8. On Sphere-Making
Often described as the Leonardo da Vinci of ancient Greece, Archimedes was a brilliant inventor, best known for shouting “Eureka!” and running naked through Syracuse. Aside from public indecency, he also had a flair for invention, which resulted in a device known as a “planetarium.” Basically a sphere which showed the movements of the sun, moon, and planets as viewed from Earth, Archimedes’s planetarium was unmatched in its mechanical intricacy. None are known to have survived, though a device known as the Antikythera mechanism is believed to be closely related.
Very few details of how to construct the inventions of Archimedes were ever written down, as he didn’t like to bother himself with recording mundane things. However, he made an exception for his planetarium, believing it helped people understand the heavens and, therefore, the divine. The intricacies of his design, mechanical gears which rivaled modern clockwork and wouldn’t be seen again for over a thousand years, were all meticulously detailed in his work On Sphere-Making. Unfortunately, all we know of the book itself is writings from other authors, such as the Greek mathematician Pappus.