Archimedes was a renowned Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer. Find more information on Archimedes in this brief biography & profile.


Birth: c. 287 BC
Born in: Syracuse, Sicily
Nationality: Greek
Career: Mathematician, Physicist, Engineer, Inventor, Astronomer
Death: c. 212 BC
Archimedes is the name of a Greek mathematician who lived from c. 287 BC to c. 212 BC, but is remembered by people till date. He was a multi-faceted individual, who was also involved in works of physics, engineering, inventions and astronomy. A noted scientist, he is mainly known for designing innovative machines, apart from making progress in physics, which served as the foundation of hydrostatics, statics as well as the principle of the lever. Though he made as much progress in mathematics as in the science, the former achievements are not so well known.
Archimedes was born c. 287 BC, in the seaport city of Syracuse, Sicily. Though there are little records of his birth, the year of his birth has been estimated on a statement by John Tzetzes, the Byzantine Greek historian, in which he said that Archimedes lived for 75 years. Archimedes father was Phidias (as per his statement in ‘The Sand Reckoner’), an astronomer, about whom nothing is known. Plutarch, a Greek historian, had stated in ‘Parallel Lives’ that Archimedes was related to King Hiero II, the ruler of Syracuse. Apart from the fact that Archimedes lived in Syracuse, there is hardly any information on his childhood.
Later Life and Death
There was only one record of the life of Archimedes, the biography written by his friend Heracleides. With the work getting lost, the world is largely in dark about the details of the great scientist’s life. It is believed that he studied in Alexandria, Egypt, along with Conon of Samos and Eratosthenes of Cyrene. Whether he ever married or had children is not known. Even the information on Conon and Eratosthenes was available through his works, including The Method of Mechanical Theorems and the Cattle Problem.
Though it is known that Archimedes died around 212 BC, during the Second Punic War, the sequence of events leading to his death is obscure. One of the versions of Plutarch tells us that a Roman soldier killed him, when the latter refused to obey the order to meet General Marcellus. Another lesser-known version by Plutarch says that Archimedes died while attempting to surrender to a Roman soldier. The last words attributed to Archimedes are "Do not disturb my circles", though there is no reliable evidence of the same.
Discovery of Archimedes’ Tomb
Cicero was a Roman orator who had heard stories about the tomb of Archimedes. As he went in search of it, he realized that none of the locals was able to provide the exact location. After much search, he finally found the tomb in 75 BC, near the Agrigentine gate, in Syracuse. He then got the tomb, which was in a neglected and dilapidated condition, cleaned and was able to see the carving and read some of the verses, added as inscription. The tomb also carried a sculpture that illustrated Archimedes’ his favorite mathematical proof, that the volume and surface area of the sphere are two thirds that of the cylinder, including its bases.
Discoveries and Inventions
  • Provided Archimedes' Principle (method of measuring volume of an object with an irregular shape)
  • Provided rigorous explanation of the principle involved in lever
  • Designed block and tackle pulley systems
  • Designed Archimedes screw
  • Designed Claw of Archimedes (a ship-attacking machine)
  • Improved the power and accuracy of catapult
  • Invented odometer (cart with a gear mechanism), during the First Punic War
  • Invented burning glass or Archimedes heat ray (alleged)
Contributions to Mathematics
  • Used infinitesimals in a way, similar to modern integral calculus
  • Used Method of Exhaustion
  • Proved that area of a circle is equal to π multiplied by the square of its radius (πr2)
  • Gave the value of the square root of 3 as being more than 265/153 (approx 1.7320261) and less than 1351/780 (approx 1.7320512)
  • Proved that the area enclosed by a parabola and a straight line is 4/3 multiplied by the area of a triangle with equal base and height
  • Calculated the number of grains of sand that the universe could contain
  • Proved that the volume and surface area of the sphere are two thirds that of the cylinder, including its bases
Surviving Works
  • On the Equilibrium of Planes (two volumes)
  • On the Measurement of a Circle
  • On Spirals
  • On the Sphere and the Cylinder (two volumes)
  • On Conoids and Spheroids
  • On Floating Bodies (two volumes)
  • The Quadrature of the Parabola
  • (O)stomachion
  • Archimedes' cattle problem
  • The Sand Reckoner
  • The Method of Mechanical Theorems
  • The ‘Fields Medal’ carries a portrait of Archimedes
  • A crater on the Moon is named Archimedes
  • A lunar mountain range is named the Montes Archimedes
  • Asteroid 3600 Archimedes is named after him
  • Postage stamps issued by East Germany (1973), Greece (1983), Italy (1983), Nicaragua (1971), San Marino (1982), and Spain (1963) have the picture of Archimedes
  • ‘Eureka!’, an exclamation by Archimedes, is the state motto of California
  • US state of Oregon has named a movement, for civic engagement targeting universal access to health care, as "Archimedes Movement"

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