Archimedes of Syracuse

          Archimedes was a talented Greek mathematician, inventor, physicist, astronomer, and engineer.  Archimedes was born in 287 BC in Syracuse, Italy.  He had only a father, a Greek architect, and went by the name Phidias. 

You may wonder what drove him to invent so many things.  His weaponry inventions were necessary to protect his hometown of Syracuse.  At the time, Syracuse was under Roman siege.

 He invented the Death Ray, and the Archimedes Claw.  Legend has it, that Archimedes burned down an entire fleet of Roman warships by focusing the heat energy of the sun through his Death Ray.  The Death Ray was a collection of mirrors and magnifying glass that he could control to focus the sun’s heat through.  But what did the Archimedes Claw do as a weapon? It was a man-operated tool that tightly grasped the bow of a ship, and completely tore the front part of the ship off, causing it to sink. 

 His ingenious weapon inventions were minute compared to his mathematical discoveries.  Fortunately, Archimedes recorded his own thoughts in his journal called “Archimedes’ Palimpsest”.  In this magnificent anthology, he notes “The Measurement of a Circle” “On the Sphere and Cylinder” and “The Method of Mechanical Theorems.” 

 Through the expression of his ideas in these notes, he gave us a better understanding of what he did.  He used exhaustion to prove his mathematical theorems.  In other words, he tested every possible method to prove his theorem was true.  The “Method of Mechanical Theorems” he described in the Palimpsest was all based on his investigation of physics.

He made many other contributions to ancient and modern technology weapons and theorems.  He claimed his best contribution was his finding of the measurement of a circle.  According to his Palimpsest, he found the exact value of pi.  His advancement in density was greatly valued to him as well.  Archimedes’ Principle explains that buoyant force on an object in a fluid is proportional to the weight of the fluid it displaces.  Thanks to Archimedes, we can understand why ships can float even though they are massive and heavy.

 You may think, “He was great back then, but how does he affect us today?” One of his inventions, the Archimedes Screw, is a pump that is used to draw liquids from a puddle, or a larger collection of liquid is still used by many people today.  We use the Archimedes Screw for removing groundwater.  We were able to make architectural advances because of Archimedes’ understanding of Calculus. 

 Unfortunately, Archimedes was killed during the Roman siege of Syracuse.  However, we still remember him as the talented inventor, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and engineer he really was.