Colin Webster

2020 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Classics
UC Davis

Project Title: Technologies of Nature in Classical Antiquity

Project Description: Technologies of Nature in Classical Antiquity re-evaluates how tools and technologies impacted Greco-Roman science from the 6th century BCE to the 2nd century CE.  It illustrates the various ways in which ancient scientists could use tools and devices to examine, interrogate, model and construct nature and its workings.  It argues that antiquity was a dynamic technological space and that as tools changed, so too did explanations.  More than that, however, it reveals that material developments also altered the contours of the phenomena under investigation, such that functional definitions of even basic experiences and objects—bodies, breathing, the pulse, sight, rainbows, clouds—transformed within technological environments. Through examining improvements in pipes, bellows, pumps, mirrors, glass, automata, torsion catapults, geometrical diagrams, and predictive astronomical tools, this book illustrates how technologies transformed ancient scientific assumptions in the fields of medicine, biology, optics, meteorology and astronomy.  The Hellman Fellowship will be instrumental in completing this book on schedule, obtaining necessary images, hiring a research assistant, and obtaining assistance with copy-edits.