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7 Amazing Inventions from Archimedes

Archimedes is one of history’s great thinkers. He was astute in philosophy as well as in the arts, active in mathematics, physics, and was recognized as one of the greatest engineers of his time. His legacy lives on in the modern era through history as well as his countless inventions and discoveries from 2000 years ago.

Let’s take a look at 7 inventions that Archimede’s was responsible for.

Archimedes’ screw

Living in the era of 200s B.C., agriculture was a leading cultural driver in society, but the industry faced similar problems that farmers do today. Poor farmers specifically were running into issues irrigating their crops, so Archimedes devised a solution.

Source: Wikimedia/Carlito

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Called Archimedes’ screw, this device was rotated by a windmill or through manual labor. As it turned, it would scoop water up and move it through it’s casing until it reached the irrigation ditches in the fields. 

This rotating screw-like device for moving water is still a design that is carried over into the industry today. It has also been used over the years to move light materials like grain in and out of farming silos. 

Archimedes’ principle

Archimedes is credited as the person who discovered the principle of buoyancy, from which he worked to develop Archimedes’ principle. This states that the buoyant force of a submerged object is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.

After being tasked by the king to figure out whether a crown made for him was pure gold, he realized that if he took a lump of gold weighing the same as the gold crown, the two objects should displace the same amount of water, regardless of shape. 

If the goldsmith who made the crown replaced any of the gold with silver or a cheaper metal, then the crown would’ve displaced more water.

According to the story, Archimedes used this idea to prove that the goldsmith had cheated the king out of a rightful amount of gold in the crown.

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Stories differ on how Archimedes was actually able to discover that the crown wasn’t pure gold simply due to their age, but one thing remains constant, Archimedes’ principle is the foundation to the laws of physics today.

The Iron Claw

Archimedes is somewhat famous for designing war machines for his home state of Syracuse. One famous device was called the Iron Claw. 

7 Amazing Inventions from Archimedes
Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia

This machine was thought to have been installed on the walls of the city of Syracuse, able to grab and topple ships that were approaching to attach. This device is only known about through snippets of historical context, but it was believed that the claw device would fasten itself to the underside of a ship and be tugged upwards. This force would either cause great damage to the approaching ships or cause them to topple over.

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The odometer

Depending upon who you ask, Archimedes is also credited as coming up with the first idea of an odometer, or at least a mechanical method of keeping track of distance traveled.

Vitruvius accounted Archimedes as conjuring up a large wheel of a known circumference in a small frame that was mounted to a wheelbarrow or other wheeled device. When the object was pushed along, the device would drop pebbles into a container, each representing a set distance. 

According to the Encyclopedia Britannia, this was, in essence, the first odometer in history. 

The pulley system

Archimedes didn’t invent the pulley, but he did invent compound pulleys, improving on an existing form of technology that was around at his time. He demonstrated that a wheel supported by a rope could be used as a method of transferring energy, providing the operator with a mechanical advantage in the process. 

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7 Amazing Inventions from Archimedes
Source: Eric Gaba/Wikimedia

Archimedes perfected the existing technology to create the first block and tackle system utilizing cranes and compound pulleys. History states that he demonstrated the power of his new machine by moving a ship all through his own effort while being seated a great distance away. 

The law of the lever

Archimedes is also credited as being the inventor of the lever. The great inventor once said, “Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth.” To which he was challenged to prove it.

He was tasked with launching Syracuse’s largest ship that the city couldn’t get launched with traditional manpower. Archimedes is said to have accepted the task and utlized a massive lever mechanism along with a series of pulleys to launch the newly-constructed ship. 

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Looking back through history, it’s evident that the inventor wasn’t the first to conceive of a lever mechanism, but he was the first to describe the underlying physics as well as improve on the design. He explained the ratios of force, load, and how the fulcrum point interacted with a lever’s capability. 

Geometry of shapes

Plutarch writes about Archimedes stating that he didn’t hold his own mechanical inventions in high regard. Rather Archimedes was much more proud of his proofs and theorums in the realm of physics and mathematics. The great engineer is credited as the first to determine the formula for finding the surface area of a sphere of a given radius. Written today, that formula is S = 4πr^2. He also developed a formula for the volume of a sphere utilizing the volume of cylinders, written V = 4/3πr^3

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These mathematical accomplishments were what Archimedes held dear to his heart as part of his lasting legacy. 

As you can probably tell from this brief list though, the inventor had a significant hand in the discovery of early physics, mathematics, mechanical design, and even art. He was perhaps the greatest polymath to ever live and rightfully deserves his place in the history books. 

Source: Interesting Engineering