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Famous Mathematicians: Archimedes

written by: Kristina Dems • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/20/2012

Archimedes is a mathematician famous for the Archimedes Principle, and many other important contributions to the world of mathematics and physics. Some parts of his life remain a mystery, but what we do know is proof that he was a very intelligent and eccentric man.

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    Archimedes Archimedes is one of the most famous people in the field of mathematics and physics. He applied mathemetics to physical elements and how they work, and this is why he has earned his place as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. Take a deeper look into his life, his works and some of his most important contributions in the world of mathematics, including his most famous contribution of all, the Archimedes' Principle.

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    Early Life

    Archimedes was born in Syracuse, Sicily around the year 287 BC. Little is known about his family, only that his father was named Phidias. It is thought that his father, an astronomer, was related to the king of Syracuse at that time, Hieron II.

    As for whether Archimedes married and had children, nothing is certain. It is suspected that he studied in Alexandria, Egypt and he was probably a student and follower of Euclid. There is no clear indication of this information about his education, but there documents that support that he had many friends in Alexandria and he sent the results of his studies in mathematics to Alexandria with highly personal notes.

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    His study of mathematics and the application of these studies led him to invent compound pulley systems, the planetarium and several war machines that were used in defending Syracuse from enemies. It is also possible that he was involved in the invention of the water organ and the water screw.

    He did not just study existing literature involving mathematics, but he also initiated and pioneered a number of fields of science such as hydrostatics, pycnometry and static mechanics. He also did a lot for integral calculus and mathematical physics, so much so that he is called “the father of integral calculus" and “the father of mathematical physics". His findings, theories and results of his studies are forever preserved in his published works that include The Sandreckoner, On Spirals, On Conoids and Spheroids, Quadrature of the Parabola, On Plane Equilibriums, On Floating Bodies and Measurement of a Circle.

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    Archimedes' Principle

    Also known the Law of Buoyancy, the Archimedes' Principle states that any kind of body which is immersed in any kind of fluid is subjected to an exerted upward force that is equal to the weight that is displaced by the body. This upward force is called “buoyancy". The formulation of this principle is said to have come from a personal experience of Archimedes where he observed that he displaced water when he stepped into a bath. This legend also involves him rushing out from the bath and out into the streets while yelling “Eureka!" which is the Greek word for the phrase “I have found it!"

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    End of His Life

    Archimedes died in 212 BC when he was killed by a soldier from the Roman army, which was invading Syracuse at the time. The soldier did not know who he was, and unknowingly ended the life of one of the most brilliant minds the Roman empire could have used for its own benefit.


  • Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Supplied by Dr. Manuel

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