Title page to 'Observations on the Temple of Serapis', 1847.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cover to mathematician and 'father' of computing Charles Babbage's (1791-1871) 'Observations on the Temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli near Naples', published in 1847. The full title continues: 'with, an attempt to explain the causes of the frequent elevation and depresion of large portions of the earth's surface in remote periods, and to prove that those causes continue in action to the present day'. The 'Temple', now known as the Macellum, serves as a method for measuring the bradyseismic phenomenon: corrosion on the columns caused by lithophagi (date musels), indicates the different water levels over time. This led Babbage to conclude that the 'subsidence of the building was not sudden, or at one period only, but gradual, and by succesive movements.'