Born around 287 BC in Syracuse and schooled in Egypt, Archimedes is one of those historical figures who contributed substantially to history, yet unfortunately little is actually known about him. His work in various fields, including mathematics and physics, is renowned worldwide and his inventions and contributions are still used today. When the name Archimedes is mentioned there are many different mathematical and mechanical inventions that spring to mind as his contributions were so far reaching, including the hydraulic screw and burning mirrors, but the one contribution that truly stands out can be summed up with one simple word; ‘Eureka!’
Archimedes discovered the law of hydrostatics when he stepped into a bath of water and recognised the cause of the water rising. This is also known as the ‘Archimedes Principle’. The principle shows that when a body is immersed into water the weight of the amount of water displaced is the same as the weight of the body. As his body floated in the bath tub, Archimedes concluded that an object that is less dense than water will float.
Throughout his studies and work-life Archimedes devoted his time to research and experimentation and during the Roman conquest of Sicily his work contributed significantly to the defences of Syracuse. As a testament to his dedication it is said that he was so absorbed in his studies that when a roman soldier arrived to murder him, Archimedes merely asked that his current project not be distrurbed.
While it might appear that Archimedes was continually working, this didn’t stop him from allowing the world around him to contribute to his inventions. By messing around in the bathtub he stumbled upon a law of physics that made him famous for centuries to come. This shows what an important role observation plays in our creative powers.
Archimedes learnt from a young age that perseverance was the key to productivity and devoted a great deal of time to his inventions and research. However, this devotion would not have been effective if he had not had excellent time management and found a balance between creative thinking and productivity.
By working for the state during the Roman conquest, Archimedes had the opportunity to constantly develop and produce his inventions in an environment where they were needed. This ensured that the momentum was maintained and any inventions were developed constantly.
- Eureka is actually Greek for ‘I have found it’.
- There is a lunar mountain range and crater on the moon named Archimedes in his honour.
- Archimedes’ 4 main contributions were the Archimedes screw, the Archimedes principle, the heat ray and the claw of Archimedes.
- He is considered to be the greatest mathematician in antiquity.
Image credit: “Domenico-Fetti Archimedes 1620” by Domenico Fetti. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons