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Archimedes was one of the biggest mathematical geniuses this world has ever seen. Many of his inventions and ideas still play a role in the world we live in today. Archimedes was the son of an astronomer and mathematician named Phidias. He was born in the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily in 287 BC. Syracuse was a focal point for art and science which were a strong influence on the maturing Archimedes. As he grew, he soon became obsessed in a curiosity for problem solving. After learning as much as he could in Syracuse, Archimedes traveled to Alexandria in Egypt to study for many years. He later returned with a strong education to push his limitations and study independently.
Archimedes foresaw modern calculus and analyzation by using concepts of infinitesimals and the method of exhaustion to derive and prove a range of geometrical theorems. This included the area of a circle, the surface area and volume of a sphere, and the area under a parabola. He also derived an accurate estimate of pi, creating a system using exponentiation for expressing very large numbers. He was also one of the first to apply mathematics to the physical world. He used his strong mathematical skills to become a pioneer in the world of physics.
During Archimedes’ life he accomplished many feats and used his strong mind to assist his people. His king, Hiero II, was very fond of him and recognized his problem solving skills. Archimedes helped him on many occasions throughout his life. One such story tells of how King Hiero was unable to empty rainwater from the hull of one of his ships. The King called upon Archimedes for assistance. Archimedes’ solution was to create a machine consisting of a hollow tube containing a spiral that could be turned by a handle at one end. When the lower end of the tube was placed into the hull and the handle turned, water was carried up the tube and out of the boat. The Archimedes Screw is still used as a method of irrigation in developing countries.
Another story tells of how King Hiero called on Archimedes to determine if a crown a blacksmith had made for him was completely gold or if silver had been used in it. This was no daunting task for Archimedes until the king requested that he figure it out without harming the crown. It took Archimedes a while to figure out a way to determine the material used until one day when he sat in his bath and saw the water rise he shouted “Eureka!” He realized he could figure out the material by placing the crown in water and determining the displacement. He then continued to jump out of his bath and run naked through the streets to figure out what the crown had been made of.
Archimedes not only served the king but also his people. Syracuse had been under attack by the Romans for a long time in his old age. Archimedes developed many clever ways of defending his people through inventions used to batter and sink Roman ships. Eventually after many years the Romans finally invaded the city. A soldier had found Archimedes and demanded that he see his commander. Archimedes refused saying he was working on a difficult problem and the soldier angrily killed the 75 year old. Archimedes was one of the greatest mathematicians to ever live. He really proved the true meaning of math because it was his tool to solve many problems in his life. Archimedes once said “Mathematics reveals its secrets only to those who approach it with pure love, for its own beauty.” I believe this was his message to us and that if we approach math with love and not hate we will see it as one of the greatest problem solving tools ever created by man instead of a bunch of useless numbers.
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