, or in the later accounts of Lucretius and Seneca. Wine skins pop, iron rods hiss and mirrors reflect. Canvas flaps, pipes burst and lead bullets melt. This talk looks at how incremental technological developments changed explanations of certain phenomena, as new tools produced new imaginative possibilities. It focuses on how catapults and pneumatics reformed explanations of thunder and lightning, and how developments in burning mirrors and glass production altered assumptions about the rainbow.
Colin Webster is an assistant professor of Classics at UC Davis. His work examines the impact of technologies on ancient science and medicine. This year he is an External Faculty Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center.