The Greek mathematician, philosopher and inventor Archimedes was born around 280 to 290 B.C. in Syracuse, at the time an independent city-state in Sicily. He studied in Egypt with the successors of the Greek mathematician Euclid, designed tools and weapon systems, but preferred pure mathematics. Archimedes gave the world “Eureka!” -- Greek for “I have found it!” and a catch-phrase for scientists.
Also called the Archimedes screw or Archimedes snail, the water screw is a device to lift water for irrigation. It was based on a helix, which revolved inside a tube and carried water up on the helical blades. A handle at the high end of the screw was turned to draw up water from the lower to a higher level. Oxen, horses or even humans could power the handle. The screw could also move light granular material such as ashes or sand. This is one of the oldest devices known for lifting water and is still used today in small-scale hydroelectric installations. The main advantage of the Archimedes screw is that it can tolerate large amounts of debris without breaking down. Even fish can be lifted with the water and remain unharmed.
Pulleys are wheels with grooves along which a rope or chain can be fitted. A person pulling at one end of the rope or chain can lift a load attached to the other end. The pulley wheel supports the load, easing the lifting work. Archimedes invented a compound pulley that uses two or more pulleys to move a load. An input driver wheel is connected with a rope or chain to a follower pulley. When this follower is connected with a rope to yet another following pulley, it becomes the driver for that follower. Archimedes demonstrated how the system can move very heavy loads by using it to lift a three-masted ship out of a harbor. Compound pulleys are in widespread use today to lift heavy loads such as engines from a vehicle body.
The iron hand, also called the Archimedes claw, was a weapon designed by Archimedes to defend Syracuse from attack from the Roman Empire’s fleet in 213 B.C. It consisted of a huge lever. At one end was a grappling hook, or the claw. The claw was maneuvered to grasp the bow of an approaching ship, lift the ship out of the water, then drop it onto the water or onto nearby rocks. The ship's stern would be flooded and the unfortunate crew would be thrown out of the vessel in many directions.
Integral calculus -- a mathematical theory that derives the areas and volumes of spaces and the relationships between variables such as speed, distance and time -- remains one of Archimedes greatest accomplishments. He calculated areas of figures by breaking them up into a number of tiny rectangles and adding them up together to give a total. Today, this process is called integration and forms the basis of advanced mathematics.
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