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Proceedings Paper

Information in instrumentation
Author(s): C. N. M. Jansz
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Paper Abstract

History is a respected branch of learning, as is archaeology. However, although both deal with the past, they approach it from different angles and, thus, see different things. Unfortunately, the interaction between the two disciplines is weak. One of the most famous historians of our times, Lynn White, observed this phenomenon and won renown by integrating archaeological knowledge of mediaeval artefacts with academic knowledge'. Following White other historians rewrote parts of the economic and political history of the Middle Ages. The picture that emerged was quite different from the one that existed before2. Not only did the 'dark ages' become less dark, in some aspects they even seemed to be more enlightened than the early Renaissance. It became apparent that, in these so-called dark ages consistent use was made of ancient knowledge. Gimpel showed, for example, that mediaeval engineers had a fairly good knowledge of the works and writings of their counterparts in ancient Rome. The scholarly writers of the period, who are the main sources for students of history, were not aware of this. The fate of Vitruvius' work illustrates this point. The Ten books on Architecture by this Roman engineer who lived at the time of Emperor Augustus were 'rediscovered' in 1414 by the humanist Poggio. Renaissance scholars believed them to have been lost during the Middle Ages. They were wrong, however, for 55 examples of the book still exist today, which were copied between the 10th and 15th century. In other words, mediaeval engineers knew and used Vitruvius' work, but their scholarly contemporaries were unaware of its existence.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 June 1992
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 10309, Invisible Connections: Instruments, Institutions, and Science, 1030906 (1 June 1992); doi: 10.1117/12.2283711
Show Author Affiliations
C. N. M. Jansz, STW - Technology Foundation (Netherlands)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10309:
Invisible Connections: Instruments, Institutions, and Science
Robert Bud; Susan E. Cozzens, Editor(s)

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