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Title: Archimedes - Men of Science
Author: Heath, Thomas Little, 1861-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Archimedes - Men of Science" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's notes:

(1) Numbers following letters (without space) like C2 were originally
      printed in subscript. Letter subscripts are preceded by an
      underscore, like C_n.

(2) Characters following a carat (^) were originally printed in

(3) [root] stands for the root symbol; [alpha], [beta], etc. for greek

[Illustration: _Aristippus Philosophus Socraticus, nausragio cum ejectus
ad Rhodiensium litus animadvertisses Geometrica Schemata descripta,
exclamavisse ad comites ita dicitur_, Bene Speremus, Hominum enim
vestigia video.

_Vitruv. Architect lib. 6. Prief_.

delin MBurghers sculptUniv. Oxon.]






  K.C.B., K.C.V.O., F.R.S.; SC.D., CAMB.

  [Greek: Dos moi pou stô, kai kinô tên gên]



  CHAP.                             PAGE
    I. ARCHIMEDES                      1




    V. THE SANDRECKONER               45

   VI. MECHANICS                      50

  VII. HYDROSTATICS                   53

  BIBLIOGRAPHY                        57

  CHRONOLOGY                          58



If the ordinary person were asked to say off-hand what he knew of
Archimedes, he would probably, at the most, be able to quote one or
other of the well-known stories about him: how, after discovering the
solution of some problem in the bath, he was so overjoyed that he ran
naked to his house, shouting [Greek: eurêka, eurêka] (or, as we might
say, "I've got it, I've got it"); or how he said "Give me a place to
stand on and I will move the earth"; or again how he was killed, at the
capture of Syracuse in the Second Punic War, by a Roman soldier who
resented being told to get away from a diagram drawn on the ground which
he was studying.

And it is to be feared that few who are not experts in the history of
mathematics have any acquaintance with the details of the original
discoveries in mathematics of the greatest mathematician of antiquity,
perhaps the greatest mathematical genius that the world has ever seen.

History and tradition know Archimedes almost exclusively as the inventor
of a number of ingenious mechanical appliances, things which naturally
appeal more to the popular imagination than the subtleties of pure

Almost all that is told of Archimedes reaches us through the accounts by
Polybius and Plutarch of the siege of Syracuse by Marcellus. He perished
in the sack of that city in 212 B.C., and, as he was then an old man
(perhaps 75 years old), he must have been born about 287 B.C. He was
the son of Phidias, an astronomer, and was a friend and kinsman of King
Hieron of Syracuse and his son Gelon. He spent some time at Alexandria
studying with the successors of Euclid (Euclid who flourished about 300
B.C. was then no longer living). It was doubtless at Alexandria that he
made the acquaintance of Conon of Samos, whom he admired as a
mathematician and cherished as a friend, as well as of Eratosthenes; to
the former, and to the latter during his early period he was in the
habit of communicating his discoveries before their publication. It was
also probably in Egypt that he invented the water-screw known by his
name, the immediate purpose being the drawing of water for irrigating

After his return to Syracuse he lived a life entirely devoted to
mathematical research. Incidentally he became famous through his clever
mechanical inventions. These things were, however, in his case the
"diversions of geometry at play," and he attached no importance to them.
In the words of Plutarch, "he possessed so lofty a spirit, so profound a
soul, and such a wealth of scientific knowledge that, although these
inventions had won for him the renown of more than human sagacity, yet
he would not consent to leave behind him any written work on such
subjects, but, regarding as ignoble and sordid the business of mechanics
and every sort of art which is directed to practical utility, he placed
his whole ambition in those speculations in the beauty and subtlety of
which there is no admixture of the common needs of life".

During the siege of Syracuse Archimedes contrived all sorts of engines
against the Roman besiegers. There were catapults so ingeniously
constructed as to be equally serviceable at long or short range, and
machines for discharging showers of missiles through holes made in the
walls. Other machines consisted of long movable poles projecting beyond
the walls; some of these dropped heavy weights upon the enemy's ships
and on the constructions which they called _sambuca_, from their
resemblance to a musical instrument of that name, and which consisted of
a protected ladder with one end resting on two quinqueremes lashed
together side by side as base, and capable of being raised by a
windlass; others were fitted with an iron hand or a beak like that of a
crane, which grappled the prows of ships, then lifted them into the air
and let them fall again. Marcellus is said to have derided his own
engineers and artificers with the words, "Shall we not make an end of
fighting with this geometrical Briareus who uses our ships like cups to
ladle water from the sea, drives our _sambuca_ off ignominiously with
cudgel-blows, and, by the multitude of missiles that he hurls at us all
at once, outdoes the hundred-handed giants of mythology?" But the
exhortation had no effect, the Romans being in such abject terror that,
"if they did but see a piece of rope or wood projecting above the wall
they would cry 'there it is,' declaring that Archimedes was setting some
engine in motion against them, and would turn their backs and run away,
insomuch that Marcellus desisted from all fighting and assault, putting
all his hope in a long siege".

Archimedes died, as he had lived, absorbed in mathematical
contemplation. The accounts of the circumstances of his death differ in
some details. Plutarch gives more than one version in the following
passage: "Marcellus was most of all afflicted at the death of
Archimedes, for, as fate would have it, he was intent on working out
some problem with a diagram, and, his mind and his eyes being alike
fixed on his investigation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans
nor the capture of the city. And when a soldier came up to him suddenly
and bade him follow to Marcellus, he refused to do so until he had
worked out his problem to a demonstration; whereat the soldier was so
enraged that he drew his sword and slew him. Others say that the Roman
ran up to him with a drawn sword, threatening to kill him; and, when
Archimedes saw him, he begged him earnestly to wait a little while in
order that he might not leave his problem incomplete and unsolved, but
the other took no notice and killed him. Again, there is a third account
to the effect that, as he was carrying to Marcellus some of his
mathematical instruments, sundials, spheres, and angles adjusted to the
apparent size of the sun to the sight, some soldiers met him and, being
under the impression that he carried gold in the vessel, killed him."
The most picturesque version of the story is that which represents him
as saying to a Roman soldier who came too close, "Stand away, fellow,
from my diagram," whereat the man was so enraged that he killed him.

Archimedes is said to have requested his friends and relatives to place
upon his tomb a representation of a cylinder circumscribing a sphere
within it, together with an inscription giving the ratio (3/2) which the
cylinder bears to the sphere; from which we may infer that he himself
regarded the discovery of this ratio as his greatest achievement.
Cicero, when quaestor in Sicily, found the tomb in a neglected state and
restored it. In modern times not the slightest trace of it has been

Beyond the above particulars of the life of Archimedes, we have nothing
but a number of stories which, if perhaps not literally accurate, yet
help us to a conception of the personality of the man which we would not
willingly have altered. Thus, in illustration of his entire
preoccupation by his abstract studies, we are told that he would forget
all about his food and such necessities of life, and would be drawing
geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire, or, when anointing
himself, in the oil on his body. Of the same kind is the story mentioned
above, that, having discovered while in a bath the solution of the
question referred to him by Hieron as to whether a certain crown
supposed to have been made of gold did not in fact contain a certain
proportion of silver, he ran naked through the street to his home
shouting [Greek: eurêka, eurêka].

It was in connexion with his discovery of the solution of the problem
_To move a given weight by a given force_ that Archimedes uttered the
famous saying, "Give me a place to stand on, and I can move the earth"
([Greek: dos moi pou stô kai kinô tên gên], or in his broad Doric, as
one version has it, [Greek: pa bô kai kinô tan gan]). Plutarch
represents him as declaring to Hieron that any given weight could be
moved by a given force, and boasting, in reliance on the cogency of his
demonstration, that, if he were given another earth, he would cross over
to it and move this one. "And when Hieron was struck with amazement and
asked him to reduce the problem to practice and to show him some great
weight moved by a small force, he fixed on a ship of burden with three
masts from the king's arsenal which had only been drawn up by the great
labour of many men; and loading her with many passengers and a full
freight, sitting himself the while afar off, with no great effort but
quietly setting in motion with his hand a compound pulley, he drew the
ship towards him smoothly and safely as if she were moving through the
sea." Hieron, we are told elsewhere, was so much astonished that he
declared that, from that day forth, Archimedes's word was to be accepted
on every subject! Another version of the story describes the machine
used as a _helix_; this term must be supposed to refer to a screw in the
shape of a cylindrical helix turned by a handle and acting on a
cog-wheel with oblique teeth fitting on the screw.

