The First Computer
Okay so obviously not the computer you’re sitting on today but the Antikythera mechanism has been labelled the worlds first analog computer. Built over 2,000 years ago this Greek invention was discovered by divers who were investigating a shipwreck off the island of Antikythira, which is situated between Kythira and Crete.
It was designed to predict astronomical events such as solar or lunar eclipses. An invention with this level of complexity was not seen again until the 13th century when mechanical clocks were invented, so this device was phenomenally ahead of its time.
There are an abundance of fascinating museums in Athens and this extraordinary Greek invention can be seen at the National Archaeological Museum.
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The process of cartography (map making) was first recognised in ancient Greece, making for another important Greek invention. Anaximander was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived in the 6th century BC. He was a student of Thales and was dedicated to understanding the natural world. He is also credited for being the first person to have drawn a world map.
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I think most people are partial to a bit of cheesecake! But I’m sure few know that this is actually a Greek invention! Evidence of this was found on the Greek island of Samos, where the molds used to make these cheesecakes were discovered. It is one of the oldest surviving Greek recipes dating all the way back to 2000 BC.
The cheesecakes were made out of flour, wheat, honey and of course cheese! These cheesy delicacies were used in wedding traditions and even said to have been given to competitors in the Olympics for energy.
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Today you can simply glance at your phone if you need to tell the time, but for ancient Greeks it wasn’t this easy. Thanks to their unstoppable ingenuity however they invented an innovative way to do it. The water clock! Water clocks are one of the oldest ways used to measure time. This was especially important on cloudy days when the sundials couldn’t be used.
Klepsydra, as the Greeks called them which literally translates to ‘water thief’, were large vessels with marks on the inside, each representing a precise hour and a hole at the bottom where it could be drained. Water would flow into the water clock which took a total of 12 hours to fill. The time of day could be easily identified by the level of water inside the vessel.
The ‘Tower of Winds’ is an ancient water clock you can still see today. Built in the early first century BC, it can be seen in the Roman Agora just below the Acropolis in Athens. Looking at it you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a monument of some kind, however this ancient Greek invention was probably one of the earliest forms of a meteorological station, consisting of the water clock inside but also a sun dial and a weather vane!
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As many of the ancient cities in Greece were located near the sea, ships were an integral part of their civilisation. They were used for exploring, warfare and trading. Originally people attempted to keep their ships and boats in place by throwing over ropes with heavy stones attached, but this wasn’t entirely effective as regardless of how heavy the stone it would still drift.
The Greeks solved this problem however by inventing the anchor. Their version had ‘teeth’ which would lodge in the sea floor and prevent the boat from moving!
I bet when you’re peering through the glass of a vending machine at a colourful array of snacks you never realised that this original concept was a Greek invention thought of over 2,000 years ago! The first vending machine however dispensed holy water, not chocolate bars.
Invented by Hero of Alexandria, the coin operated device ensured that worshippers received only their allotted amount of holy water in the absence of a priest. Upon inserting a coin, the weight of the coin on the internal tray would open a lever which enabled water to flow, when the coin slid off the level closed shut.
While the vending machines we use today are powered by electricity, I’m sure the next time you see one you’ll be reminded Hero of Alexandria’s innovative and ancient Greek invention.
The Pap Smear
Of the more recent Greek inventions and one that has been incredibly important for early cancer detection in women is the pap smear. Invented by Georgios Papanikolaou, from whom this medical procedure got its name, the pap smear is a method of cervical cancer screening.
He invented this form of screening in the 1920s whereby cells from the cervix are collected and examined microscopically to detect any abnormal cells which might be pre-cancerous.
This invention is of course still used today, and Georgios is credited for saving thousands of womens lives thanks to his dedicated research.
You learn something new everyday! Which one of these Greek inventions was new to you? Let us know in the comments.