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Archimēdes

Ἀρχιμήδης). A remarkable mathematician and inventor, born at Syracuse in B.C. 287. After spending a long time in travel and study he returned to his native city, and there introduced a great number of inventions, among them the endless screw, first used by him in launching large ships; and the so-called Archimedean screw (cochlea), used in draining the fields after the annual inundation of the Nile. During the siege of Syracuse by the Romans (215-212), he invented the catapults which long kept the enemy at bay, being adapted for use at both short and long range. He is said to have set fire to the Roman ships by means of powerful burning-glasses—a story which Buffon in 1777 showed by experiment to be not at all absurd, and which Ball regards as not improbable. He first established the truth that a body plunged in fluid loses as much of its weight as is equal to the weight of an equal volume of the fluid. When Syracuse finally fell, he was slain by the Roman soldiers, who were tempted by the bright metal of his instruments, which they took for gold. Cicero, when quaestor in Sicily (B.C. 75), discovered the tomb of Archimedes (Tusc. Disp. v. 23). There still exist nine treatises by him which have been edited with a Latin version, by Heiberg, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1880-81). See Ball, Short Hist. of Mathematics, pp. 59-70 (London, 1888).

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