Another invention was that of a sphere constructed so as to imitate the
motions of the sun, the moon, and the five planets in the heavens.
Cicero actually saw this contrivance, and he gives a description of it,
stating that it represented the periods of the moon and the apparent
motion of the sun with such accuracy that it would even (over a short
period) show the eclipses of the sun and moon. It may have been moved
by water, for Pappus speaks in one place of "those who understand the
making of spheres and produce a model of the heavens by means of the
regular circular motion of water". In any case it is certain that
Archimedes was much occupied with astronomy. Livy calls him "unicus
spectator caeli siderumque". Hipparchus says, "From these observations
it is clear that the differences in the years are altogether small, but,
as to the solstices, I almost think that both I and Archimedes have
erred to the extent of a quarter of a day both in observation and in the
deduction therefrom." It appears, therefore, that Archimedes had
considered the question of the length of the year. Macrobius says that
he discovered the distances of the planets. Archimedes himself describes
in the _Sandreckoner_ the apparatus by which he measured the apparent
diameter of the sun, i.e. the angle subtended by it at the eye.

The story that he set the Roman ships on fire by an arrangement of
burning-glasses or concave mirrors is not found in any authority earlier
than Lucian (second century A.D.); but there is no improbability in the
idea that he discovered some form of burning-mirror, e.g. a paraboloid
of revolution, which would reflect to one point all rays falling on its
concave surface in a direction parallel to its axis.



In order to enable the reader to arrive at a correct understanding of
the place of Archimedes and of the significance of his work it is
necessary to pass in review the course of development of Greek geometry
from its first beginnings down to the time of Euclid and Archimedes.

Greek authors from Herodotus downwards agree in saying that geometry was
invented by the Egyptians and that it came into Greece from Egypt. One
account says:--

"Geometry is said by many to have been invented among the Egyptians, its
origin being due to the measurement of plots of land. This was necessary
there because of the rising of the Nile, which obliterated the
boundaries appertaining to separate owners. Nor is it marvellous that
the discovery of this and the other sciences should have arisen from
such an occasion, since everything which moves in the sense of
development will advance from the imperfect to the perfect. From
sense-perception to reasoning, and from reasoning to understanding, is a
natural transition. Just as among the Phoenicians, through commerce and
exchange, an accurate knowledge of numbers was originated, so also among
the Egyptians geometry was invented for the reason above stated.

"Thales first went to Egypt and thence introduced this study into

But it is clear that the geometry of the Egyptians was almost entirely
practical and did not go beyond the requirements of the land-surveyor,
farmer or merchant. They did indeed know, as far back as 2000 B.C., that
in a triangle which has its sides proportional to 3, 4, 5 the angle
contained by the two smaller sides is a right angle, and they used such
a triangle as a practical means of drawing right angles. They had
formulæ, more or less inaccurate, for certain measurements, e.g. for the
areas of certain triangles, parallel-trapezia, and circles. They had,
further, in their construction of pyramids, to use the notion of similar
right-angled triangles; they even had a name, _se-qet_, for the ratio of
the half of the side of the base to the height, that is, for what we
should call the _co-tangent_ of the angle of slope. But not a single
general theorem in geometry can be traced to the Egyptians. Their
knowledge that the triangle (3, 4, 5) is right angled is far from
implying any knowledge of the general proposition (Eucl. I., 47) known
by the name of Pythagoras. The science of geometry, in fact, remained to
be discovered; and this required the genius for pure speculation which
the Greeks possessed in the largest measure among all the nations of the

Thales, who had travelled in Egypt and there learnt what the priests
could teach him on the subject, introduced geometry into Greece. Almost
the whole of Greek science and philosophy begins with Thales. His date
was about 624-547 B.C. First of the Ionian philosophers, and declared
one of the Seven Wise Men in 582-581, he shone in all fields, as
astronomer, mathematician, engineer, statesman and man of business. In
astronomy he predicted the solar eclipse of 28 May, 585, discovered the
inequality of the four astronomical seasons, and counselled the use of
the Little Bear instead of the Great Bear as a means of finding the
pole. In geometry the following theorems are attributed to him--and
their character shows how the Greeks had to begin at the very beginning
of the theory--(1) that a circle is bisected by any diameter (Eucl. I.,
Def. 17), (2) that the angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are
equal (Eucl. I., 5), (3) that, if two straight lines cut one another,
the vertically opposite angles are equal (Eucl. I., 15), (4) that, if
two triangles have two angles and one side respectively equal, the
triangles are equal in all respects (Eucl. I., 26). He is said (5) to
have been the first to inscribe a right-angled triangle in a circle:
which must mean that he was the first to discover that the angle in a
semicircle is a right angle. He also solved two problems in practical
geometry: (1) he showed how to measure the distance from the land of a
ship at sea (for this he is said to have used the proposition numbered
(4) above), and (2) he measured the heights of pyramids by means of the
shadow thrown on the ground (this implies the use of similar triangles
in the way that the Egyptians had used them in the construction of

After Thales come the Pythagoreans. We are told that the Pythagoreans
were the first to use the term [Greek: mathêmata] (literally "subjects
of instruction") in the specialised sense of "mathematics"; they, too,
first advanced mathematics as a study pursued for its own sake and made
it a part of a liberal education. Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, was
born in Samos about 572 B.C., and died at a great age (75 or 80) at
Metapontum. His interests were as various as those of Thales; his
travels, all undertaken in pursuit of knowledge, were probably even more
extended. Like Thales, and perhaps at his suggestion, he visited Egypt
and studied there for a long period (22 years, some say).

It is difficult to disentangle from the body of Pythagorean doctrines
the portions which are due to Pythagoras himself because of the habit
which the members of the school had of attributing everything to the
Master ([Greek: autos epha], _ipse dixit_). In astronomy two things at
least may safely be attributed to him; he held that the earth is
spherical in shape, and he recognised that the sun, moon and planets
have an independent motion of their own in a direction contrary to that
of the daily rotation; he seems, however, to have adhered to the
geocentric view of the universe, and it was his successors who evolved
the theory that the earth does not remain at the centre but revolves,
like the other planets and the sun and moon, about the "central fire".
Perhaps his most remarkable discovery was the dependence of the musical
intervals on the lengths of vibrating strings, the proportion for the
octave being 2 : 1, for the fifth 3 : 2 and for the fourth 4 : 3. In
arithmetic he was the first to expound the theory of _means_ and of
proportion as applied to commensurable quantities. He laid the
foundation of the theory of numbers by considering the properties of
numbers as such, namely, prime numbers, odd and even numbers, etc. By
means of _figured_ numbers, square, oblong, triangular, etc.
(represented by dots arranged in the form of the various figures) he
showed the connexion between numbers and geometry. In view of all these
properties of numbers, we can easily understand how the Pythagoreans
came to "liken all things to numbers" and to find in the principles of
numbers the principles of all things ("all things are numbers").

We come now to Pythagoras's achievements in geometry. There is a story
that, when he came home from Egypt and tried to found a school at Samos,
he found the Samians indifferent, so that he had to take special
measures to ensure that his geometry might not perish with him. Going to
the gymnasium, he sought out a well-favoured youth who seemed likely to
suit his purpose, and was withal poor, and bribed him to learn geometry
by promising him sixpence for every proposition that he mastered. Very
soon the youth got fascinated by the subject for its own sake, and
Pythagoras rightly judged that he would gladly go on without the
sixpence. He hinted, therefore, that he himself was poor and must try
to earn his living instead of doing mathematics; whereupon the youth,
rather than give up the study, volunteered to pay sixpence to Pythagoras
for each proposition.

