3595 words - 14 pages

Archimedes of Syracuse

(278 B.C.E. - 212 B.C.E.)

"The importance of the role played by Archimedes in the history of science can scarcely be exaggerated. He was emulated and admired in his own day and at successive periods in later times" (Clagett, 1).

During the time period before Archimedes, Aristotle had already effectively drawn a line between philosophy and mathematics. After his date philosophy is carried on without mathematical inspiration. There is an outbreak, known as the Golden Age of Greek mathematics, that just happens to occur in Alexandria during the period 300 to 200 B.C.E.. This period lasted only a short time however because philosophic faith in mathematics gradually disappeared. Philosophers were more inclined to use their intellect to come up with explanations based on simply theoretical assumptions and by faith (Ginsburg, 57). Since philosophy had been around long before mathematics was thought up, it remained the more publicly acceptable way to answer questions. By not linking the two, "they missed a grand opportunity to blow open the secrets of the universe to science, and they bequeathed to posterity, a heavy obstacle to the progress of science as a whole" (Ginsburg, 58). Archimedes works at this time are therefore described as magical and mysterious, rather than explained in the words of a modern day scientist.

"Had he been born in another age... had he come into a different cultural inheritance and had the seeds of his own work fallen upon more favorable soil, he might also have ranked as the greatest of all time" (Ginsburg, 56).

In his time, Archimedes served as a mathematician, physicist, and inventor. Unlike other mathematicians of his day, Archimedes was able to achieve some fame during his lifetime, and many references are made to him in works of this time period. Although, it is important to point out that this acquisition of fame wasn't primarily owed to mathematical or enlightening discoveries, but rather his ability to develop advanced weapons of destruction that were used for warfare. The people of his day were more interested in practical purposes rather than their physical or mathematical implications. As told in a book concerning Greek history "Archimedes emerged as a figure larger than life in the popular imagination, legendary for the seeming miracles he performed through his mechanical inventions" (Brunschwig, 544). Aside from the creation of these weapons Archimedes achieved many advances in the various fields in which he was involved. One example of this is Archimedes' use of an exhaustion method, cutting up shapes into infinitely small pieces to discover their volumes. This method paved the way for what we now call integral calculus, which was later perfected by 16th and 17th century scientists such as Kepler and Newton (Grande, 240). Many of his exploits and achievements have been passed down for generations and oftentimes find themselves being retold in colorful and...

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