Archimedes, known to the world as Father of Mathematics and one of the greatest scientists of the world, was born in 287 BC in Syracuse, a Greek-city state on the Island of Sicily. He was a mathematician, physicist, astronomer, engineer, inventor and weapons-designer. The father of Archimedes, Phidias, was astronomer. His family supported him throughout to become a successful musician and poet and he had a keen interest in astronomy. He travelled to Alexandria, Egypt where he received his formal education. He returned to Syracuse, after having completed his studies in Egypt to live with his family and worked as an engineer with King Hiero II to invent new machines of war and improve the designs of the existing ones.
Let us go through some facts depicting Archimedes’ inventions and contribution to the society:
- Archimedes introduced the concept known as Archimedes’ Principle which has been one of the most important discoveries by him. King Heiro had given pure gold to the goldsmith for a golden crown to be made. When the king received the crown, he doubted that some amount of silver had been mixed up with the gold. The king asked Archimedes to solve the matter. Archimedes had, once, noticed while bathing, that the amount of water overflowing the tub was proportional to the amount of his body being immersed. So, it dawned on him that he could solve the problem of the crown according to the same concept by weighing the proportion of both silver and gold in water. Having discovered this, he ran in the streets of the town, naked, and shouted “Eureka, Eureka!” (I have done it). So, Archimedes’ principle says that a body immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of fluid displaced by the body.
- In 3rd century BC, Archimedes discovered the laws of levers and pulleys which are of great importance and enable moving of heavy objects with minimal or very less forces.
- He also invented the concept of center of gravity. He was the only one to calculate the exact value of pi as the fraction 22/7. This value has been used till 20th century and afterwards electronic calculations have taken over.
- He invented many innovative machines like the siege engine and the screw pump. Many of his machines can destroy enemy ships by lifting them from the water and many others have a defense mechanism that uses complicated alignments of mirrors to set them on fire.
- It is quite interesting to know that his mathematical genius work could not be fully understood until almost 800 years after his death.
- Archimedes invented the waters crew machine used for raising water to irrigate fields. He also invented a miniature planetarium, a model kept in motion by a flow of water, imitating the earth, sun, moon and five other planets known then – Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury.
- Archimedes’ calculation of the volume of sphere was his greatest personal achievement. He accomplished it in a very intelligent and clever way and became the first person to calculate and prove the formulas for the volume and surface area of a sphere.
- Archimedes invented the new number system to calculate the number of grains of sand on the beach and even in the universe. He called his concept as the Beast Number, a number so enormous that even the visible universe is not big enough to write it out in full.
- Archimedes used to frustrate and tease other mathematicians of his age by not revealing his full methods of mathematical calculations.
- He was also the one who directly inspired Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton to work on the mathematics of motion.
- Archimedes was killed in 212 BC by a Roman soldier when Syracuse was being conquered. According to his wish, he was buried in a tomb which had a sphere within a cylinder carved on it.