Biography of Famous Ancient Scientist Archimedes

About the famous ancient Roman scientist Archimedes, history and biography of the man and his achievements.

ARCHIMEDES (287 B.C.-212 B.C.).

Archimedes, the most celebrated mechanician of antiquity, was born in Syracuse, Sicily. He was so far in advance of his age, that his principles did not become established until the 15th century. He invented the Archimedean screw which has been applied to drainage and irrigation projects, and he also explained the theory of the lever.

He discovered what is known as the law of specific gravity, or the truth that any body weighs just as much less when held under water as the weight of the water which it crowds out of place.

Hiero, King of Syracuse, having suspected a goldsmith of putting some other metal than gold in his crown, asked Archimedes to ascertain whether it were so. Archimedes, while thinking over the matter one day, got into his bath, which chanced to be full to the brim; and he saw at once, that as much water must run over the edge of the tub as was equal to the bulk or size of his body. He then saw that if he put the crown into a vessel, and weighed the water which overflowed, and then tried a piece of pure gold equal in size to the crown in the same way, the water overflowed by the pure gold ought to equal in weight that of the crown if it also were of pure gold. He was so overjoyed at this discovery, that he ran home without waiting to put on his clothes, crying through the streets, "Eureka! Eureka!" ("I have found it! I have found it!")

He defended his native Syracuse against the Romans with great mechanical skill, inventing machines which lifted their ships out of the water, and let them drop with so much force that they sank. He also burned their ships by concentrating on them the rays of the sun with mirrors. The most celebrated of his mathematical works are those of the sphere and cylinder, which he requested should be inscribed upon his tombstone.

When Syracuse was taken, a Roman soldier entered his studio, and found him so busily at work, that he did not even know that the enemy had entered the gates. Marcellus, the Roman general, had given strict orders to his soldiers not to hurt Archimedes, and had offered a reward to whoever should bring him safe to him. The soldier ordered Archimedes to come with him; and, upon his refusing to do so, he killed him, to the grief of Marcellus, who ordered for Archimedes an honorable burial, and built a monument over his grave inscribed as he had desired.

It was Archimedes who declared that, if he could find a lever long enough, and a prop strong enough, he could, single-handed, move the world.

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