In geometry Pythagoras set himself to lay the foundations of the
subject, beginning with certain important definitions and investigating
the fundamental principles. Of propositions attributed to him the most
famous is, of course, the theorem that in a right-angled triangle the
square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the sides
about the right angle (Eucl. I., 47); and, seeing that Greek tradition
universally credits him with the proof of this theorem, we prefer to
believe that tradition is right. This is to some extent confirmed by
another tradition that Pythagoras discovered a general formula for
finding two numbers such that the sum of their squares is a square
number. This depends on the theory of the _gnomon_, which at first had
an arithmetical signification corresponding to the geometrical use of it
in Euclid, Book II. A figure in the shape of a _gnomon_ put round two
sides of a square makes it into a larger square. Now consider the number
1 represented by a dot. Round this place three other dots so that the
four dots form a square (1 + 3 = 2²). Round the four dots (on two
adjacent sides of the square) place five dots at regular and equal
distances, and we have another square (1 + 3 + 5 = 3²); and so on. The
successive odd numbers 1, 3, 5 ... were called _gnomons_, and the
general formula is

  1 + 3 + 5 + ... + (2n - 1) = n².

Add the next odd number, i.e. 2n + 1, and we have n² + (2n + 1) = (n +
1)². In order, then, to get two square numbers such that their sum is a
square we have only to see that 2n + 1 is a square. Suppose that 2n + 1
= m²; then n = ½(m² - 1), and we have {½(m² - 1)}² + m² = {½(m² + 1)}²,
where m is any odd number; and this is the general formula attributed to

Proclus also attributes to Pythagoras the theory of proportionals and
the construction of the five "cosmic figures," the five regular solids.

One of the said solids, the dodecahedron, has twelve pentagonal faces,
and the construction of a regular pentagon involves the cutting of a
straight line "in extreme and mean ratio" (Eucl. II., 11, and VI., 30),
which is a particular case of the method known as the _application of
areas_. How much of this was due to Pythagoras himself we do not know;
but the whole method was at all events fully worked out by the
Pythagoreans and proved one of the most powerful of geometrical methods.
The most elementary case appears in Euclid, I., 44, 45, where it is
shown how to apply to a given straight line as base a parallelogram
having a given angle (say a rectangle) and equal in area to any
rectilineal figure; this construction is the geometrical equivalent of
arithmetical _division_. The general case is that in which the
parallelogram, though _applied_ to the straight line, overlaps it or
falls short of it in such a way that the part of the parallelogram which
extends beyond, or falls short of, the parallelogram of the same angle
and breadth on the given straight line itself (exactly) as base is
similar to another given parallelogram (Eucl. VI., 28, 29). This is the
geometrical equivalent of the most general form of quadratic equation ax
± mx² = C, so far as it has real roots; while the condition that the
roots may be real was also worked out (= Eucl. VI., 27). It is important
to note that this method of _application of areas_ was directly used by
Apollonius of Perga in formulating the fundamental properties of the
three conic sections, which properties correspond to the equations of
the conics in Cartesian co-ordinates; and the names given by Apollonius
(for the first time) to the respective conics are taken from the theory,
_parabola_ ([Greek: parabolê]) meaning "application" (i.e. in this case
the parallelogram is applied to the straight line exactly), _hyperbola_
([Greek: hyperbolê]), "exceeding" (i.e. in this case the parallelogram
exceeds or overlaps the straight line), _ellipse_ ([Greek: elleipsis]),
"falling short" (i.e. the parallelogram falls short of the straight

Another problem solved by the Pythagoreans is that of drawing a
rectilineal figure equal in area to one given rectilineal figure and
similar to another. Plutarch mentions a doubt as to whether it was this
problem or the proposition of Euclid I., 47, on the strength of which
Pythagoras was said to have sacrificed an ox.

The main particular applications of the theorem of the square on the
hypotenuse (e.g. those in Euclid, Book II.) were also Pythagorean; the
construction of a square equal to a given rectangle (Eucl. II., 14) is
one of them and corresponds to the solution of the pure quadratic
equation x² = ab.

The Pythagoreans proved the theorem that the sum of the angles of any
triangle is equal to two right angles (Eucl. I., 32).

Speaking generally, we may say that the Pythagorean geometry covered the
bulk of the subject-matter of Books I., II., IV., and VI. of Euclid
(with the qualification, as regards Book VI., that the Pythagorean
theory of proportion applied only to commensurable magnitudes). Our
information about the origin of the propositions of Euclid, Book III.,
is not so complete; but it is certain that the most important of them
were well known to Hippocrates of Chios (who flourished in the second
half of the fifth century, and lived perhaps from about 470 to 400
B.C.), whence we conclude that the main propositions of Book III. were
also included in the Pythagorean geometry.

Lastly, the Pythagoreans discovered the existence of incommensurable
lines, or of _irrationals_. This was, doubtless, first discovered with
reference to the diagonal of a square which is incommensurable with the
side, being in the ratio to it of [root]2 to 1. The Pythagorean proof of
this particular case survives in Aristotle and in a proposition
interpolated in Euclid's Book X.; it is by a _reductio ad absurdum_
proving that, if the diagonal is commensurable with the side, the same
number must be both odd and even. This discovery of the incommensurable
was bound to cause geometers a great shock, because it showed that the
theory of proportion invented by Pythagoras was not of universal
application, and therefore that propositions proved by means of it were
not really established. Hence the stories that the discovery of the
irrational was for a time kept secret, and that the first person who
divulged it perished by shipwreck. The fatal flaw thus revealed in the
body of geometry was not removed till Eudoxus (408-355 B.C.) discovered
the great theory of proportion (expounded in Euclid's Book V.), which is
applicable to incommensurable as well as to commensurable magnitudes.

By the time of Hippocrates of Chios the scope of Greek geometry was no
longer even limited to the Elements; certain special problems were also
attacked which were beyond the power of the geometry of the straight
line and circle, and which were destined to play a great part in
determining the direction taken by Greek geometry in its highest
flights. The main problems in question were three: (1) the doubling of
the cube, (2) the trisection of any angle, (3) the squaring of the
circle; and from the time of Hippocrates onwards the investigation of
these problems proceeded _pari passu_ with the completion of the body of
the Elements.

Hippocrates himself is an example of the concurrent study of the two
departments. On the one hand, he was the first of the Greeks who is
known to have compiled a book of Elements. This book, we may be sure,
contained in particular the most important propositions about the circle
included in Euclid, Book III. But a much more important proposition is
attributed to Hippocrates; he is said to have been the first to prove
that circles are to one another as the squares on their diameters (=
Eucl. XII., 2), with the deduction that similar segments of circles are
to one another as the squares on their bases. These propositions were
used by him in his tract on the squaring of _lunes_, which was intended
to lead up to the squaring of the circle. The latter problem is one
which must have exercised practical geometers from time immemorial.
Anaxagoras for instance (about 500-428 B.C.) is said to have worked at
the problem while in prison. The essential portions of Hippocrates's
tract are preserved in a passage of Simplicius (on Aristotle's
_Physics_), which contains substantial fragments from Eudemus's _History
of Geometry_. Hippocrates showed how to square three particular lunes of
different forms, and then, lastly, he squared the sum of a certain
circle and a certain lune. Unfortunately, however, the last-mentioned
lune was not one of those which can be squared, and so the attempt to
square the circle in this way failed after all.

