Ancient data science notebooks

Claudius Ptolemy’s work introduced the data science notebook in the second century

Documents mixing prose text with machine-executable code have been around for decades (at least as early as Knuth’s tangle and weave programs to support literate programming in the early 1980s).

But the idea of mingling blocks of prose with functional blocks of documents is ancient, and characteristic of all of Claudius Ptolemy’s works. I’ve spoken and written about the idea of “functional texts” before (for example, in this talk at the symposium honoring Dave Patterson on his retirement, and in Two Thousand Years of Scholarly Apps, Center for Hellenic Studies Research Bulletin, 4.2, 2016).

I’m now beginning to experiment with ways to represent these “functional documents” using contemporary systems like Jupyter notebooks.

I’ll link material from this page, and plan to add soon some of the work I’ve previously developed on Ptolemy’s Geography, but today am putting up some initial material for a digital edition of Ptolemy’s Harmonics.