EXHIBIT: The First Eureka Moment

Science  27 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5688, pp. 1219e
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5688.1219e

Historians usually rank Archimedes as one of the three greatest mathematicians for achievements from refining estimates of pi to laying the groundwork for calculus. This archive from Chris Rorres, an applied mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, brims with lore and trivia about Archimedes (circa 287 B.C.E.-212 B.C.E.), who was also an engineer and scientist (Science, 20 August, p. 1102).

Animations and reconstructions show how some of his devices might have worked. For example, you can study the mechanics of Archimedes' claw, a huge crane for upending enemy ships designed to defend his home of Syracuse, a Greek city-state. As the site relates, Archimedes' most famous “discovery” might be apocryphal. He was supposedly bathing when he figured out how to determine if the king's golden crown contained silver; thrilled, he reportedly ran through the streets naked shouting, “Eureka!” Scholars, however, note that his solution—comparing the volume of water displaced by the crown and by an equal mass of pure gold to see if they had the same density—doesn't display his usual creativity and would have required precise measurements hard to obtain at the time.


Related Content

Navigate This Article