Hippocrates also attacked the problem of doubling the cube. There are
two versions of the origin of this famous problem. According to one of
them, an old tragic poet represented Minos as having been dissatisfied
with the size of a tomb erected for his son Glaucus, and having told the
architect to make it double the size, retaining, however, the cubical
form. According to the other, the Delians, suffering from a pestilence,
were told by the oracle to double a certain cubical altar as a means of
staying the plague. Hippocrates did not, indeed, solve the problem, but
he succeeded in reducing it to another, namely, the problem of finding
two mean proportionals in continued proportion between two given
straight lines, i.e. finding x, y such that a : x = x : y = y : b, where
a, b are the two given straight lines. It is easy to see that, if a : x
= x : y = y : b, then b/a = (x/a)³, and, as a particular case, if b =
2a, x³ = 2a³, so that the side of the cube which is double of the cube
of side a is found.

The problem of doubling the cube was henceforth tried exclusively in the
form of the problem of the two mean proportionals. Two significant early
solutions are on record.

(1) Archytas of Tarentum (who flourished in first half of fourth century
B.C.) found the two mean proportionals by a very striking construction
in three dimensions, which shows that solid geometry, in the hands of
Archytas at least, was already well advanced. The construction was
usually called mechanical, which it no doubt was in form, though in
reality it was in the highest degree theoretical. It consisted in
determining a point in space as the intersection of three surfaces: (a)
a cylinder, (b) a cone, (c) an "anchor-ring" with internal radius = 0.
(2) Menæchmus, a pupil of Eudoxus, and a contemporary of Plato, found
the two mean proportionals by means of conic sections, in two ways,
([alpha]) by the intersection of two parabolas, the equations of which
in Cartesian co-ordinates would be x² = ay, y² = bx, and ([beta]) by the
intersection of a parabola and a rectangular hyperbola, the
corresponding equations being x² = ay, and xy = ab respectively. It
would appear that it was in the effort to solve this problem that
Menæchmus discovered the conic sections, which are called, in an epigram
by Eratosthenes, "the triads of Menæchmus".

The trisection of an angle was effected by means of a curve discovered
by Hippias of Elis, the sophist, a contemporary of Hippocrates as well
as of Democritus and Socrates (470-399 B.C.). The curve was called the
_quadratrix_ because it also served (in the hands, as we are told, of
Dinostratus, brother of Menæchmus, and of Nicomedes) for squaring the
circle. It was theoretically constructed as the locus of the point of
intersection of two straight lines moving at uniform speeds and in the
same time, one motion being angular and the other rectilinear. Suppose
OA, OB are two radii of a circle at right angles to one another.
Tangents to the circle at A and B, meeting at C, form with the two
radii the square OACB. The radius OA is made to move uniformly about O,
the centre, so as to describe the angle AOB in a certain time.
Simultaneously AC moves parallel to itself at uniform speed such that A
just describes the line AO in the same length of time. The intersection
of the moving radius and AC in their various positions traces out the

The rest of the geometry which concerns us was mostly the work of a few
men, Democritus of Abdera, Theodorus of Cyrene (the mathematical teacher
of Plato), Theætetus, Eudoxus, and Euclid. The actual writers of
Elements of whom we hear were the following. Leon, a little younger than
Eudoxus (408-355 B.C.), was the author of a collection of propositions
more numerous and more serviceable than those collected by Hippocrates.
Theudius of Magnesia, a contemporary of Menæchmus and Dinostratus, "put
together the elements admirably, making many partial or limited
propositions more general". Theudius's book was no doubt the geometrical
text-book of the Academy and that used by Aristotle.

Theodorus of Cyrene and Theætetus generalised the theory of irrationals,
and we may safely conclude that a great part of the substance of
Euclid's Book X. (on irrationals) was due to Theætetus. Theætetus also
wrote on the five regular solids (the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron,
dodecahedron, and icosahedron), and Euclid was therefore no doubt
equally indebted to Theætetus for the contents of his Book XIII. In the
matter of Book XII. Eudoxus was the pioneer. These facts are confirmed
by the remark of Proclus that Euclid, in compiling his Elements,
collected many of the theorems of Eudoxus, perfected many others by
Theætetus, and brought to irrefragable demonstration the propositions
which had only been somewhat loosely proved by his predecessors.

Eudoxus (about 408-355 B.C.) was perhaps the greatest of all
Archimedes's predecessors, and it is his achievements, especially the
discovery of the _method of exhaustion_, which interest us in connexion
with Archimedes.

In astronomy Eudoxus is famous for the beautiful theory of concentric
spheres which he invented to explain the apparent motions of the
planets, and, particularly, their apparent stationary points and
retrogradations. The theory applied also to the sun and moon, for which
Eudoxus required only three spheres in each case. He represented the
motion of each planet as compounded of the rotations of four
interconnected spheres about diameters, all of which pass through the
centre of the earth. The outermost sphere represents the daily rotation,
the second a motion along the zodiac circle or ecliptic; the poles of
the third sphere, about which that sphere revolves, are fixed at two
opposite points on the zodiac circle, and are carried round in the
motion of the second sphere; and on the surface of the third sphere the
poles of the fourth sphere are fixed; the fourth sphere, revolving about
the diameter joining its two poles, carries the planet which is fixed at
a point on its equator. The poles and the speeds and directions of
rotation are so chosen that the planet actually describes a _hippopede_,
or _horse-fetter_, as it was called (i.e. a figure of eight), which lies
along and is longitudinally bisected by the zodiac circle, and is
carried round that circle. As a _tour de force_ of geometrical
imagination it would be difficult to parallel this hypothesis.

In geometry Eudoxus discovered the great theory of proportion,
applicable to incommensurable as well as commensurable magnitudes, which
is expounded in Euclid, Book V., and which still holds its own and will
do so for all time. He also solved the problem of the two mean
proportionals by means of certain curves, the nature of which, in the
absence of any description of them in our sources, can only be

Last of all, and most important for our purpose, is his use of the
famous _method of exhaustion_ for the measurement of the areas of curves
and the volumes of solids. The example of this method which will be most
familiar to the reader is the proof in Euclid XII., 2, of the theorem
that the areas of circles are to one another as the squares on their
diameters. The proof in this and in all cases depends on a lemma which
forms Prop. 1 of Euclid's Book X. to the effect that, if there are two
unequal magnitudes of the same kind and from the greater you subtract
not less than its half, then from the remainder not less than its half,
and so on continually, you will at length have remaining a magnitude
less than the lesser of the two magnitudes set out, however small it is.
Archimedes says that the theorem of Euclid XII., 2, was proved by means
of a certain lemma to the effect that, if we have two unequal magnitudes
(i.e. lines, surfaces, or solids respectively), the greater exceeds the
lesser by such a magnitude as is capable, if added continually to
itself, of exceeding any magnitude of the same kind as the original
magnitudes. This assumption is known as the Axiom or Postulate of
Archimedes, though, as he states, it was assumed before his time by
those who used the method of exhaustion. It is in reality used in
Euclid's lemma (Eucl. X., 1) on which Euclid XII., 2, depends, and only
differs in statement from Def. 4 of Euclid, Book V., which is no doubt
due to Eudoxus.

The method of exhaustion was not discovered all at once; we find traces
of gropings after such a method before it was actually evolved. It was
perhaps Antiphon, the sophist, of Athens, a contemporary of Socrates
(470-399 B.C.), who took the first step. He inscribed a square (or,
according to another account, an equilateral triangle) in a circle, then
bisected the arcs subtended by the sides, and so inscribed a polygon of
double the number of sides; he then repeated the process, and maintained
that, by continuing it, we should at last arrive at a polygon with
sides so small as to make the polygon coincident with the circle. Though
this was formally incorrect, it nevertheless contained the germ of the
method of exhaustion.

