Skip to content

Technology alive and well in the ancient world

Share
Share

17 August 2012

Birds made to sing, and be silent alternately by flowing water. Image source: Oxford, Magdalen College, MS. Gr. 12, fol. 6v. Technical works by Heron of Alexandria, Aristides Quintilianus and Johannes Pediasimos, with diagrams, later 16th century.
Birds made to sing, and be silent alternately by flowing water. Image source: Oxford, Magdalen College, MS. Gr. 12, fol. 6v. Technical works by Heron of Alexandria, Aristides Quintilianus and Johannes Pediasimos, with diagrams, later 16th century.

An upcoming lecture will explore how the technology of ancient Greece, Rome and the medieval Arab world was employed to construct replicas of life.

Dr Alan Dorin, a senior lecturer in Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology, will discuss the way technology was used to build ‘living sculptures’ and decorative water clocks at his upcoming lecture, ‘Artificial Life in the Ancient World’.

“Every time humans have devised a new technology we have wondered how to use it in relation to building artificial life,” Dr Dorin said.

“The ancient Greeks built geared simulations of the cosmos; they used pressurised air, cords and levers to make metal birds sing and move and to make puppets dance."

Dr Dorin studies artificial life through software simulations and visualisations, and also by making software-generated and controlled artworks.

“My talk looks back to ancient Greece, to see how early pneumatic and mechanical technology was used for these same purposes,” Dr Dorin said.

“Their ingenuity, and the enthusiasm a few ancient engineers showed for this kind of thing, was extraordinary.”

Dr Dorin’s talk is the first of the ‘History of Science, Mathematics, Philosophy and Technology’ lecture series.

He has drawn together experts who share his interest in the history of their own areas to develop an accessible seminar series.

“Interdisciplinary understanding seems to be scarcer now than it once was, despite all the fuss being made of its importance,” Dr Dorin said.

“I have always enjoyed reading papers and books on the history of science, art and technology, and I try to take every opportunity to broaden my own understanding. I hope this lecture series will entice more people to learn the history of their own fields – whatever they may be.”

Artificial Life in the Ancient World’ will be held from 2-3pm on 22 August in Seminar Room 135, Building 26, at Monash University’s Clayton campus.