by Frank Idrogo and Andres Montalvo
Born: 287 BCE
Died: 212 BCE
Archimedes was born in Syracuse, Sicily. He was the son of Phidias, an astronomer and fellow mathematician himself. As a boy, Archimedes was a natural at problem solving. His inborn sense of curiosity further extended his knowledge, which took him as far as Alexandria. Upon the completion of his studies in Alexandria, Archimedes returned to Syracuse and led a life of introspection and great invention. And although not much is known about the early life of Archimedes, it is widely known that he was one of the most important mathematicians of antiquity.
Archimedes’ Great War Machines
During the time Archimedes spent in Sicily, it was quite the place for conflict. In addition to the ongoing Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage around all sides of Sicily, the threateningly volcanic Mount Etna sat right on the island. Furthermore, since Sicily was placed between these two great aforementioned powers, they were obviously an object of discord. The preservation of the island demanded that the monarchs of Syracuse negotiate with both Rome and Carthage, which consequently ended up making the island ally with one against the other. In 214 BCE, pro-Carthaginian factions within the city chose to side with Carthage against Rome. Not too long after that, the Roman army sailed to Syracuse and laid siege to the city walls. Thankfully, King Hiero II had predicted this outcome. Shortly before his death, the king had given Archimedes the assignment of strengthening and up keeping its stronghold, the Euryelos Fortress. In addition to this, Archimedes also designed great war machines for Syracuse. These included huge beams that jetted out of the city walls toward the oncoming Roman ships, sinking them in the process. Others were attacked by large iron claws, which destroyed more ships and drowned a great number of Roman soldiers in the process.
Aside from the many occupations Archimedes held, his profound skill as an inventor and engineer allowed him to make the Archimedes screw. This invention created a way for water to be raised from a lower level to higher platform. Originally, the screw was made to move water to irrigation systems and transfer water out of the holds of large ships. Because of its effectiveness, it is still used today for many things such as lifting grainy solids, fertilizer, for irrigating crops, as well as raising water to the top of a slide at a water park.
In addition to his creation of the screw, Archimedes was also the credited for inventing a method of determining the volume of an object that has an irregular shape. Story told, Archimedes was presented with the challenge of solving whether or not the crown of King Heiro II was made from complete gold without destroying the headpiece. This alluded to a problem that was thought to be insolvable; however, one day Archimedes sat in his bath tub pondering about his problem when he realized the water rose as he sunk his body in the tub. With this he was able to conclude that the volume of an object can be measured by its density when put in water. Filled with excitement, Archimedes ran naked through the streets of Syracuse yelling “Eureka!” at the top of his lungs. He was then able to determine if the crown was made of gold.
On the Sphere and Cylinder
On the Sphere and the Cylinder is a two-volume work that was published by Archimedes in c. 225 BCE. It most famously detailed how to find the surface area of a sphere and the volume of the contained sphere and the corresponding values for a cylinder. He was the first to discover this theory.
Formulas for Volume and Surface Area
Death of Archimedes
In 212 BCE, the Romans reached and took over Syracuse. A Roman soldier demanded that Archimedes follow him to Roman General Marcellus when Archimedes refused. Due to his incompliancy, the Roman soldier struck Archimedes lifeless. At the age of 75, the great mathematician, inventor, engineer, astronomer, and physicist was dead.