Adrienne Mayor

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Adrienne Mayor is a historian of ancient science who investigates natural knowledge contained in pre-scientific myths and oral traditions. She is a research scholar in Classics and History of Science and Technology at Stanford University. Her book Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Unconventional Warfare in the Ancient World reveals the deep antiquity of biological and chemical weapons in mythology and history (rev ed 2022). Mayor’s most recent book is Flying Snakes and Griffin Claws: Classical Myths, Scientific Curiosities, and Historical Oddities (2022). Her current project explores the insights embedded in geomythology– legends about volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena–around the world.

In 2018-19, Mayor was a Berggruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford. Her book Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology describes how the Greeks imagined automatons, replicants, and Artificial Intelligence in classical myths and then began to design real self-moving devices and robots in the Hellenistic era. Her book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, analyzes the historical and archaeological evidence underlying myths and tales of warlike women. Her two books on pre-Darwinian fossil traditions in classical antiquity and in Native America have opened up a new field within geomythology. The Poison King: Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy (National Book Award Finalist) is the first modern biography of the world’s first experimental toxicologist, the brilliant rebel leader of a Black Sea empire who challenged Roman imperialism in the first century BC.