Approx. 287 B.C.-212 B.C.
Mathematician, Inventor, Astronomerby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
"Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and
I will move the world."
-Archimedes 230 BC.
These daring words were made by a man whose genius changed the worlds of science and math forever. Many historians consider Archimedes to be one of the greatest scientists in history and the greatest mathematician of all time. Archimedes' contributions to science and math include the discovery and development of the laws and principles of mechanics, buoyancy, hydrostatics, specific gravity, the lever, and the pulley; in addition, he discovered how to find the measurement of a circle and the volume of a solid. These discoveries and other inventions were the life and love of Archimedes.
Archimedes grew up in the Greek city-state of Syracuse on the island of Sicily. His father was an astronomer named Phidias. Archimedes is known to be a relative of Hiero II, who was the king of Syracuse during Archimedes' life. Hiero and Archimedes were very close friends. However, nothing else is known about any other members of Archimedes' family. Archimedes lived in Syracuse for his whole life, except for when he went to school in Alexandria, and at one point it was up to Archimedes' inventions to save Syracuse from being taken by the Romans.
Archimedes had a good education as a boy, for the Greeks loved knowledge and sent their sons to schools to become knowledgeable Greek citizens. Some of the subjects that he studied as a boy were poetry, politics, astronomy, mathematics, music, art, and military tactics. When Archimedes was in his teens he sailed to Egypt to study in Alexandria. There he went to a famous school of mathematics that had been founded by Euclid. Archimedes studied astronomy, physics, and mathematics with many other great minds of the time. His teacher was named Conon of Samos. Conon was one of the greatest influences that Archimedes had in his life. He taught Archimedes many things about life and science. Archimedes' studies in Alexandria became the foundation on which he built his career as a scientist and mathematician.
The first of Archimedes' inventions was called the Archimedean screw. He invented the screw because he saw how hard it was for the Egyptians to carry water buckets around their whole fields. The screw was like a hand pump that was used to spray water directly from the Nile onto the fields. Archimedes spent all of his time pouring over mathematical and scientific problems. He considered his greatest accomplishment to be his discovery of how a sphere was 2/3 the volume of a cylinder that had an equal height and width. He also discovered a way to find the measurement of a circle and the volume of solids. Levers and pulleys are another of Archimedes discoveries. These discoveries are just a part of the many doors that Archimedes opened for new scientific discoveries.
Although his genius in math is well known, Archimedes was also an astronomer and made contributions to this science as well. As a boy his love for astronomy was developed because his father's work in that field, and this allowed Archimedes to learn much about it. Archimedes used geometry and astronomical observation to accurately find the circumference of the earth with in a few hundred miles. Archimedes built a machine that helped him to measure the angles of the rising sun. His machine helped him to correctly calculate the length of a year (the current Greek year of Archimedes' time relied on the phases of the moon to calculate a year, and so were constantly having days added and taken off). Archimedes loved to study astronomy, and although his career in astronomy is not so amazing as his one in mathematics, he still made discoveries that helped to change the science of astronomy for scientists for generations to come.
God created few men to have genius, Archimedes was one of those men. He made
many discoveries and figured out many of the scientific principles that scientists
now consider to be some of the basic principles of math and science. However,
even famous men can have insignificant endings. In 212 the Romans had gained
control of Syracuse after a long siege. Archimedes was at his home totally absorbed
in his work. His last recorded words of are these, "Noli turbane circulos
meos!" This means, "Do not disturb my circles!" Archimedes was
working on a mathematical problem and was so absorbed in it that he became annoyed
with a certain Roman soldier who stepped onto the cicles that he was drawing.
This Roman soldier had come to bring Archimedes before his general, who knew
of Archimedes' genius and wanted to meet him. When Archimedes said this to the
soldier, the soldier became so angry that he drew his sword and killed Archimedes.
When the soldier's general heard what he had done, the soldier was executed.
This was how the great genius Archimedes met his end. Yet his work lives on
today, and we are the benefactors of his labors in the fields of mathematics,
science, and astronomy.
" Bendick, Jeanne. Archimedes and the Door of Science. North Dakota: Minto,
" Rorres, Chris. Archimedes. October, 1995. Drexel University, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. http://www.mcs.drexel.edu/~corres/Archimede/contents.html
" Golba, Paul. 10.2. Archimedes (287-212 B.C.). Interactive Real Analysis. http://www.shi.edu/projects/reals/history/archimed.html
" Calinger, Ronald S. "Archimedes." The World Book Encyclopedia, 1991.