Black and white vector portrait of the famous Greek mathematician, physicist, inventor, and astronomer Archimedes of Syracuse.

Archimedes lived in the 3rd century BC (ca. 287 - ca. 212 BC) in the city of Syracuse in Sicily. He is considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity, and one of the greatest of all time. Many of his discoveries and inventions have remained relevant to this day, and many of them were the foundation for further inventions. In the field of mathematics, he derived an accurate approximation of the mathematical constant pi (π), and discovered how to calculate the volume and the surface area of a sphere. He also anticipated the modern calculus and analysis by applying the infinitesimal concept. Some of Archimedes’ most important contributions to physics is his formulation of the principle of buoyancy, which is the foundation of hydrostatics, as well as the fact that he established the law of the lever and identified the concept of the center of gravity.

Some of his ingenious engineering achievements were the inventions of the Archimedes’ screw and the odometer. He also invented war machines like the Archimedes’ claw and the heat ray, and improved the power and accuracy of the catapult. Not much is known about Archimedes' life because many records have been lost, and what is known today was mainly recorded by historians hundreds of years after his death. The year of Archimedes' birth was based on a statement by the historian Tzetzes that he had lived for 75 years. He studied mathematics in Alexandria, Egypt, and most of his mathematical proofs, theorems and treatises are known only through his correspondence with mathematicians in Alexandria.

 

Archimedes of Syracuse portrait
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The Archimedes of Syracuse portrait is available in 2D CAD (.dwg) and vector (.svg and .eps) file formats.

In the 6th century AD, the few copies of Archimedes’ surviving written works were compiled by Isidore of Miletus. Unfortunately, the references to his works that are not known today, which were made by the ancient mathematicians of Alexandria, suggest that some of his writings have been irretrievably lost. Archimedes is thought to have attached much greater importance to his theoretical considerations of mathematics and physics than his inventions of mechanical devices, because he did not seem to have left behind any records of the latter. But since he lived in the time of the Punic Wars, he developed war machines that greatly contributed to Syracuse resisting the Romans. Therefore, during his lifetime, his inventions of mechanical devices were much better known than his theoretical discoveries in mathematics and physics.

Archimedes died a tragic death at the age of 75 during the Second Punic War, when Roman forces captured Syracuse after two years of siege. According to Plutarch, a Roman soldier killed him while he was contemplating a mathematical diagram. Cicero, 137 years after Archimedes' death, wrote that he had found his tomb in a neglected state and restored it. According to Cicero, the grave was easy to identify because on top of it there was a tombstone with the figure of a sphere inscribed in a cylinder of the same height and diameter. Unfortunately, the location of Archimedes' tomb is unknown today.

 

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Submitted by Ceh Jan