Hippocrates, as we have seen, is said to have proved the theorem that
circles are to one another as the squares on their diameters, and it is
difficult to see how he could have done this except by some form, or
anticipation, of the method. There is, however, no doubt about the part
taken by Eudoxus; he not only based the method on rigorous demonstration
by means of the lemma or lemmas aforesaid, but he actually applied the
method to find the volumes (1) of any pyramid, (2) of the cone, proving
(1) that any pyramid is one third part of the prism which has the same
base and equal height, and (2) that any cone is one third part of the
cylinder which has the same base and equal height. Archimedes, however,
tells us the remarkable fact that these two theorems were first
discovered by Democritus (who flourished towards the end of the fifth
century B.C.), though he was not able to prove them (which no doubt
means, not that he gave no sort of proof, but that he was not able to
establish the propositions by the rigorous method of Eudoxus).
Archimedes adds that we must give no small share of the credit for these
theorems to Democritus; and this is another testimony to the marvellous
powers, in mathematics as well as in other subjects, of the great man
who, in the words of Aristotle, "seems to have thought of everything".
We know from other sources that Democritus wrote on irrationals; he is
also said to have discussed the question of two parallel sections of a
cone (which were evidently supposed to be indefinitely close together),
asking whether we are to regard them as unequal or equal: "for if they
are unequal they will make the cone irregular as having many
indentations, like steps, and unevennesses, but, if they are equal, the
cone will appear to have the property of the cylinder and to be made up
of equal, not unequal, circles, which is very absurd". This explanation
shows that Democritus was already close on the track of infinitesimals.

Archimedes says further that the theorem that spheres are in the
triplicate ratio of their diameters was proved by means of the same
lemma. The proofs of the propositions about the volumes of pyramids,
cones and spheres are, of course, contained in Euclid, Book XII. (Props.
3-7 Cor., 10, 16-18 respectively).

It is no doubt desirable to illustrate Eudoxus's method by one example.
We will take one of the simplest, the proposition (Eucl. XII., 10) about
the cone. Given ABCD, the circular base of the cylinder which has the
same base as the cone and equal height, we inscribe the square ABCD; we
then bisect the arcs subtended by the sides, and draw the regular
inscribed polygon of eight sides, then similarly we draw the regular
inscribed polygon of sixteen sides, and so on. We erect on each regular
polygon the prism which has the polygon for base, thereby obtaining
successive prisms inscribed in the cylinder, and of the same height with
it. Each time we double the number of sides in the base of the prism we
take away more than half of the volume by which the cylinder exceeds the
prism (since we take away more than half of the excess of the area of
the circular base over that of the inscribed polygon, as in Euclid XII.,
2). Suppose now that V is the volume of the cone, C that of the
cylinder. We have to prove that C = 3V. If C is not equal to 3V, it is
either greater or less than 3V.

Suppose (1) that C > 3V, and that C = 3V + E. Continue the construction
of prisms inscribed in the cylinder until the parts of the cylinder left
over outside the final prism (of volume P) are together less than E.

  Then        C - P < E.
  But         C - 3V = E;
  Therefore   P > 3V.

But it has been proved in earlier propositions that P is equal to three
times the pyramid with the same base as the prism and equal height.

Therefore that pyramid is greater than V, the volume of the cone: which
is impossible, since the cone encloses the pyramid.

Therefore C is not greater than 3V.

Next (2) suppose that C < 3V, so that, inversely,

  V > 1/3 C.

This time we inscribe successive pyramids in the cone until we arrive at
a pyramid such that the portions of the cone left over outside it are
together less than the excess of V over 1/3 C. It follows that the
pyramid is greater than 1/3 C. Hence the prism on the same base as the
pyramid and inscribed in the cylinder (which prism is three times the
pyramid) is greater than C: which is impossible, since the prism is
enclosed by the cylinder, and is therefore less than it.

Therefore V is not greater than 1/3 C, or C is not less than 3V.

Accordingly C, being neither greater nor less than 3V, must be equal to
it; that is, V = 1/3 C.

It only remains to add that Archimedes is fully acquainted with the main
properties of the conic sections. These had already been proved in
earlier treatises, which Archimedes refers to as the "Elements of
Conics". We know of two such treatises, (1) Euclid's four Books on
Conics, (2) a work by one Aristæus called "Solid Loci," probably a
treatise on conics regarded as loci. Both these treatises are lost; the
former was, of course, superseded by Apollonius's great work on Conics
in eight Books.



The range of Archimedes's writings will be gathered from the list of his
various treatises. An extraordinarily large proportion of their contents
represents entirely new discoveries of his own. He was no compiler or
writer of text-books, and in this respect he differs from Euclid and
Apollonius, whose work largely consisted in systematising and
generalising the methods used and the results obtained by earlier
geometers. There is in Archimedes no mere working-up of existing
material; his objective is always something new, some definite addition
to the sum of knowledge. Confirmation of this is found in the
introductory letters prefixed to most of his treatises. In them we see
the directness, simplicity and humanity of the man. There is full and
generous recognition of the work of predecessors and contemporaries; his
estimate of the relation of his own discoveries to theirs is obviously
just and free from any shade of egoism. His manner is to state what
particular discoveries made by his predecessors had suggested to him the
possibility of extending them in new directions; thus he says that, in
connexion with the efforts of earlier geometers to square the circle, it
occurred to him that no one had tried to square a parabolic segment; he
accordingly attempted the problem and finally solved it. Similarly he
describes his discoveries about the volumes and surfaces of spheres and
cylinders as supplementing the theorems of Eudoxus about the pyramid,
the cone and the cylinder. He does not hesitate to say that certain
problems baffled him for a long time; in one place he positively
insists, for the purpose of pointing a moral, on specifying two
propositions which he had enunciated but which on further investigation
proved to be wrong.

The ordinary MSS. of the Greek text of Archimedes give his works in the
following order:--

  1. _On the Sphere and Cylinder_ (two books).
  2. _Measurement of a Circle._
  3. _On Conoids and Spheroids._
  4. _On Spirals._
  5. _On Plane Equilibriums_ (two books).
  6. _The Sandreckoner._
  7. _Quadrature of a Parabola._

A most important addition to this list has been made in recent years
through an extraordinary piece of good fortune. In 1906 J. L. Heiberg,
the most recent editor of the text of Archimedes, discovered a
palimpsest of mathematical content in the "Jerusalemic Library" of one
Papadopoulos Kerameus at Constantinople. This proved to contain writings
of Archimedes copied in a good hand of the tenth century. An attempt had
been made (fortunately with only partial success) to wash out the old
writing, and then the parchment was used again to write a Euchologion
upon. However, on most of the leaves the earlier writing remains more or
less legible. The important fact about the MS. is that it contains,
besides substantial portions of the treatises previously known, (1) a
considerable portion of the work, in two books, _On Floating Bodies_,
which was formerly supposed to have been lost in Greek and only to have
survived in the translation by Wilhelm of Mörbeke, and (2) most precious
of all, the greater part of the book called _The Method, treating of
Mechanical Problems_ and addressed to Eratosthenes. The important
treatise so happily recovered is now included in Heiberg's new (second)
edition of the Greek text of Archimedes (Teubner, 1910-15), and some
account of it will be given in the next chapter.

The order in which the treatises appear in the MSS. was not the order of
composition; but from the various prefaces and from internal evidence
generally we are able to establish the following as being approximately
the chronological sequence:--

   1. _On Plane Equilibriums_, I.
   2. _Quadrature of a Parabola._
   3. _On Plane Equilibriums_, II.
   4. _The Method._
   5. _On the Sphere and Cylinder_, I, II.
   6. _On Spirals._
   7. _On Conoids and Spheroids._
   8. _On Floating Bodies_, I, II.
   9. _Measurement of a Circle._
  10. _The Sandreckoner._

In addition to the above we have a collection of geometrical
propositions which has reached us through the Arabic with the title
"Liber assumptorum Archimedis". They were not written by Archimedes in
their present form, but were probably collected by some later Greek
writer for the purpose of illustrating some ancient work. It is,
however, quite likely that some of the propositions, which are
remarkably elegant, were of Archimedean origin, notably those concerning
the geometrical figures made with three and four semicircles
respectively and called (from their shape) (1) the _shoemaker's knife_
and (2) the _Salinon_ or _salt-cellar_, and another theorem which bears
on the trisection of an angle.

