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1. Topics: History and Epistemology of Science [Prof. Gatto, Italy]

Start Date:
24. June 2015, 09:00
Finish date:
24. June 2015, 09:45
MESHS - Espace Baïetto



About Heron’s Mechanics and its Possible Influence on Mechanics in the Renaissance. Scientific and Methodological Questions

Abstract Course

Heron’s Mechanics has been spreading among the western researchesrs researchers since 1893, when the orientalist Camille Carra de Vaux (1867-1952) published in various numbers of the Journal Asiatique Les Mècaniques ou lélévateur de Héron d’Alexandrie, that is the copy of the Arabic manuscript of Qustâ Ibn Luqâ al-Ba’albakkî (820-912) Kitâb fî raf‘a al-ašiyâ al-thaqîlah ( A Book on the Lifter of heavy bodies). Nevertheless a lot of researches have  not yet succeeded in finding any manuscript of such a work in the original Greek language. The only Greek sources came to us are some quotations of Book VIII of Mathematical Collections by Pappus and the 37th chapter of Heron’s Dioptric concerning the subject of the so-called Baroulkos, that is a train of gears useful to lift heavy bodies,  introduced just at the beginning of the text translated by Qustâ Ibn Luqâ. This has led us to believe that, with the exception of the subjects come to us  in the aforesaid Greek sources, Heron’s Mechanics was completely unknown up to Carra de Vaux’s publication. I will really show some topics, resulting from my study in progress, that would seem to attest that some authors of the Renaissance, like Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei, had to know this work of Heron, or at least some parts of it. The choice of this subject, satisfies not only  a demand of a pure historical nature, that is to speak about a work, that in its wholeness is still little known, and that on the contrary, for many aspects, has to be considered a milestone in the history of Mechanics, but it wants  also to show the different methodological approaches  through which it is possible to analyze the works of the classical antiquity, that is the investigation of the sources and the philological reading of the texts.


  • C. Carra de Vaux, Les Mècaniques ou l'élévateur de Héron d'Alexandrie publiées pour la première fois sur la version arabe de Qustâ ibn Lùqâ et traduites en français par M. le Baron Carra de Vaux. Extraite du Journal Asiatique, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1894.
  • M. Clagget,  The Medieval Science of Weights, Madison, University of Wisconsin, 1952.
  • M.R. Cohen, I.E. Drabkin, A source book in Greek science, New York, Mcgraw-Hill Book Co., 1948.
  • A.G. Drachmann, The Mechanical Technology of Greek and Roman Antiquity, Copenaghen, Muntsgaard, 1963.
  • G. Ferriello, M. Gatto, R. Gatto, The Baroulkos and the Mechanics of Heron, Firenze, Olschki, forthcoming
  • G. Galilei, Le Mecaniche, Edizione critica e saggio introduttivo di Romano Gatto, Firenze, Olschki, 2002.
  • R. Marcolongo, Memorie sulla geometria e la meccanica di Leonardo da Vinci, Napoli, S.I.E.M., 1937.
  • L. Nix, W. Schmidt, Heron's von Alexandria Meckanik und Katoptrik, Hrsg. und Übersetz, von L. Nix und W. Schmidt, in Opera quae supersunt omnia, Leipzig, G.B. Teubner, 1900, vol. 2, fasc. 2.
  • Pappi Alexandrini Collectionis quae supersunt e libris manu scriptis edidit, latina interpretation et commentariis instruxit Federicus Hultsch, Berolini, apud Weidmannos, 1876-1878.

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