Archimedes was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer from the 3rd century BC. He is also known as one of the greatest thinkers in history for his groundbreaking work in propulsion systems, celestial mechanics, pure mathematics, and theoretical physics. Most notably, he is widely recognized for having given one of the world’s first scientific proofs about an object’s density and specific weight by comparing it to water displacement when given a specific force to move it up from its original position.
Archimedes is credited with designing revolutionary machines called the screw pump to aid water transportation from low-lying areas, defensive architecture to protect his city-state of Syracuse in Sicily from invasion, and various war machines, including the claw, which was used during the second Punic War. He was also considered a sagacious and intelligent man. He was the only person in the world during his time who could calculate pi and had a reputation for being an excellent mathematician and astronomer.
According to legend, Archimedes was once asked during his lifetime how much earth would be displaced if the king of Syracuse decided to transport it into another area. He then proceeded to displace the sand within an entire horse’s hoofprint for this feat. He also once said that he could move the world if he had a proper fulcrum to rest his lever. However, this was not a boast, as this notion later became a reality when Archimedes used a system of pulleys to move the world from this idea.
In addition, Archimedes was said to have been able to create many incredible mechanisms to defend his hometown from invasion. For example, he created a giant rotating crane that could lift Roman boats from the water easily, as well as enormous metal mirrors, which were used as burning devices to try and kill invading Roman soldiers. The largest of these mirrors was known as the Archimedes heat ray as it was capable of setting fire onto Roman ships. In addition, he also constructed weapons such as catapults, spring-powered arrows, and a very powerful spear launcher that could fling a spear at a target more than 225 yards away with amazing accuracy.
These weapons were commonly used to defend the city during the Siege of Syracuse, a conflict that recently took place between 213 and 212 BC. In this conflict, Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier who mistook him for a common soldier as he was taking a break from creating some war devices.
In addition, Archimedes had many inventions that were considered extremely advanced for his time. Most notable is his screw pump, which made transporting water very simple and easy. It consisted of a long cylindrical tube fed into a spiral pipe with a groove around the middle. The water would then be lifted to the surface by the tube and transport further distances with less effort than lifting it by hand or using buckets.
In addition, Archimedes is credited with inventing the 36-sided geometrical figure known as one of its names: Archimedean solid. He is also noted for his discovery and study of the concept of buoyancy, which describes how an object will float on a fluid and its point of equilibrium. This concept later became vital in marine engineering as it allowed ships to create simple movable objects such as anchors, which were very effective in controlling the movement of large water vessels such as those used by the navy.
In addition, Archimedes created several mathematical concepts which are still used up to this day. A notable one is his discovery and derivation of the law of the lever, which states that: “Magnitudes are inversely proportional to their distances from a fulcrum.” He also studied imaginary numbers and the theory of infinitesimals.
Near the end of his life, Archimedes wrote a book called The Sand Reckoner, an attempt to create a system of numbering that would allow him to classify every grain of sand in existence. He did this by giving it a name of 10 to the power of x-1, where x is equal to the number of grains of sand in existence. This would allow him to get an accurate estimate of how many grains of sand are on Earth.
However, Archimedes could never finish the book due to his sudden death at the hands of a Roman soldier. However, it has been said that he did write down this book in its entirety on his deathbed. The book was later found in 1906 by the famous Italian mathematician Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576).
The book used today for this number system is called the “Archimedean notation” and has become one of the most widely used notations in mathematics.