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Life and Death of Archimedes - Essay Example

My goal in this paper is to explore the biography of Archimedes and find out what the historical significance of his work is. The paper starts with the introduction. Then it focuses on the facts that highlight the major points in Archimedes’ life. Next, it defines the historical significance of Archimedes’ contribution into various spheres of science and human life. The paper ends with conclusion that summarizes the major points discussed. Life and Death of Archimedes Little is known about the life and death of Archimedes. Supposedly, he was born c. 287 BC in the city of Syracuse on Sicily (Jaeger 2). The territory was a part of Greece at that time and was ruled by King Hieron II, to whom Archimedes was said to be related (Mobile Reference, “Archimedes”). In a preface to one of his works, The Sand Reckoner, Archimedes mentioned that his father Phidias was an astronomer. Archimedes is believed to have studied in Egypt. In particular, he is thought to have studied in Alexandria-based mathematic school that was founded by Euclid, a prominent Greek mathematician. Later, Archimedes is known to have returned to Syracuse, where he met his death during the Second Punic War. This allegedly happened c. 212 BC. At that time the Roman forces led by the general Marcellus (c. 268 BC –208 BC) attacked the city of Syracuse and finally took it. Archimedes was killed after Syracouse surrendered and Roman troops filled the city. According to the ancient author Tzetzes, he was about 75 years old when it happened

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(Jaeger 2). Allegedly, Archimedes med his death in the following way. Just as the Roman soldiers started looting Syracuse, the great mathematician was at home attempting to solve one of the mathematical problems. As Plutarch says, he was so deep in thought and so concentrated on what he was doing that he hardly noticed anything around him (Hasan 85). So when one of the Roman warriors walked in and stepped on some of the figures drawn in the dirt, Archimedes allegedly cried: “Don’t disturb my circles!” This eventually cost him life (in other accounts he is said to have refused to accompany the soldier to the general Marcellus until the problem had been solved). Anyway, Marcellus was quite furious when he learned about the death of Archimedes, whom he had invited to his place to converse in a friendly manner. It is also believed that Marcellus ordered the execution of that soldier who killed the mathematician on the ground that the former had to be dealt with as a common murderer (Hasan 86). Historical Significance of Archimedes’ Discoveries and Inventions In his lifetime, Archimedes was probably most famous for his military inventions. At the time of the Second Punic War, the catapults designed by Archimedes were used by his countrymen to force back the enemy’s troops on land. Historical sources also provide evidence that Archimedes found the way to set Roman vessels on fire thanks to the specific arrangement of mirrors (Mobile Reference, “Archimedes”). The device known as “heat ray” focused sunlight on the ships that approached the shore and made them catch fire. Modern experiments have proved that the use of heat ray could have been a practice during the siege of Syracuse. During the First Punic War, the odometer was used –


The Course Number 20 March 2012 Archimedes The life story of Archimedes takes a modern reader to an exciting journey into “the genius of Hellenic learning” (Roller quoted in Jaeger 235). Indeed, there cannot be found a single word to describe the genius of Archimedes – one of the greatest scientists of antiquity…
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