“Mathematics reveals its secrets only to those who approach it with pure love, for its own beauty.” ⏤ Archimedes
The Greeks are known for many things, but none can beat their gift to the world of mathematics. Archimedes of Syracuse became the “Father of Mathematics” for his pure love and devotion towards the subject. He was a Greek mathematician, physicist, astronomer, engineer, and inventor in the service of King Hiero II of Syracuse.
From an early age, Archimedes had a fascination with and a delight in science. According to Plutarch, during his childhood days, Archimedes used to draw geometric figures on his body using ashes from fire and oil.
It is next to impossible to rightly justify all the contributions of Archimedes in so few words. Let us glance at some of his greatest works in mathematical physics.
He spent a considerable amount of time in Alexandria in his early years, where he became acquainted with the famous astronomer Conon of Samos. During this, he created a device called the Archimedes’ screw. The purpose of the device was to pump water out of ships.
It has been ages since then, but his creation has not been lost in time. Today, the mechanism is still being implemented in areas like:
- Removing wastewater in sewage treatment
- Irrigation and crop harvesting
- To shift fish from one tank to another in nurseries.
Archimedes had many great inventions during his time. However, his contribution to physics is one of his greatest achievements.
History dictates that King Heron charged Archimedes with determining whether the crown was made of pure gold or not. This famous piece of history denotes the time when he made his discovery of buoyancy. Even after rigorous contemplation, he was unable to devise a method. Following this, while taking a bath, Archimedes realized that the water displaced was equal to the weight of his body. Amidst his excitement, he marked this moment in history with his famous shout, “Eureka!”
The formula of the Archimedes Principle: Fb = ρgV
Fb – Buoyant force
ρ – Fluid density
g – Acceleration due to gravity
V – Fluid volume
Times have changed, but what remains the same is the practical implication of the theory and works of Archimedes. One of them is the working of the lever. According to the law of the lever, if the distance from the fulcrum to the point of input force is greater than the distance from the fulcrum to the point of output force, then the input force gets amplified by the lever. And if the distance is lesser, then the input force gets reduced by the lever. One of the most common modern-day applications of the theory is the manual weighing scale used by vendors and shopkeepers. Another is the seesaw.
Ever since childhood, we have all used the symbol “Pi” in mathematics. However, very few people know about its origin. Pi is a Greek symbol whose numerical value was introduced into mathematics by Archimedes as 3.14 or 22/7. To derive this, he imagined two 96-sided polygons around a circle. On conducting further calculations, he concluded that the value of Pi is greater than 3 10/71 and smaller than 3 1/7, yielding the result 22/7. Some of the real-life avenues where Pi contributes on a daily basis are:
- To calculate the area of spheres and hemispheres
- Create pendulums for clocks
- Keeping track of population changes
- Studying DNA by Biochemists
- In navigation systems like GPS
During his lifetime, Archimedes witnessed his hometown go through a series of ordeals. During the Second Punic War in 214 BC, when Syracuse was under siege, Archimedes helped defend his city by creating war machines.
- Giant Claw – For this, a giant claw was fastened with a heavy chain to capsize or plunge ships into the water. He used his knowledge of lever and pulley systems to loosen the chain and operate the claw, causing the large-scale destruction of enemy ships.
- Catapults – During the siege, Archimedes created a system with the help of mathematics to launch heavy objects like rocks and timber. In layman’s terms, it was a large bucket attached to a beam and a sling that would swing the bucket filled with objects at the incoming ships. Since then, evolution has taken over and the catapults have gone through drastic changes, but the basic idea remains the same. Today, electromagnetic sleds are used to operate catapults for aircraft carriers.
Archimedes lost his life during the siege of Syracuse in the hands of Roman soldiers for his contributions. His impeccable knowledge made him a target. Pointing out one single avenue where his work left a mark is no easy feat. But it is safe to say that he helped create the foundation for modern mathematics and physics.
For all you math geeks out there, if this article on the lifelong contributions of Archimedes piques your interest, then visit BYJU’S FutureSchool blogs to learn more. Let us know your feedback in the comments below.