**Archimedes of Syracuse**

**(Greek: Ἀρχιμήδης; 287 BC - 212 BC)**

**video "Secrets of Archimedes" (52:41)**

Archimedes of Syracuse was an outstanding Greek mathematician, inventor,
physicist, engineer and also an astronomer. Although not much is known
about his life, he is considered as one of the most eminent scientists
in classical antiquity. He established strong foundations in the field
of physics, particularly in statics, hydrostatics and explained the
principle of the lever. In his lifetime, he made many incredible
inventions such as designing innovative machines, including screw pumps
and siege machines, After intensive experiments, it is concluded that
the machines designed by Archimedes are capable of lifting attacking
ships out of the water and even setting ships on fire using an array of
mirrors. Undoubtedly, Archimedes is considered the greatest scientist
and mathematician of ancient times. He applied the 'method of
exhaustion' in calculating the area under the arc of a parabola with the
summation of an endless series and gave a marvelously precise
approximation of pi, the symbol. He also identified the spiral that
bears his name, designed formulae for the volumes of surfaces of
revolution and also invented a technique for expressing extremely large
numbers. Archimedes was born in c. 287 BC in the seaport
city of Syracuse, Sicily, which was a self-governing colony in Magna
Graecia. His birth date is based on the calculations done by the
Byzantine Greek historian John Tzetzes who concluded that Archimedes
lived for around 75 years. In ‘The Sand Reckoner’, his father’s name is
mentioned as ‘Phidias’, who was an astronomer, about whom nothing much
is known. Plutarch marked in his ‘Parallel Lives’ that Archimedes was
related to King Hiero II, the ruler of Syracuse. However, many aspects
of Archimedes are still mysterious. For instance, whether he ever
married or not or whether he had children are details that aren’t
available at all. According to the information available, it is supposed
that during his youth, Archimedes may have studied in Alexandria,
Egypt, where Conon of Samos and Eratosthenes of Cyrene were his
classmates. Archimedes had also referred to Conon of Samos as his friend
and, on the other hand, two of his works viz., the Cattle Problem and
the Method of Mechanical Theorems have introductions focused on
Eratosthenes.

**Famous Discoveries And Inventions**

**Archimedes' Principle**

The most popular tale about Archimedes is regarding how he
discovered a method for calculating the volume of objects with irregular
shape. According to Vitruvius, a crown for a temple had been made for
King Hiero II, who had supplied the pure gold to be used and Archimedes
was asked to verify whether any silver had been used by the deceitful
goldsmith. Archimedes was expected to solve the problem without damaging
the crown and thus the option of melting it down into a regular shape
was ruled out. One day, while taking a bath, he discerned that the level
of the water in the tub increased as he got in, and comprehended that
this effect could be used to determine the volume of the crown. As water
is incompressible practically, so the crown after submerging would
displace an amount of water equal to its own density and it would be
possible to calculate the density of the crown if mass of the crown was
divided by the volume of water displaced. Archimedes was so excited that
he ran on the streets naked (he forgot to dress up), crying out
‘Eureka!’ meaning ’I have found it!’ The test was conducted
successfully, concluding that silver had certainly been mixed with the
gold.

**Archimedes' Screw**

Archimedes analyzed the requirements in his home city of Syracuse
and tried to make inventions useful for the people at large. The Greek
writer Athenaeus of Naucratis had mentioned how King Hiero II instructed
Archimedes to devise a gigantic ship, the ‘Syracusia’, which could be
used to travel lavishly with supplies as well as can double up as a
naval warship. Thus, Syracusia is known to be the largest ship built in
olden days. Athenaeus had claimed that the ship was competent of
carrying 600 people and consisted of attractions such as garden
decorations, a fitness center and a temple dedicated to the goddess
Aphrodite, to name a few. Archimedes invented a screw to remove the
bilge water to prevent the massive ship from leaking a substantial
amount of water through the hull. Archimedes' screw could be described
as a device with a spinning screw-shaped blade inside a cylinder. It was
turned manually and could also be used to relocate water from a
low-lying water body into irrigation canals. The Archimedes screw is
still used to propel liquids as well as solids like grain and coal.

