Archimedes

Archimedes was born in 287 BC in Syracuse, a Greek seaport colony in Sicily.

Archimedes’ father was Phidias. He was an astronomer; this is all we know

about his father and we learn this from Archimedes’ work, The Sandreckoner.

Archimedes was educated in Alexandria, Egypt. Archimedes’ friend, Heracleides,

wrote a biography about him, but this work was lost. Some authors report that he

visited Egypt and there invented a tool known as Archimedes’ screw. This is a

pump, still used today in parts of the world. It is likely that, when he was a

young man, Archimedes studied with the followers of Euclid. Many of his ideas

seem to correspond with the mathematics developed there. This speculation is

much more certain because he sent his results to Alexandria with personal

messages. He considered Conon of Samos, one of the greatest achieving

mathematicians at Alexandria, both for his abilities as a mathematician and he

also respected him as a close friend. Archimedes spent most of his life in

Sicily, near Syracuse except for his journeys to Alexandria. He never held any

public office but he was faithful to his lifetime of research and experiment. At

times, Archimedes became so immersed in his work that he would forget to eat. He

used every surface available to do his work on, including oil on his skin to

ashes from a fire. Many of Archimedes’ discoveries were put to the test during

the Roman conquest of Sicily. His mechanical tools and machines were used,

including the legendary catapult which he is credited for making. This was all

for the protection of Syracuse. Despite the use of Archimedes’ inventions,

Syracuse was captured during the Second Punic war. A Roman soldier who found him

drawing a mathematical diagram in the sand killed Archimedes. It is said that

Archimedes was so preoccupied in his calculation that he simply said to the

intruder, “Do not disturb my diagrams.” Aside from the fame Archimedes

earned from his work on the Archimedes’ screw, he was also famous for his

relationship with the king, Hiero. Hiero often had complicated problems to

solve, and Archimedes solved them causing surprise among the town. The king

often challenged Archimedes. One of Archimedes’ quotes is “Give me a place

to stand and I will move the Earth.” The king took him up on this challenge

and invited him to move a ship that even all the men in Syracuse. With his

knowledge of levers and pulleys, Archimedes was able to create a machine that

could move the ship. Archimedes was far beyond his time. With his discoveries in

mathematics, he was able to predict and imitate much of modern science.