Campus & Community

Scholars resuscitate dead languages

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Tech advances help illustrate how Arabs preserved ancient wisdom

The goal of a Harvard academic research project is to develop advanced computer technology that will help scholars mine myriad scientific texts in a variety of languages, but also to connect the dots between them. In this way, it can broaden the scope of scholarship, but also sharpen the scholar’s ability to probe deeply into the past, thereby shedding new light on generally accepted assumptions. Named the Archimedes Project, the investigation is in its third year. “Now what we can do is take into account a vastly wider range of evidence, and that changes the picture quite considerably,” explained Mark Schiefsky, an assistant professor of the classics at Harvard and the principal investigator of the Harvard team. “It changes our idea of what mechanics was like in antiquity, in such a way that it makes it seem both much more complicated and more modern than one might have thought.” The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and conducted in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.