A famous story, popularized by Vitruvius in De architectura, tells us how Archimedes uttered his Eureka when he was able to recognize a counterfeit crown produced by a cheating goldsmith. Archimedes used the idea that, at a given volume, different substances can be identified by their particular weight or specific gravity.
In the early modern period, this notion came to be crucial not only for natural philosophers and mathematicians interested in Archimedes. A heterogeneous group of experts methodically started measuring the weight of substances: both scholars and technical practitioners, like instrument makers, architects, alchemists, and even antiquarians and biblical interpreters. The Weight of Things provides new insight into these individuals and the reasons that moved their investigations.
This website is a database of sources for the project. We will regularly update it with new material, analysis, and information, along with the progress of this research.
From 2016, this research has also received funding to study specific themes from the Scientific Instruments Society, the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, the Vossius Center for History of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, the Huntington Library and the Deutsches Museum.
Above: Archimedes' Eureka, in Walter Ryff (Rivius), Der furnembsten, notwendigsten, der gantzen Architectur angehörigen Mathematischen und Mechanischen künst [...] zu rechtem verstandt der lehr Vitruvii,1547. (NO COPYRIGHT - NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
Header: Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance (detail). The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. (Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)