At some point or another in life, everyone finds the circumference of a circle. Nowadays,
people just find it with the formula c=d?.. However, in 500bc, no one knew what ?
equaled. Archimedes discovered the value of pi and essentially unlocked the world of
Archimedes was a greek inventor and mathematician. He was born in Syracuse, a city
in Sicily. His father was Phidias the astronomer, however no one knows who his mother
was (Archimedes). As a boy, he first attended school in his home town of Syracuse,
then later moved to Alexandria, Egypt, to finish his schooling. After he was finished with
his schooling, he then moved back to Syracuse.
Archimedes was closely related to king Hiero II, because they were closely
related (Archimedes of Syracuse). Heiro relied on Archimedes quite a bit. One example
is this: Heiro II had given a certain amount of pure gold to a goldsmith to make a new
crown for himself, the king. This goldsmith had a bit of a reputation for being a little
dishonest. Once the crown was finished, Heiro gave the crown to Archimedes to test if it
was pure gold without ruining it. Archimedes took it and dipped it in water and measured
how much water it displaced. Turns out, the goldsmith had replaced some of the gold
with silver. This was bad news for the goldsmith.
As a great inventor, He was called to help with national matters quite often. He
lived during the time of the first 2 punic wars. In 214 bc, Rome attacked Sicily. He built
mirrors to reflect the sunlight and set roman boats on fire, giant grappling cranes to pull
ships right out of the water to defend Syracuse. “It is said that Archimedes’s machines
were so successful that it is said that if the Romans saw so much as a length of rope or
a piece of timber appear over the top of the wall, it was enough to make them cry out,
‘Look, Archimedes is aiming one of his machines at us,’ and they would flee
(Archimedes of Syracuse). ” In 412 bc, Rome finally took Syracuse. While Rome took
over the city, Archimedes was drawing geometric figures in the sand at the nearby
beach. A roman soldier found him and was going to take him into custody. When
Archimedes saw the person coming towards him, he said “Don’t disturb my circles.” The
soldier, angered at being ordered what to do, Ran him through.
Schooling Not much is known about the early life of Archimedes. He was born
to Phidias, who was an astronomer and mathematician. Some sources say that he was
related to King Hiero II. He had his early schooling in his home city of Syracuse. Once
he was old enough, he was sent to Alexandria, Egypt to finish his schooling. In
Alexandria, he was taught by Conon, a mathematician and astronomer (“Archimedes of
Syracuse”). He soon became a good friend of Conon and Eratosthenes, who was a
custodian of the school (“Archimedes of Syracuse”). After he finished his schooling, He
moved back to Syracuse where he lived the rest of his life.
Finding Density of Kings Crown Since Archimedes was related to king Hiero II,
he was often asked to do favors for him. The king had a new crown being made, so for
the project he supplied a bunch of gold to a goldsmith. This goldsmith was known for
taking shortcuts, as well as being a bit of a pilferer. King Hiero II was worried that this
goldsmith had taken some of the gold and replaced it with silver, then kept the left over
gold. The challenge for Archimedes was to find out the density of the crown, but he
couldn’t melt it down to measure it. It is said that Archimedes discovered the answer to
this problem while he was taking a bath. He found out that the amount of water
displaced is directly proportional to the volume of the object being displaced. He was so
pleased with his discovery that he ran throughout the streets yelling “Eureka!” without
even getting dressed. He did it with the crown and sure enough, the goldsmith had
replaced some of the gold with silver (“Archimedes of Syracuse”). It goes without
saying that this was bad news for the goldsmith.
Hypothetical thinking Although Archimedes did a lot of practical math and
science, he enjoyed purely hypothetical thinking. One of these problems he did was
how many grains of sand could fit in the universe. First, he figured out how many grains
of sand can fit in a poppy seed. Then he figured out how many poppy seeds are the
length of his finger. After that he found out how many finger lengths would fit in a
stadium. He would repeat this process with the earth, distance between here and the
sun, and finally “sun-distances” to the stars. Archimedes did all this work, just because
people said that it wasn’t possible to count the grains of sand on the beach (Hirshfeld).