**Claw Of Archimedes**

The Claw of Archimedes is a weapon that he devised in order to
guard the city of Syracuse. The claw is also referred to as "the ship
shaker," and comprised of a crane-like arm from which a large
metal-grasping hook was hung. When the claw was plunged onto an
attacking ship, the arm would swing upwards, lifting the ship out of the
water and perhaps even sinking it. Contemporary experiments have been
done to examine the practicality of the weapon and, in 2005, a
television documentary ‘Superweapons of the Ancient World’ constructed a
form of the claw and declared that it was an effective device.

**Heat Rays**

Lucian, the 2nd century AD author, scripted that during the Siege
of Syracuse (c. 214–212 BC) Archimedes shattered enemy ships with fire!
After many years, Anthemius of Tralles wrote about burning-glasses as
Archimedes' weapon. The device, also known as the ‘Archimedes heat ray’,
was used to direct sunlight onto approaching ships, causing them to
catch fire. Even a Greek scientist ‘Ioannis Sakkas’, conducted a test of
the Archimedes heat ray in 1973. During this experiment, 70 mirrors
were used, each coated with copper and about five by three feet (1.5X1
m) in size. The mirrors were faced at a plywood replica of a Roman
warship, 160 feet (50m) far. When the mirrors were focused precisely,
the ship burst into flames in a matter of few seconds.

**Mathematics**

The genius Archimedes was even capable of using infinitesimals in a
manner similar to the modern integral calculus. Through proof by
contradiction, he gave answers to problems to a great degree of
exactness, while defining the boundaries within which the answer lays.
This modus operandi is known as the method of exhaustion, and he
employed it to find the approximate value of π. Archimedes also extended
his intelligence in the measurement of circles when he gave the value
of the square root of 3 as lying around 265⁄153 (approximately
1.7320261) and 1351⁄780 (approximately 1.7320512). The actual value is
approximately 1.7320508, making this a very accurate calculation. In
‘The Quadrature of the Parabola’, Archimedes verified that the area
encircled by a parabola and a straight line is 4⁄3 times the area of an
equivalent inscribed triangle. He expressed the answer to the problem as
an infinite geometric series with the common ratio 1⁄4.

**Death And Legacy**

When Syracuse was captured in 212 BC, during the Second Punic War
under General Marcellus, a roman soldier killed Archimedes despite
explicit orders to not harm him. According to the popular tale by
Plutarch, Archimedes was studying a mathematical diagram and a Roman
soldier ordered him to come and meet General Marcellus but Archimedes
resisted, saying that he had to finish working on the matter. The
soldier was furious and killed Archimedes with his sword. However,
Plutarch has also mentioned another possibility to Archimedes’s death,
that he may have been killed while endeavoring to surrender to a Roman
soldier. According to this legend, Archimedes was carrying mathematical
instruments and was murdered because the soldier had the impression that
those instruments were precious items. General Marcellus was obviously
enraged and the fate of the soldier can only be assumed. The last words
accredited to Archimedes are, "Do not disturb my circles!" but again,
there isn’t any concrete proof that Archimedes did, in fact, utter these
words and they aren’t mentioned in the brief given by Plutarch.

A sphere carved within a cylinder covers the tomb of Archimedes.
This is based on a remarkable invention made by Archimedes proving that
the sphere has two thirds of the volume and surface area of the cylinder
(including the bases of the latter). This is considered as his greatest
mathematical accomplishment.

There are many legacies attached to Archimedes:

- A crater on the Moon is called ‘Archimedes ’to revere him’ and a lunar mountain range is known as ‘the Montes Archimedes’.
- The asteroid ‘3600 Archimedes’ is named after this ancient scientist.
- The Fields Medal for exceptional achievement in mathematics illustrates a portrait of Archimedes, along with his proof relating to the cylinder and the sphere. The message around the head of Archimedes is a quote credited to him that reads – ‘Rise above oneself and grasp the world’.
- Archimedes has also appeared on postage stamps issued by Spain (1963), Nicaragua (1971), East Germany (1973), San Marino (1982), Greece (1983) and Italy (1983).
- The exclamation of ‘Eureka!’, attributed to Archimedes, became a state motto of California and relates to the discovery of gold near Sutter's Mill in 1848 that ignited the California Gold Rush.

Such was the brilliance of this great personality that almost every
scientific field can boast of having adopted something from his
inventions. The lack of details available regarding his personal life
only adds to the enigma of this great man and makes him a cult figure
for the intellectuals.

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