An interesting fact which we now know from Arabian sources is that the
formula for the area of any triangle in terms of its sides which we
write in the form

  [Delta] = [root]{s(s - a)(s - b)(s - c)},

and which was supposed to be Heron's because Heron gives the geometrical
proof of it, was really due to Archimedes.

Archimedes is further credited with the authorship of the famous
Cattle-Problem enunciated in a Greek epigram edited by Lessing in 1773.
According to its heading the problem was communicated by Archimedes to
the mathematicians at Alexandria in a letter to Eratosthenes; and a
scholium to Plato's _Charmides_ speaks of the problem "called by
Archimedes the Cattle-Problem". It is an extraordinarily difficult
problem in indeterminate analysis, the solution of which involves
enormous figures.

Of lost works of Archimedes the following can be identified:--

1. Investigations relating to _polyhedra_ are referred to by Pappus,
who, after speaking of the five regular solids, gives a description of
thirteen other polyhedra discovered by Archimedes which are
semi-regular, being contained by polygons equilateral and equiangular
but not similar. One at least of these semi-regular solids was, however,
already known to Plato.

2. A book of arithmetical content entitled _Principles_ dealt, as we
learn from Archimedes himself, with the _naming of numbers_, and
expounded a system of expressing large numbers which could not be
written in the ordinary Greek notation. In setting out the same system
in the _Sandreckoner_ (see Chapter V. below), Archimedes explains that
he does so for the benefit of those who had not seen the earlier work.

3. _On Balances_ (or perhaps _levers_). Pappus says that in this work
Archimedes proved that "greater circles overpower lesser circles when
they rotate about the same centre".

4. A book _On Centres of Gravity_ is alluded to by Simplicius. It is
not, however, certain that this and the last-mentioned work were
separate treatises, Possibly Book I. _On Plane Equilibriums_ may have
been part of a larger work (called perhaps _Elements of Mechanics_), and
_On Balances_ may have been an alternative title. The title _On Centres
of Gravity_ may be a loose way of referring to the same treatise.

5. _Catoptrica_, an optical work from which Theon of Alexandria quotes a
remark about refraction.

6. _On Sphere-making_, a mechanical work on the construction of a sphere
to represent the motions of the heavenly bodies (cf. pp. 5-6 above).

Arabian writers attribute yet further works to Archimedes, (1) On the
circle, (2) On a heptagon in a circle, (3) On circles touching one
another, (4) On parallel lines, (5) On triangles, (6) On the properties
of right-angled triangles, (7) a book of _Data_; but we have no
confirmation of these statements.



The famous French geometer, Chasles, drew an instructive distinction
between the predominant features of the geometry of the two great
successors of Euclid, namely, Archimedes and Apollonius of Perga (the
"great geometer," and author of the classical treatise on Conics). The
works of these two men may, says Chasles, be regarded as the origin and
basis of two great inquiries which seem to share between them the domain
of geometry. Apollonius is concerned with the _Geometry of Forms and
Situations_, while in Archimedes we find the _Geometry of Measurements_,
dealing with the quadrature of curvilinear plane figures and with the
quadrature and cubature of curved surfaces, investigations which gave
birth to the calculus of the infinite conceived and brought to
perfection by Kepler, Cavalieri, Fermat, Leibniz and Newton.

In geometry Archimedes stands, as it were, on the shoulders of Eudoxus
in that he applied the method of exhaustion to new and more difficult
cases of quadrature and cubature. Further, in his use of the method he
introduced an interesting variation of the procedure as we know it from
Euclid. Euclid (and presumably Eudoxus also) only used _inscribed_
figures, "exhausting" the figure to be measured, and had to invert the
second half of the _reductio ad absurdum_ to enable approximation from
below (so to speak) to be applied in that case also. Archimedes, on the
other hand, approximates from above as well as from below; he approaches
the area or volume to be measured by taking closer and closer
_circumscribed_ figures, as well as inscribed, and thereby
_compressing_, as it were, the inscribed and circumscribed figure into
one, so that they ultimately coincide with one another and with the
figure to be measured. But he follows the cautious method to which the
Greeks always adhered; he never says that a given curve or surface is
the _limiting form_ of the inscribed or circumscribed figure; all that
he asserts is that we can approach the curve or surface _as nearly as we

The deductive form of proof by the method of exhaustion is apt to
obscure not only the way in which the results were arrived at but also
the real character of the procedure followed. What Archimedes actually
does in certain cases is to perform what are seen, when the analytical
equivalents are set down, to be real _integrations_; this remark applies
to his investigation of the areas of a parabolic segment and a spiral
respectively, the surface and volume respectively of a sphere and a
segment of a sphere, and the volume of any segments of the solids of
revolution of the second degree. The result is, as a rule, only obtained
after a long series of preliminary propositions, all of which are links
in a chain of argument elaborately forged for the one purpose. The
method suggests the tactics of some master of strategy who foresees
everything, eliminates everything not immediately conducive to the
execution of his plan, masters every position in its order, and then
suddenly (when the very elaboration of the scheme has almost obscured,
in the mind of the onlooker, its ultimate object) strikes the final
blow. Thus we read in Archimedes proposition after proposition the
bearing of which is not immediately obvious but which we find infallibly
used later on; and we are led on by such easy stages that the difficulty
of the original problem, as presented at the outset, is scarcely
appreciated. As Plutarch says, "It is not possible to find in geometry
more difficult and troublesome questions, or more simple and lucid
explanations". But it is decidedly a rhetorical exaggeration when
Plutarch goes on to say that we are deceived by the easiness of the
successive steps into the belief that any one could have discovered them
for himself. On the contrary, the studied simplicity and the perfect
finish of the treatises involve at the same time an element of mystery.
Although each step depends upon the preceding ones, we are left in the
dark as to how they were suggested to Archimedes. There is, in fact,
much truth in a remark of Wallis to the effect that he seems "as it were
of set purpose to have covered up the traces of his investigation as if
he had grudged posterity the secret of his method of inquiry while he
wished to extort from them assent to his results".

A partial exception is now furnished by the _Method_; for here we have
(as it were) a lifting of the veil and a glimpse of the interior of
Archimedes's workshop. He tells us how he discovered certain theorems in
quadrature and cubature, and he is at the same time careful to insist on
the difference between (1) the means which may serve to suggest the
truth of theorems, although not furnishing scientific proofs of them,
and (2) the rigorous demonstrations of them by approved geometrical
methods which must follow before they can be finally accepted as

Writing to Eratosthenes he says: "Seeing in you, as I say, an earnest
student, a man of considerable eminence in philosophy and an admirer of
mathematical inquiry when it comes your way, I have thought fit to write
out for you and explain in detail in the same book the peculiarity of a
certain method, which, when you see it, will put you in possession of a
means whereby you can investigate some of the problems of mathematics by
mechanics. This procedure is, I am persuaded, no less useful for the
proofs of the actual theorems as well. For certain things which first
became clear to me by a mechanical method had afterwards to be
demonstrated by geometry, because their investigation by the said method
did not furnish an actual demonstration. But it is of course easier,
when we have previously acquired by the method some knowledge of the
questions, to supply the proof than it is to find the proof without any
previous knowledge. This is a reason why, in the case of the theorems
the proof of which Eudoxus was the first to discover, namely, that the
cone is a third part of the cylinder, and the pyramid a third part of
the prism, having the same base and equal height, we should give no
small share of the credit to Democritus, who was the first to assert
this truth with regard to the said figures, though he did not prove it.
I am myself in the position of having made the discovery of the theorem
now to be published in the same way as I made my earlier discoveries;
and I thought it desirable now to write out and publish the method,
partly because I have already spoken of it and I do not want to be
thought to have uttered vain words, but partly also because I am
persuaded that it will be of no little service to mathematics; for I
apprehend that some, either of my contemporaries or of my successors,
will, by means of the method when once established, be able to discover
other theorems in addition, which have not occurred to me.