Finding the value of pi was one of his most useful achievements. He found this
by taking a circle and putting the biggest possible triangle inside the circle and the
smallest possible triangle on the outside and finding the perimeters of the triangles. He
then did this with a hexagon, a 12-gon, a 24-gon, all the way up to a 96-gon. He found
out that Pi is between
25344 ? 8069 and 29376 ? 9347. His greatest achievement was to find the volume of a
sphere. He took a sphere and cut it into half. Next, the hemisphere was cut into slices.
Archimedes then found the area of each of these circles and added them together.
Finally, the number was multiplied by two, so he had the whole sphere (“Archimedes”).
Defend Syracuse! In 214 BC, Syracuse joined the 2nd punic war, and they
allied with Carthage against Rome. Hiero set Archimedes and a group of workers
strengthening and building new defenses. Archimedes supposedly engineered many
new defense systems. Some of these included mirrors that reflected sunlight and
caught Roman ships on fire, Grappling Cranes that grabbed ships and capsized them,
and a variety of catapults and launchers to shoot a variety of objects at the ships. In 212
BC, despite all of these defenses, Rome took Syracuse. The general of the roman army
had heard of Archimedes and ordered him be captured. A soldier found him at the
beach doing geometry in the sand, unaware that the city had been captured. When the
soldier ordered him to go to the general, Archimedes refused, saying something like,
“Don’t disturb my circles.” The soldier, enraged for being denied, impaled him there on
the sand(“Archimedes of Syracuse.”).
Archimedes effect on mathematics was profound. Finding the value of pi allowed for some
equations that before were almost impossible to do with any good amount of accuracy. Without
pi, there are many things that are just not possible to do.
One thing that we couldn’t do is make circles. Since pi is part of finding the
circumference of a circle, people nowadays would have to use 3 just like the egyptians did.
Pillars to hold up large buildings would be better off being squares because circular pillars would
not be perfectly round. Folks would have to take their cars to the auto-shop more often, and
road trips would be much more bumpy because tires would be not as round as is possible right
now. It would also be impossible to make any sort of automations or robots. Every single one
that is invented with any moving parts uses gears, pulleys, or sockets, all of which need to be
perfectly round. Another thing that would be hard to create are round lightbulbs. Since lightbulbs
are roughly spherical, they require pi in their formula. Perfect doorknobs would also not be
possible. Inside of doorknobs their is a round shaft, a spring, and some gears. The gears would
not fit quite right, meaning that they would make a lot more noise than they do and would wear
out more quickly.
Archimedes, as a mathematician and inventor, has shown the world what the impossible
can be done through math and science. All that is needed is a little bit of curiosity and
imagination. Throughout history, since Archimedes, his discoveries has helped every civilization
after him that has used the wheel or the column. By looking at what he did, we can safely say
“Knowledge is Power.”
“Archimedes of Syracuse.” World of Mathematics, Gale, 2006. Biography in Context,
10 Nov. 2017.
“Archimedes of Syracuse.” Math & Mathematicians: The History of Math Discoveries Around
the World, edited by Leonard C. Bruno, UXL, 2008. Biography in Context,
Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.
“Archimedes of Syracuse.” World of Mathematics, Gale, 2006. Biography in Context,
6 Dec. 2017.
“Archimedes.” World Eras, edited by John T. Kirby, vol. 3: Roman Republic and Empire, 264
B.C.E.- 476 C.E. Gale, 2001. Biography in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/
K1646300006/BIC1?u=pioneer&xid=4dd479d1. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.
“Home.” Famous Scientists, www.famousscientists.org/archimedes/. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017
Maor, Eli. “Archimedes.” World Book Student, World Book, 2017, www.worldbookonline.com/
student/article?id=ar028620. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.