Archimedes was one of the greatest mathematicians in Ancient Greek. He helped develop early methods of geometry and calculus.

One of his greatest moments of discovery was deciphering Pi.

Today, Archimedes picture graces the prestigious Field Medal which is given to the top mathematician each year.

Early Life

Archimedes was born in Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the year 287 B.C.E. Not much is known about his childhood. Historians think his father was Phidias who was an astronomer.

Others historians like Plutarch believe Archimedes was related to King Hiero II of Syracuse. When he was young, he traveled to Alexandria, Egypt.

He studied under two great scientists; Conon of Samos and Eratosthenes of Cyrene.

A scientific problem solver

After returning to Syracuse from Egypt, Archimedes set-out on his life of discoveries and inventions.

One of his most notable early achievements was determining the density and volume of an irregularly shaped item.

While he was working for King Hiero II, he was asked to determine the content of pure gold in a gold crown of the king’s.

Puzzled at first, Archimedes eventually figured out a solution.

While he was bathing, he submerged the crown in water and measured the displaced water.

After measuring the weight of the crown, he compared the two measurements. Archimedes was able to conclude the density of gold in the crown using these measurements.


Archimedes greatest achievements of discovery were in mathematics. He pioneered numerous formulas still used in geometry.

He worked extensively with cylinders, circles and spheres. His discoveries included finding a way to calculate the value of Pi.

Archimedes used a system he described as the Method of Exhaustion to achieve his results. He also is credited with numerous equations in calculus where he used a method called Infinitesimals.

Notable inventions

One of Archimedes most useful inventions is called the Archimedes Screw. The device is still used in some areas of the world today.

An Archimedes Screw can lift water from lower elevations to higher elevations. Originally his invention was used to remove water from the bottom of leaking ships.

Later, the screw would be used for agricultural purposes by passing water from low lying lakes to irrigation channels.

Another intriguing invention of his was the Claw of Archimedes. The device looked like a large crane with grappling hook attached.

The concept is easy to understand.

The Claw of Archimedes was used in naval battles. The claw or hook could grab an enemy’s ship and capsize it or destroy the masts.

The heat ray was another interesting invention of Archimedes. He envisioned using mirrors to focus the sun rays on enemy ships.

His hopes were to light the ship on fire. Most historians believe the heat ray was more useful blinding enemy crew members.

The Siege of Syracuse and his death

The Romans laid siege to Syracuse in 214 B.C.E. The Syracuse army and navy used many of Archimedes inventions to help defend the city.

After two years of siege Syracuse fell to the Romans. The Roman General Marcellus sent soldiers to capture Archimedes.

Marcellus knew that Archimedes was an important scientist and mathematician. The general wanted Archimedes captured alive.

When the soldiers arrived, Archimedes was working on a problem and refused to go.

While sitting at his table full of mathematical instruments, a soldier killed Archimedes in 212B.C.E.

Facts about Archimedes

  • His early life is somewhat of a mystery.
  • Archimedes studied in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • He used the Method of Exhaustion to form geometric equations.
  • Archimedes invented the Archimedes Screw which is still used primarily for agricultural purposes.
  • He discovered the value of Pi.
  • Archimedes picture graces the prestigious Field Medal given out each year to the world’s outstanding mathematician.
  • He used a method he called Infinitesimals to solve problems similar to modern calculus.
  • Archimedes was instrumental in discovering how to measure volume.

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