Magic Mirrors, Flying Machines, and Ancient Technology

Saturday Speaker
Saturday, November 9, 2019
11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States


Drawing of hot air balloon

Drawing of a Western hot air balloon, from a 1787 Japanese book Saying of the Dutch.

Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Chinese sources describe some very modern-sounding technologies, including special mirrors that can look inside the body to find illnesses and vehicles that can fly. What inspired the writers of ancient texts to speculate about such advanced technological concepts? And what happened to that knowledge?

Join Benjamin B. Olshin for a talk that will explore possible answers to these questions and introduce a compelling historical mystery.

About the Speaker

Benjamin B. Olshin is a professor of history and philosophy of science and technology at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His areas of interest include the history of cartography, early technology, and the philosophy of physics. His research has taken him around the world, from Latin America to East Asia. You can read more about lost knowledge and ancient technology in Olshin’s book Lost Knowledge: The Concept of Vanished Technologies and Other Human Histories.

About the Series

Dive into fascinating stories of science with our Saturday Speaker Series!

Once a month, from September to May, a speaker will offer a short talk on an intriguing scientific topic, followed by a Q&A or discussion over complimentary tea and coffee. Afterward, feel free to mingle with other guests and the speaker, or spend time visiting our free museum. This year we'll be discussing everything from quilting to help communicate science, to the effects of sleep deprivation, to modern technologies imagined by ancient cultures.

Admission is free, and no reservations are necessary.