Wine-pouring robot among Ancient Greek inventions on show at Science Centre

Video by Dhany Osman, Reporting by Vernon Lee

A humanoid robot that can pour wine, an alarm clock using water and compressed air to emit a sound, a calculating mechanism that can predict astronomical events, an automatic theatre and a water organ.

These are among the over 40 fascinating inventions by the ancient Greeks on show at a new exhibition in Science Centre Singapore. Titled “The Inventions of Ancient Greece: Origins of Our Modern Technology”, the exhibition opened last Friday (19 October) and will run until 17 March 2019.

Previously on display in Paris and Athens, the inventions at the exhibition underscore the ingenuity of the Greeks across disciplines ranging from automation, astronomy, hydraulics, music to cryptography, with many dating back to more than 2,000 years ago. The pioneering Greeks behind the inventions include famous names such as philosopher Plato and scientist Archimedes.

Among the star exhibits is the automatic servant, invented by engineer and physicist Philon around 3rd century B.C. Holding a jug of wine on her right hand, the robot automatically fills a cup with wine once the cup is placed on her left hand. The robot can also mix wine with water if needed.

The hydraulic alarm clock, invented by Plato around 4th to 5th century B.C., comprises four vessels and a metal rod which produces a chirpy sound by forcing air to emerge through pressure. The ingenuity of the invention is the programming of the water level in one of the vessels to emit the sound by a specific timing.

The exhibits are from the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, founded by Kosta Kotsanas, a former mechanical engineer who is a renowned expert in the field of ancient Greek science and engineering.

“The inventions, which have been painstakingly replicated in our exhibition, are originally designed by some of the most important inventors such as Archimedes, Ktesibios, Philon of Byzantium, Heron of Alexandria and Plato. This exhibition aims to present a nearly forgotten aspect of ancient Greek history in an experiential way,” Kotsanas said.

Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore, said the exhibition will let attendees know more about the life of ancient Greeks and how their inventions formed the building blocks of modern technology.

“Some of the items that were invented by the Greeks, such as gears, pulleys and springs, sprung out of an innovative culture that was resourceful and inquisitive. We have a lot to learn from the Greeks when building our very own innovation culture,” Assoc. Prof Lim said.