Feature

Glimpses of Genius

Mathematicians and historians piece together a puzzle that Archimedes pondered

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3:42pm, May 11, 2004

At the start of the 20th century, a Danish mathematical historian named Johan Ludvig Heiberg made a once-in-a-lifetime find. Tucked away in the library of a monastery in Istanbul was a medieval parchment containing copies of the works of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes, including two never-before-seen essays. To mathematicians' astonishment, one of the new essays contained many of the key ideas of calculus, a subject supposedly invented two millennia after Archimedes' time. The essay caused a sensation and landed Heiberg's discovery on the front page of a 1907 New York Times.

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