Who Is Archimedes?

Archimedes, a Sicilian Greek, was among the greatest mathematicians of all time as well as a physicist and inventor. After attending Euclid's school to acquire as much mathematical knowledge as was possible in his time, Archimedes founded his own school and made great advances in the field of mathematics.

Archimedes was born in 287 B.C. in Syracuse, Sicily, but little is known about his personal life. His father was Phidias, an astronomer, and they were related to the ruler of Sicily at the time, Hiero II. His accomplishments include the Archimedes' principle of water displacement for measuring the volume of irregular objects; the Archimedes' screw used in pumps and ship propulsion; and possibly apocryphal weapons, such as the Claw of Archimedes and a heat ray used to attack Roman vessels. In addition to his inventions, Archimedes came up with dozens of mathematical principles, proofs for geometrical problems and a primitive calculus.

Sicily, some years earlier, had switched allegiance from Rome to Carthage, and the Romans retaliated by besieging Syracuse for three years. The Roman General Marcellus, valuing Archimedes' genius, had given orders to ensure his safe capture. However, a Roman soldier lost his temper for obscure reasons and slew him instead. Archimedes was killed in 212 B.C.