"First then I will set out the very first theorem which became known to
me by means of mechanics, namely, that _Any segment of a section of a
right-angled cone_ [_i.e. a parabola_] _is four-thirds of the triangle
which has the same base and equal height_; and after this I will give
each of the other theorems investigated by the same method. Then, at the
end of the book, I will give the geometrical proofs of the

The following description will, I hope, give an idea of the general
features of the mechanical method employed by Archimedes. Suppose that X
is the plane or solid figure the area or content of which is to be
found. The method in the simplest case is to weigh infinitesimal
elements of X against the corresponding elements of another figure, B
say, being such a figure that its area or content and the position of
its centre of gravity are already known. The diameter or axis of the
figure X being drawn, the infinitesimal elements taken are parallel
sections of X in general, but not always, at right angles to the axis or
diameter, so that the centres of gravity of all the sections lie at one
point or other of the axis or diameter and their weights can therefore
be taken as acting at the several points of the diameter or axis. In the
case of a plane figure the infinitesimal sections are spoken of as
parallel _straight lines_ and in the case of a solid figure as parallel
_planes_, and the aggregate of the infinite number of sections is said
to _make up_ the whole figure X. (Although the sections are so spoken of
as straight lines or planes, they are really indefinitely narrow plane
strips or indefinitely thin laminae respectively.) The diameter or axis
is produced in the direction away from the figure to be measured, and
the diameter or axis as produced is imagined to be the bar or lever of a
balance. The object is now to apply all the separate elements of X at
_one point_ on the lever, while the corresponding elements of the known
figure B operate at different points, namely, _where they actually are_
in the first instance. Archimedes contrives, therefore, to move the
elements of X away from their original position and to concentrate them
at one point on the lever, such that each of the elements balances,
about the point of suspension of the lever, the corresponding element of
B acting at its centre of gravity. The elements of X and B respectively
balance about the point of suspension in accordance with the property of
the lever that the weights are inversely proportional to the distances
from the fulcrum or point of suspension. Now the centre of gravity of B
as a whole is known, and it may then be supposed to act as one mass at
its centre of gravity. (Archimedes assumes as known that the sum of the
"moments," as we call them, of all the elements of the figure B, acting
severally at the points where they actually are, is equal to the moment
of the whole figure applied as one mass at one point, its centre of
gravity.) Moreover all the elements of X are concentrated at the one
fixed point on the bar or lever. If this fixed point is H, and G is the
centre of gravity of the figure B, while C is the point of suspension,

  X : B = CG : CH.

Thus the area or content of X is found.

Conversely, the method can be used to find the centre of gravity of X
when its area or volume is known beforehand. In this case the elements
of X, and X itself, have to be applied where they are, and the elements
of the known figure or figures have to be applied at the one fixed point
H on the other side of C, and since X, B and CH are known, the

  B : X = CG : CH

determines CG, where G is the centre of gravity of X.

The mechanical method is used for finding (1) the area of any parabolic
segment, (2) the volume of a sphere and a spheroid, (3) the volume of a
segment of a sphere and the volume of a right segment of each of the
three conicoids of revolution, (4) the centre of gravity (a) of a
hemisphere, (b) of any segment of a sphere, (c) of any right segment of
a spheroid and a paraboloid of revolution, and (d) of a half-cylinder,
or, in other words, of a semicircle.

Archimedes then proceeds to find the volumes of two solid figures, which
are the special subject of the treatise. The solids arise as follows:--

(1) Given a cylinder inscribed in a rectangular parallelepiped on a
square base in such a way that the two bases of the cylinder are
circles inscribed in the opposite square faces, suppose a plane drawn
through one side of the square containing one base of the cylinder and
through the parallel diameter of the opposite base of the cylinder. The
plane cuts off a solid with a surface resembling that of a horse's hoof.
Archimedes proves that the volume of the solid so cut off is one sixth
part of the volume of the parallelepiped.

(2) A cylinder is inscribed in a cube in such a way that the bases of
the cylinder are circles inscribed in two opposite square faces. Another
cylinder is inscribed which is similarly related to another pair of
opposite faces. The two cylinders include between them a solid with all
its angles rounded off; and Archimedes proves that the volume of this
solid is two-thirds of that of the cube.

Having proved these facts by the mechanical method, Archimedes concluded
the treatise with a rigorous geometrical proof of both propositions by
the method of exhaustion. The MS. is unfortunately somewhat mutilated at
the end, so that a certain amount of restoration is necessary.

I shall now attempt to give a short account of the other treatises of
Archimedes in the order in which they appear in the editions. The first

_On the Sphere and Cylinder._

Book I. begins with a preface addressed to Dositheus (a pupil of Conon),
which reminds him that on a former occasion he had communicated to him
the treatise proving that any segment of a "section of a right-angled
cone" (i.e. a parabola) is four-thirds of the triangle with the same
base and height, and adds that he is now sending the proofs of certain
theorems which he has since discovered, and which seem to him to be
worthy of comparison with Eudoxus's propositions about the volumes of a
pyramid and a cone. The theorems are (1) that the surface of a sphere
is equal to four times its greatest circle (i.e. what we call a "great
circle" of the sphere); (2) that the surface of any segment of a sphere
is equal to a circle with radius equal to the straight line drawn from
the vertex of the segment to a point on the circle which is the base of
the segment; (3) that, if we have a cylinder circumscribed to a sphere
and with height equal to the diameter, then (a) the volume of the
cylinder is 1½ times that of the sphere and (b) the surface of the
cylinder, including its bases, is 1½ times the surface of the sphere.

Next come a few definitions, followed by certain _Assumptions_, two of
which are well known, namely:--

1. _Of all lines which have the same extremities the straight line is
the least_ (this has been made the basis of an alternative definition of
a straight line).

2. _Of unequal lines, unequal surfaces and unequal solids the greater
exceeds the less by such a magnitude as, when (continually) added to
itself, can be made to exceed any assigned magnitude among those which
are comparable_ [_with it and_] _with one another_ (i.e. are of the same
kind). This is the _Postulate of Archimedes_.

He also assumes that, of pairs of lines (including broken lines) and
pairs of surfaces, concave in the same direction and bounded by the same
extremities, the outer is greater than the inner. These assumptions are
fundamental to his investigation, which proceeds throughout by means of
figures inscribed and circumscribed to the curved lines or surfaces that
have to be measured.

After some preliminary propositions Archimedes finds (Props. 13, 14) the
area of the surfaces (1) of a right cylinder, (2) of a right cone. Then,
after quoting certain Euclidean propositions about cones and cylinders,
he passes to the main business of the book, the measurement of the
volume and surface of a sphere and a segment of a sphere. By
circumscribing and inscribing to a great circle a regular polygon of an
even number of sides and making it revolve about a diameter connecting
two opposite angular points he obtains solids of revolution greater and
less respectively than the sphere. In a series of propositions he finds
expressions for (a) the surfaces, (b) the volumes, of the figures so
inscribed and circumscribed to the sphere. Next he proves (Prop. 32)
that, if the inscribed and circumscribed polygons which, by their
revolution, generate the figures are similar, the surfaces of the
figures are in the duplicate ratio, and their volumes in the triplicate
ratio, of their sides. Then he proves that the surfaces and volumes of
the inscribed and circumscribed figures respectively are less and
greater than the surface and volume respectively to which the main
propositions declare the surface and volume of the sphere to be equal
(Props. 25, 27, 30, 31 Cor.). He has now all the material for applying
the method of exhaustion and so proves the main propositions about the
surface and volume of the sphere. The rest of the book applies the same
procedure to a segment of the sphere. Surfaces of revolution are
inscribed and circumscribed to a segment less than a hemisphere, and the
theorem about the surface of the segment is finally proved in Prop. 42.
Prop. 43 deduces the surface of a segment greater than a hemisphere.
Prop. 44 gives the volume of the sector of the sphere which includes any

Book II begins with the problem of finding a sphere equal in volume to a
given cone or cylinder; this requires the solution of the problem of the
two mean proportionals, which is accordingly assumed. Prop. 2 deduces,
by means of 1., 44, an expression for the volume of a segment of a
sphere, and Props. 3, 4 solve the important problems of cutting a given
sphere by a plane so that (a) the surfaces, (b) the volumes, of the
segments may have to one another a given ratio. The solution of the
second problem (Prop. 4) is difficult. Archimedes reduces it to the
problem of dividing a straight line AB into two parts at a point M such

  MB : (a given length) = (a given area) : AM².

