Archimedes, the famous mathematecian and engineer: To the modern world, the name Archimedes (287-212 BC) recalls the famous Greek mathematician who dedicated his entire life in research and invention. It was his innovative experiments that gave the contemporary world many machines that are used till today in heavy industries, theories of physics applied to scientific discoveries and formulas for solving complex mathematical problems. Having a dynamic personality, Archimedes was an engineer, mathematician, physicist, inventor and astronomer at the same time.
We find extremely scarce information about the personal life of Archimedes. From information gathered by historians, we know that he was born in Syracuse Sicily, in 287 BC, when Sicily was still a Greek colony. He spent most of his life in his hometown, except when he went to Alexandria Egypt to study.
In Egypt, he devised a new technique of drawing water from the lower level under the ground to the higher level. This method was given the term "hydraulic screw" for bringing water located at extremely lower levels in the ground to the land surface.
When Archimedes came back to Sicily, he spent his entire time experimenting and researching. We don't know if he ever got married or had children, but we do know that his mind was continuously buzzing with so many various concepts and theories. All his life, he was passionately and totally involved in his work. Many of his discoveries were the result of problems that were posed to him by the ruler of Sicily that time, King Hiero II.
The Principle of Archimedes
The well-known Archimedes Principle used in hydrostatics results from an interesting story. King Hiero had ordered a goldsmith to make him a new crown in the shape of laurel wreath, but he was not sure whether the crown was eventually made only with gold or if gold had been mixed with other metals, like silver. Therefore, he ordered Archimedes to find this out without melting the crown to measure the gold.
Archimedes was puzzled for many weeks with this problem but he could find no solution. The answer came unexpectedly one day while Archimedes was taking his bath. He noticed that when he entered the bathtub, the water surface rose up.
According to Archimedes, when an object is immersed in liquid, the amount of liquid displaced is equal to the volume of that object. So, by dividing the weight of the object by the volume of liquid displaced by it, this would enable him to find the density of that object. This method could be also used to find the density of the golden crown.
It is said that Archimedes was so ecstatic to find out the solution that he ran out on the streets naked to tell the king about his discovery. On his way, he was crying Eureka!, which in ancient Greek means I have found it!.
The famous Archimedes Screw used widely even today to draw out liquids from great depths was invented when Archimedes was designing a huge ship for the king that would accommodate almost 600 people, a luxurious garden and a temple of goddess Aphrodite. Such a ship would definitely leak a considerable amount of water through the hull.
Archimedes thus developed the "Screw" in such a manner that it would assist in taking out the excess water from the ship. The design of the tool was simple yet effective and had a cylinder containing a revolving screw-shaped blade. It had to be manually rotated to take out the water from the huge vessel.
Measuring the circle
However, it seemed that the most favorite science of Archimedes was not engineering but mathematics. His greatest achievement in Maths was probably the measurement of the circle. Archimedes measured the circle as being more than 1.7320261 and less than 1.7320512. As the value is approximately 1.7320508, we understand by this that the measures of Archimedes were impressively accurate.
Do not disturb my circles
It is a real shame that such a brilliant man had such an unfortunate end. Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier in 212 BC, during the Second Punic War. The Romans under General Marcus Claudius Marcellus had been besieging the town of Syracuse for two years, when they finally entered the walls.
That time, Archimedes was at his home trying to solve a complex mathematical problem. When the Roman soldier got into the house and raised his sword to kill him, the last words of Archimedes were Do not disturb my circles, referring to the circles in the mathematical drawing he had made.
Archimedes was buried near Agrigentine gate in Syracuse and at his request a sphere and a cylinder were placed on his tomb. Although in the ancient times, he was not much famous, his manuscripts were translated in the Medieval times and attracted a lot of attention. In fact, Voltaire once said, There was more imagination in the head of Archimedes than in the head of Homer.