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The Great Archimedes

By Mario Geymonat

Publication Year: 2011

In this exclusive English edition of the elucidating and award-winning investigation of Archimedes’ life, Mario Geymonat provides fresh insights into one of the greatest minds in the history of humankind. Archimedes (ca 287 BCE–ca 212 BCE) was a mathematician, physicist, scientist, and engineer. Born in Syracuse, Sicily, the Greek Archimedes was an inventor par excellence. He not only explored the displacement of water and sand, worked out the principle of levers, developed an approximation of pi, discovered ways to determine the areas and volumes of solids, and invented the monumental Archimedes’ screw (a machine for raising water), Archimedes also developed machinery that his fellow Syracusans successfully employed to defend their native city against the Romans. The Great Archimedes is already a highly acclaimed telling of the life and mind of one of antiquity’s most important and innovative thinkers, and, now in translation, it is sure to be cherished by experts and novices alike across the English-speaking world. This wonderfully illustrated and multifarious book is enriched by numerous quotations and testimonies from ancient sources.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Archimedes is one of the most original and prolific scientists in the history of humankind. Because of a prodigious mathematical imagination and a thoroughly advanced methodology, Archimedes was able to demonstrate proofs for an...

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pp. xi-xiv

In this book, Archimedes is considered with great erudition from every point of view, including his contribution to the development of weaponry. In this regard, though he was not necessarily disposed to offering practical applications...

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Translator's Preface

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pp. xv-xvi

As translator and editor, I would like to thank first Mario Geymonat for the opportunity to encounter the great Archimedes in a meaningful way through his Italian original, Il Grande Archimede. I would also like to thank my...

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1. The Adventurous Life of a Remarkable Scientist

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pp. 1-13

Archimedes was the greatest mathematician of classical antiquity and among the greatest scientists of all time. Endowed with remarkable intuition and audacity, Archimedes subjected his discoveries to rigorous and logical selfscrutiny...

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2. The Mysterious Greek Letter Pi

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pp. 15-21

It is well known that the Greek letter (pi) is the symbol indicating the ratio between the circumference and the diameter or radius of a circle.1 Its numerical value therefore solves the problem of the rectification of the circumference...

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3. Give Me a Lever Long Enough and I Will Move the World

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pp. 23-27

Humankind has long known about the fundamental properties of the fulcrum point through the use of the balance and of levers of various types and sizes. In book I of his treatise On the Equilibrium of Planes, Archimedes treated...

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4. Eureka!

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pp. 29-37

Were Archimedes to have used the word Eureka! each time he made a new discovery, he would have said it many times throughout his life. One of his most important discoveries involved the spiral, to which he directed an entire treatise...

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5. Archimedes' Magnum Opus On the Sphere and the Cylinder

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pp. 39-49

On the Sphere and the Cylinder is Archimedes’ most extensive and well-argued scientific work that has come down to us. This work is concerned with geometric shapes that are not confined simply to flat surfaces, such as the sphere and...

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6. How Many Grains of Sand Does It Take To Fill the Universe

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pp. 51-57

In his short treatise entitled The Sand Reckoner, Archimedes proposes to count the grains of sand contained in a sphere that has the sun at its center and has the sky as its periphery, demarcated by fixed stars. To this end, Archimedes...

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7. Archimedes as Civil and Military Engineer

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pp. 59-68

Of all the machines constructed under Archimedes’ direction, the ship Syracusia, ordered by the tyrant Hiero II in 240 BC as a token of the tyrant’s prosperous reign, occupies a special place. It was, in all likelihood, the largest vessel of...

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8. An Original and Persuasive Method

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pp. 69-73

Archimedes’ short work entitled The Method on Mechanical Theorems has had a stormy history. Lost for many centuries, it was rediscovered by chance in a manuscript that arrived in Istanbul from Jerusalem’s Monastery of the Holy...

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9. Archimedes and the Poets Catullus, Horace, and Virgil

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pp. 75-83

The innovations of Archimedes found their way into Latin poetry beginning, in all probability, with Ennius, whose eighth book of Annales described the Roman conquest of Sicily. Although unfortunately we only have about half of...

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10. The "Myth" of Archimedes, Yesterday and Today

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pp. 85-95

Even during Archimedes’ own lifetime a series of pleasant but (at least partly) fanciful anecdotes were told about him. As we saw in chapter 1, some of these have been transmitted to us by Plutarch. According to that Greek biographer,...


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pp. 97-106


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pp. 107-109

Index [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 111-116

E-ISBN-13: 9781481300506
E-ISBN-10: 1481300504
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602583115
Print-ISBN-10: 1602583110

Page Count: 125
Publication Year: 2011