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Modern science and mathematics owes much to the work of mathematicians from centuries past. Through their keen observations, many of the rules upon which recent discoveries were made were made public to others. Among these legends in the field is Archimedes, a man who many suggest was one of the best mathematicians to ever live although this claim is difficult to prove or disprove. This essay looks into the life of this great man.
It is commonly accepted based on surviving documents that in the year 287 of the Common Era in Syracuse, Archimedes was born. While records also state that his father was an Astronomer, he was of little note and history seems to have forgotten him except in reference to his famous son. While much of Archimedes’ life is shrouded in mystery due to poor record keeping, his death at the age of seventy-five remains public knowledge. He died at the hands of a Roman soldier who had specifically been instructed not to harm him due to his worth to the empire. As a mark of respect to him his tomb was decorated with mathematical figures and inscriptions that referenced his life’s pursuits. This tomb has also been lost to history although historians who saw it not long after his passing have documented its inscriptions.
Having lived a fairly long life and been dedicated to mathematics throughout, Archimedes was able to discover several things. Some of these appear to be obvious now but only as a result of his initial explanations. One of the simpler ones involves a means of calculating the volume of irregularly shaped objects known as Archimedes principle. One version of this requires that the object be submerged in water and the quantity of displaced water measured.
Another more ingenious discovery was his use of mirrors to harness the sun’s energy in the form of a weapon. With mirrors he was able to concentrate heat and light onto ships that would attempt to attack his city. With enough precision they could burst into flame but for this to occur conditions would have to be ideal. Even so, the light alone would make enemy ships unable to navigate and thus vulnerable to attack by other means.
His work speaks for itself but other great thinkers in science such as Galileo frequently praised Archimedes. He passed many observations on to his intellectual successors.