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On This Day in Oil & Gas: May 17th - Antikythera Mechanism

Posted: 02/17/2014
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May 17th, 1902, Athens, Greece – Valerios Stais is sorting through hundreds of objects at the National Museum of Archaeology. The finds were recovered from a shipwreck discovered two years ago by local sponge divers off of Point Glyphadia on the rim of the Aegean Sea. As Stais examines the artefacts, he notices that a lump of salvaged rock seems to have a gearwheel embedded in it.

On closer inspection, he finds a further 81 fragments amongst the wreckage that belong to a device originally comprising 30 bronze gears, the largest of which has 223 teeth. Named after the island nearest to where it lay buried for 2000 years, the contraption would become known as the Antikythera Mechanism.

We now know that the mechanism was designed to calculate the positions of the planets and other astronomical cycles, but what has this got to do with oil and gas? Well, it is the single oldest analogue computer in history, predating other such devices by some 1300 years.

As such it is the earliest example of complex engineering, and where would the oil and gas industry be without complex engineering, eh?


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