Archimedes

Archimedes was, without a doubt, one of the greatest scientists in the world - certainly the greatest scientist of the classical era, the most famous mathematician and inventor in ancient Greece. 

He was a mathematician, physicist, astronomer, engineer, inventor, and designer of weapons. He was a man who was both of his time, and far ahead of his time. 

Archimedes was born in the Greek city-state of Siracusa, on the island of Sicily, around 287 BC. His father, name was Phidias, and he died: BC 212 in Syracuse, Sicily (Italy now)

Little is known about Archimedes' life.

He was probably born in the port city of Syracuse, a Greek settlement on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea.

He was the son of an astronomer named Phidias.

He may also have been related to Hieron, the king of Syracuse, and his son Gelon.

 Archimedes studied in the learning capital of Alexandria, Egypt, at the school that had been established by the Greek mathematician Euclid (third century BC). He later returned to live in his hometown of Syracuse.

He studied in Alexandria, where his teacher, in his time, was a student of Euclid. He returned to his hometown, probably because of his good relations with the king of Syracuse, Hiero II.

Hiero asked his brilliant friend to determine whether a crown, which he had just received from the goldsmith, was indeed gold, as it should be, or whether it was a silver alloy.

Archimedes was summoned to carry out his determinations without damaging the crown.

The physicist did not know how to proceed until one fine day, entering a full bathtub, he noticed that the water was overflowing. It suddenly occurred to him that the amount of water overflowed was equal in volume to the part of the body immersed in it. 

He reasoned then that if he dipped the crown in the water, he could determine its volume by rising the liquid.

It could even more: compare this data with the volume of a piece of gold of equal weight. If the volumes were equal, the crown would be pure gold. If the crown were made of a silver alloy (more bulky than gold), it would have a larger volume.

Excited to the highest degree by his discovery of the buoyancy principle, Archimedes jumped out of the bathtub, and, completely naked, ran through the streets of Syracuse to the royal palace at the screams of I found! (It should be noted that nudity did not disturb the Greeks as much as it does us). 

As Archimedes spoke Greek, what he said was Eureka! Eureka! This expression has since been used as an appropriate exclamation for the harbinger of a discovery. (The story concludes that the crown included a certain percentage of silver, the goldsmith being executed)

Archimedes also developed the lever principle. It demonstrated that a small weight located at a certain distance from the lever's support point can counterbalance a larger weight located closer, thus being weight and distance inversely proportional. The lever principle explains why a large block of stone can be lifted by a crowbar.

He also calculated the value of pi, obtaining a better result than any previously obtained in the classical world.

It showed that the real value was between 223/71 and 220/70. For this purpose, he used the method of calculating the circumferences and diameters of polygons drawn inside and outside the circle. When adding sides to the polygon, it gets closer and closer to the circle, in size and area. We could consider that two thousand years before Newton, this brilliant man was a precursor to Differential and Integral Calculus.

But Archimedes did not end his days in peace. 

His greatest fame is that of a warrior. Hiero II maintained an alliance treaty with Rome and he remained faithful. 

After his death, his grandson, Jeronimo, took power. Rome suffered its worst defeat in Canas and, for a time, it looked like it was about to be crushed, Jeronimo, desirous of staying with the winner, allied himself with Carthage. But the Romans were not yet defeated. They sent a fleet under the command of General Marcelo, against Siracusa, then initiating a three-year war, which moved the Roman fleet against a single man, Archimedes.

According to tradition, the Romans would have taken over the city quickly, had it not been for the ingenious weapons invented by the great scientist. He would have built large lenses designed to set the fleet on fire, mechanical cranes to lift the ships and turn them upside down, etc. At the end of the story, it seems that the Romans did not dare to approach the city walls, fleeing the smallest thread that appeared convinced that the fearsome Archimedes was destroying them with new and monstrous inventions.

During the sacking of the city, Archimedes, with a superb and erudite disdain for reality, indulged in a mathematical problem. A Roman soldier found him leaning over a geometric figure drawn in the sand and ordered him to accompany him.

Archimedes only replied with gestures: "Don't disturb my circles!"

The Roman soldier, apparently a practical man with no time to play, killed Archimedes and moved on. Marcelo, who had given orders to capture Archimedes alive and to treat him with distinction, mourned his death and ordered a dignified funeral, treating the great man's relatives with relative gentleness.


Last modified: Monday, 14 Dec 2020, 21:33