On This Day


Mathematician and Inventor Archimedes

Profession: Mathematician and Inventor


Why Famous: Archimedes is the most famous mathematician and inventor from the Classical World. He was born in and lived most of his life in the Greek city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily, except for probably time spent in the Egyptian scholarly city of Alexandria.

Archimedes' mathematical achievements include his invention of the Archimedean Screw, still used today, that raises water above the ground. He also worked out how to calculate the volume of a sphere, an early approximation of pi and the principle of a lever and a compound pulley. He formulated Archimedes' principle whereby an object immersed in fluid loses weight equal to the weight of the amount of fluid it displaces, supposedly discovering this when he leapt out of the bath crying 'Eureka'.

Archimedes played a vital role in the defense of his city against the Romans in 212 BC during the Second Punic War. He is credited with inventing a new catapult and a special crane to grip and overturn ships. Despite orders to spare his life, Archimedes was killed by soldiers when the Romans finally overran and conquered the city.

Birthplace: Syracuse, Syracuse

Cause of Death: Killed while under siege

Historical Events

  • 2008-10-29 10th century Archimedes Palimpsest, featuring lost works of Archimedes, made freely available on the web, 10 years after bought by unknown tech figure