Friday, April 1, 2011

Archimedes of Syracuse

Archimedes of Syracuse established a reputation as an inventor of practical machines but became more famous for his discoveries in mathematics and physics. Archimedes (287-212 BC) was born in Syracuse, the large Greek settlement in Sicily. He was born into a wealthy family and well connected.

His father, Pheidias, was well known as a respected astronomer. As a son of a scientist and member of the upper class, Archimedes received good education.

He studied in Alexandria as a young man, but presently return to Syracuse in Sicily, where he lived on close terms with king of that city.

The king was a relative. He had plenty of time to indulge his passion – mathematics, physics and engineering.

Archimedes quickly established his reputation as a creative inventor.

Archimedes did much of his work for King Hero. On one famous story, the king suspected that a goldsmith had not made a new coin of pure gold, but had mixed in some less costly silver.

The king asked Archimedes t find out if the goldsmith has cheated. Archimedes used the law of displacement to compare the amount of water displaced by the coin to the amount of water displaced by an equal weight of pure gold.

The coin displaced less water and so it was not pure gold. The goldsmith had cheated.

Archimedes devised all sorts of amazing devices based on scientific principles.

In 212 the Romans attacked Syracuse and Archimedes was urged to help defend the town. He is said to be invented machines for hurling enormous weights at the Roman ships, great cranes which could pluck them out of the water.

He even used huge mirror to focus the heat of the sun on approaching Roman ships and set them on fire.

He is one of the earliest but also most important scientist who ever lived.

His mathematical discoveries were much more important. He wrote more than 20 books about his discoveries in diverse branches of mathematics and physics.

One of Archimedes’ finest mathematical achievements was his perfection of the method of exhaustion.
Archimedes of Syracuse
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