287–212 BC

Archimedes is one of the most famous scientists of the ancient world. The details of his personal life are not well known, but his genius was recognized and highly regarded during his life by both friends and foes. He made startlingly brilliant discoveries in a variety of fields including mathematics, geometry, mechanics and hydrostatics. In addition, he was an inventor and an engineer and even late in life designed brilliant war machines to aid in the defense of his city.

Although little is known of his private life, there are several well known anecdotes about Archimedes relating to his discoveries. The most famous of course, was his clever method of determining whether a goldsmith hired to create a crown for the King of Syracuse had cheated his client by substituting silver in place of gold. Archimedes determined that the amount of gold required to displace the same amount of water as the king's crown should precisely equal the weight of the gold used by the goldsmith to make the crown, and if there was a discrepancy it would mean that the king had been cheated. This law of buoyancy is still known as Archimedes Principle.

Archimedes contributions to mathematics were also notable, and included solutions to a variety of problems. He was the first to prove that the surface area and volume of a sphere were exactly 2/3rds that of a cylinder of a similar height. He worked with mathematics limits and series in a manner that is similar to calculus, and in a treatise on 'counting grains of sand', he made innovative use of the manner of calculating very large numbers before the decimal system was established.

Some of Archimedes inventions were just as noteworthy as his scientific achievements. The Archimedes Screw was a devices for lifting water. The Archimedes Claw was a war weapon used to overturn boats that approached the walls of Syracuse during the siege, and he is also credited with improving various other machines of war, including catapults and mirrored 'heat-rays'. He was killed during the siege of Syracuse in spite of the orders of the Roman commander that he be spared and treated courteously.

Key events during the life of Archimedes:

287 BC
Birth of Archimedes in Sicily.
  Studied for some time in Alexandria.
213 BC
Rome begins to besiege Syracuse, but is hindered by Archimedes War machines.
212 BC
Died after the siege of Syracuse during the Second Punic war.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Eureka!  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Roman Undismayed  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Inventor Archimedes  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Archimedes  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/statesmen/_back.html
Archimedes at the Siege of Syracuse  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris
The Great Mechanic  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Charles D. Shaw

Image Links

Well, what do you think of it?' asked Hiero
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

 in The Story of the Romans

The Death of Archimedes, Vimont
 in Famous Men of Greece

Death of Archimedes
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Death of Archimedes
 in Back Matter

Short Biography
Hiero II King of Syracuse during the second Punic War.
Eratosthenes of Cyrene Early Greek scientist from Alexandria who correctly predicted the precise size of the earth in 200 BC.
Marcellus Besieged Syracuse during the second Punic War, but the ingenious war weapons of Archimedes frustrated the Romans.