Life and Death

    Archimedes was born and raised in Syracuse, Sicily circa 287 BC. At the time, Syracuse was a hub of commerce, art and science. These surroundings helped developed his natural curiosity for problem solving. Archimedes loved mathematical theory so much that he often neglected food, drink, and even the basic care of his body in order to continue studying. When Archimedes learned as much as he could in Syracuse, he traveled to Alexandria, Egypt to study some more since the city had earned a reputation for great learning and scholarship. After studying in Alexandria, Archimedes was known all throughout Greece and Rome for his monumental achievements in math and science. Archimedes father was an astronomer named Phidias. Like his father before him, Archimedes also studied astronomy and seriously considered that the Earth revolved around the sun 1,800 years before Copernicus formulated his theory during the Renaissance. 

    Archimedes created the first research-expository paper in existence. It's called The Sand Reckoner. In The Sand Reckoner, Archimedes decided to prove that you actually can calculate the number of sand on a beach. To do this, he had to invent new, large numbers. After doing so he was able to calculate not only the amount of sand on a beach but also in the universe. Archimedes also altered the Greek number system by creating what we now call exponents. 

    Archimedes lived in Syracuse, Sicily most of his life. His fame initially spread during his service for King Hiero. When Archimedes said "Give me a long enough lever and a place to stand, and I will move the earth." King Hiero asked him to prove it. This challenge was made after a huge ship in the harbor couldn't be launched by every man in the city. Archimedes launched it with the help of a large lever, proving his statement.

    Archimedes is also known for the exclamation "Eureka, eureka!". Eureka is an ancient Greek phrase that means "I've found it". This saying is made famous by Archimedes after King Hiero asked him to find out if the artisan truly made his crown out of solid gold. While contemplating a way to discover the artisan's duplicity, Archimedes stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose. It was then that he realized that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body that he submerged. After he had his eureka moment, Archimedes forgot his clothes and ran around naked, shouting to everyone his discovery. Archimedes then went on to formulate new principals in hydrostatics. For example, the “Principle of Archimedes”, also known as the law of buoyancy, states that any object fully or partially immersed in a fluid will experience an upward force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. This principle offered Archimedes a way to discover the difference between the weight of silver and gold when immersed. 

    Sicily was an autonomous Greek City State. The Romans, who are also from Italy, put Sicily under siege while Archimedes was too busy drawing geometrical diagrams on a dust-filled tray to notice. A centurion (Roman soldier), who ordered Archimedes to follow him, got too close to his diagram. Archimedes was so intent on his diagram that he asked the soldier "stand away, fellow, from my diagram." This angered the soldier so much that he slew Archimedes with his sword. Unfortunately, Archimedes lived in an era where the enlightenment of the Greek World was treated like redundancy by the practical Romans. "No Roman lost his life because he was absorbed in the contemplation of a mathematical diagram." - Alfred North Whitehead. Archimedes truly lived and died his craft. He was so proud of his achievements that he asked for a sculpture of a sphere inside of a cylinder to accompany his tomb

    His death was probably no accident, since the Roman army feared the wiley and ingenious mind of Archimedes. King Hiero had asked Archimedes for help in developing weapons to fight off the Roman soldiers. Archimedes invented pulleys, levers, catapults and even a large claw that picked up the Roman's ships and smashed them against the rocks. If the ships weren't close enough to be picked up by claws, then they were destroyed by his other inventions, such as mirrors that magnified the sun's rays to set their ship's sails on fire, thereby destroying much of their fleet. War machines aside, Archimedes is mostly known for his work in calculus, pi and the watering screw. To learn more about his achievements, click here