One of the greatest mathematicians, engineers and physicists of all time, Archimedes was born in 287 B.C. in what was once Syracuse, or Saracussia, and what is now Sicily. His work in geometry and the formation of the Archimedes Principle and the Archimedes Screw took principles beyond the human limit of the day, and his work is still used in both theory and practice in the present period.
As a relative of the royal family, Archimedes would have had one of the best educations available. King Hiero II was said to be his uncle and often commissioned his brilliant nephew to design and build military ships and arms. In fact, one of his first assignments was to design and construct a massive military barge that would be able to supply his naval forces. In modern times, archeologists have not been able to find the remains of the massive ship and it is has never been proven that its construction ever took place.
During this time, Archimedes also envisioned a way of moving ships in and out of the water with ease. Since Syracuse was a seaport town, it was important to be able to fix, repair, and send ships back out to sea as quickly as possible. Additionally, he knew that speed was essential when dealing with the Roman naval forces that would attack the town if they were not given their quota of wheat each year. Therefore, Archimedes invented a pulley system that could lift a boat and its crew out of the water with the supposed pull of one rope.
In addition to his work with the design and maintenance of ships, he also hypothesized about buoyancy and the reasons that some objects would float, while others would not. His work led him to discover the rations between density, buoyancy, and surface area design. During the First and Second Punic Wars, Archimedes’ inventions alone helped keep the Roman attackers at bay. One theory suggests that Archimedes invented a system of mirrors that would not only blind incoming Roman ships, but would cause them to set alight due to the immense ray of heat that was created. While this theory has been repeated and actually proven possible, many doubt its actual use.
Archimedes also is said to have designed a much more accurate catapult, which would also launch projectiles set alight. In order that his designs would work, Archimedes invented his own number system, which was an early form of calculus. One of his most famous discoveries involved the circumference of circles. And, while he didn’t invent Pi or delve too deeply in the math behind it, he did come up with a mathematical ration of 3.1408 that aided his calculations involving circles and spheres. He also worked with the phenomenon of gravity and discovered that objects and people actually have a center of gravity. His further work in astronomy and physics was an amazing feat, especially due to the fact that much of the math that he used hadn’t been invented yet. Archimedes went down in Greek history for his military genius and has remained one of the top scientific minds on Earth.