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Tuesday, 31 May 2005

X-rays Illuminate Ancient Archimedes Text

(contact: Uwe Bergmann,

Archimedes Figure
Image provided by Will Noel, The Walters Art Museum

An early transcription of Archimedes' mathematical theories has been brought to light through the probing of high-intensity x-rays at SSRL's BL6-2. The text contains part of the Method of Mechanical Theorems, one of Archimedes' most important works, which was probably copied out by a scribe in the tenth century. The parchment on which it was written was later scraped down and reused as pages in a twelfth century prayer book, producing a document known as a palimpsest (which comes from the Greek, meaning 'rubbed smooth again'). Some of the text has been read previously, using everything from magnifying glasses to ultraviolet light, which highlights the hidden ink. Some of the text has been solidly obscured by some twentieth-century forgeries of medieval art that were slapped on top of a few pages. Working with curators at the Walters Art Museum and collaborators at Stanford University, SSRL staff scientist Uwe Bergmann suggested using synchrotron x-rays to peer through the forgeries. When hit by the x-rays the iron pigment in the original ink fluoresced and allowed researchers to see the text for the first time. Additional information on the Archimedes palimpsest and how x-rays read medieval ink can be found in the May 20 edition of the SLAC Interaction Point at:

August 2006 Press Coverage

  • NPR
  • KQED and CBS Radio links to follow.
  • X-rays Reveal Archimedes Secrets, Jonathan Fildes, BBC News

    (This story was the most popular story on the BBC site, on Thursday it was listed as the most popular story of the past five days - though only live for two days.)

    This article can also be found on the Turkish Weekly website

  • Eureka! Ancient Works by Archimedes Rediscovered, Geneviève Roberts, The Independent

    Also published in the following:

    Irish Independent

  • Eureka! X-ray Vision Helps Decipher Archimedes's Words of Wisdom, Roger Highfield, The Daily Telegraph

    Also published in the New York Sun

  • X-Rays Illuminate Archimedes Writings, United Press International

    Though headquartered in the US, UPI's article was found at the following international sites:
    North Korea Times:

    In addition, it can be found here:

    Monsters and Critics (US):
    Political Gateway (US):
    Rayos X para Arquímedes, Helena Cebrian, El Pais

  • Prayer Book Reveals Secrets, Ian Hoffman, San Mateo County Times

    The article can also be found here: > Mercury Register:
    Inside Bay Area:
    Oakland Tribune:
    Alameda Times Star:
  • >
  • Revealing Secrets of Archimedes, Lisa Krieger, San Jose Mercury News The article was the top feature on the Mercury News home page, the top story on the online News page and was the front cover story of the Peninsula section of the SJ Mercury's print edition.

    The article can be found on the following sites:

    Silicon Valley:
    The State (SC):
    Monterey County Herald:
    Pioneer Press:
    Biloxi Sun Herald:
    Grand Forks Herald:
    Myrtle Beach Sun News:
    Macon Telegraph:
    Bradenton Herald:
    Belleville News - Democrat:
    Duluth News Tribune:
    Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:
    Kansas City Star:
    San Luis Obispo Times:
    Contra Costa Times:
    Centre Daily Times:
    Charlotte Observer:
    Twin Cities:

  • High Tech Tool Reveals Essays of Archimedes, Keay Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle
    This article was also published at the following sites:

    Kitsap Sun:,2403,BSUN_19061_4891006,00.html
    Scripps Howard News Service:
  • Archimedes' Secrets Revealed by Atom Smasher, Davide Castelvecchi, National Geographic Online
    Slashback: Archimedes Gets a Webcast, Slashdot

  • Reading the Invisible, The Economist

May 2005 Press Coverage

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