The solution of this problem with a determination of the limits of
possibility are given in a fragment by Archimedes, discovered and
preserved for us by Eutocius in his commentary on the book; they are
effected by means of the points of intersection of two conics, a
parabola and a rectangular hyperbola. Three problems of construction
follow, the first two of which are to construct a segment of a sphere
similar to one given segment, and having (a) its volume, (b) its
surface, equal to that of another given segment of a sphere. The last
two propositions are interesting. Prop. 8 proves that, if V, V' be the
volumes, and S, S' the surfaces, of two segments into which a sphere is
divided by a plane, V and S belonging to the greater segment, then

  S² : S'² > V : V' > S^(3/2) : S'^(3/2).

Prop. 9 proves that, of all segments of spheres which have equal
surfaces, the hemisphere is the greatest in volume.

_The Measurement of a Circle._

This treatise, in the form in which it has come down to us, contains
only three propositions; the second, being an easy deduction from Props.
1 and 3, is out of place in so far as it uses the result of Prop. 3.

In Prop. 1 Archimedes inscribes and circumscribes to a circle a series
of successive regular polygons, beginning with a square, and continually
doubling the number of sides; he then proves in the orthodox manner by
the method of exhaustion that the area of the circle is equal to that of
a right-angled triangle, in which the perpendicular is equal to the
radius, and the base equal to the circumference, of the circle. Prop. 3
is the famous proposition in which Archimedes finds by sheer calculation
upper and lower arithmetical limits to the ratio of the circumference
of a circle to its diameter, or what we call [pi]; the result obtained
is 3-1/7> [pi] > 3-10/71. Archimedes inscribes and circumscribes
successive regular polygons, beginning with hexagons, and doubling the
number of sides continually, until he arrives at inscribed and
circumscribed regular polygons with 96 sides; seeing then that the
length of the circumference of the circle is intermediate between the
perimeters of the two polygons, he calculates the two perimeters in
terms of the diameter of the circle. His calculation is based on two
close approximations (an upper and a lower) to the value of [root]3,
that being the cotangent of the angle of 30°, from which he begins to
work. He assumes as known that 265/153 < [root]3 < 1351/780. In the
text, as we have it, only the results of the steps in the calculation
are given, but they involve the finding of approximations to the square
roots of several large numbers: thus 1172-1/8 is given as the
approximate value of [root](1373943-33/64), 3013¾ as that of
[root](9082321) and 1838-9/11 as that of [root](3380929). In this way
Archimedes arrives at 14688/(4673½) as the ratio of the perimeter of the
circumscribed polygon of 96 sides to the diameter of the circle; this is
the figure which he rounds up into 3-1/7. The corresponding figure for
the inscribed polygon is 6336/(2017¼), which, he says, is > 3-10/71.
This example shows how little the Greeks were embarrassed in
arithmetical calculations by their alphabetical system of numerals.

_On Conoids and Spheroids._

The preface addressed to Dositheus shows, as we may also infer from
internal evidence, that the whole of this book also was original.
Archimedes first explains what his conoids and spheroids are, and then,
after each description, states the main results which it is the aim of
the treatise to prove. The conoids are two. The first is the
_right-angled conoid_, a name adapted from the old name ("section of a
right-angled cone") for a parabola; this conoid is therefore a
paraboloid of revolution. The second is the _obtuse-angled conoid_,
which is a hyperboloid of revolution described by the revolution of a
hyperbola (a "section of an obtuse-angled cone") about its transverse
axis. The spheroids are two, being the solids of revolution described by
the revolution of an ellipse (a "section of an acute-angled cone") about
(1) its major axis and (2) its minor axis; the first is called the
"oblong" (or oblate) spheroid, the second the "flat" (or prolate)
spheroid. As the volumes of oblique segments of conoids and spheroids
are afterwards found in terms of the volume of the conical figure with
the base of the segment as base and the vertex of the segment as vertex,
and as the said base is thus an elliptic section of an oblique circular
cone, Archimedes calls the conical figure with an elliptic base a
"segment of a cone" as distinct from a "cone".

As usual, a series of preliminary propositions is required. Archimedes
first sums, in geometrical form, certain series, including the
arithmetical progression, a, 2a, 3a, ... na, and the series formed by
the squares of these terms (in other words the series 1², 2², 3², ...
n²); these summations are required for the final addition of an
indefinite number of elements of each figure, which amounts to an
_integration_. Next come two properties of conics (Prop. 3), then the
determination by the method of exhaustion of the area of an ellipse
(Prop. 4). Three propositions follow, the first two of which (Props. 7,
8) show that the conical figure above referred to is really a segment of
an oblique _circular_ cone; this is done by actually finding the
circular sections. Prop. 9 gives a similar proof that each elliptic
section of a conoid or spheroid is a section of a certain oblique
_circular_ cylinder (with axis parallel to the axis of the segment of
the conoid or spheroid cut off by the said elliptic section). Props.
11-18 show the nature of the various sections which cut off segments of
each conoid and spheroid and which are circles or ellipses according as
the section is perpendicular or obliquely inclined to the axis of the
solid; they include also certain properties of tangent planes, etc.

The real business of the treatise begins with Props. 19, 20; here it is
shown how, by drawing many plane sections equidistant from one another
and all parallel to the base of the segment of the solid, and describing
cylinders (in general oblique) through each plane section with
generators parallel to the axis of the segment and terminated by the
contiguous sections on either side, we can make figures circumscribed
and inscribed to the segment, made up of segments of cylinders with
parallel faces and presenting the appearance of the steps of a
staircase. Adding the elements of the inscribed and circumscribed
figures respectively and using the method of exhaustion, Archimedes
finds the volumes of the respective segments of the solids in the
approved manner (Props. 21, 22 for the paraboloid, Props. 25, 26 for the
hyperboloid, and Props. 27-30 for the spheroids). The results are stated
in this form: (1) Any segment of a paraboloid of revolution is half as
large again as the cone or segment of a cone which has the same base and
axis; (2) Any segment of a hyperboloid of revolution or of a spheroid is
to the cone or segment of a cone with the same base and axis in the
ratio of AD + 3CA to AD + 2CA in the case of the hyperboloid, and of 3CA
- AD to 2CA - AD in the case of the spheroid, where C is the centre, A
the vertex of the segment, and AD the axis of the segment (supposed in
the case of the spheroid to be not greater than half the spheroid).

_On Spirals._

The preface addressed to Dositheus is of some length and contains,
first, a tribute to the memory of Conon, and next a summary of the
theorems about the sphere and the conoids and spheroids included in the
above two treatises. Archimedes then passes to the spiral which, he
says, presents another sort of problem, having nothing in common with
the foregoing. After a definition of the spiral he enunciates the main
propositions about it which are to be proved in the treatise. The spiral
(now known as the Spiral of Archimedes) is defined as the locus of a
point starting from a given point (called the "origin") on a given
straight line and moving along the straight line at uniform speed, while
the line itself revolves at uniform speed about the origin as a fixed
point. Props. 1-11 are preliminary, the last two amounting to the
summation of certain series required for the final addition of an
indefinite number of element-areas, which again amounts to integration,
in order to find the area of the figure cut off between any portion of
the curve and the two radii vectores drawn to its extremities. Props.
13-20 are interesting and difficult propositions establishing the
properties of tangents to the spiral. Props. 21-23 show how to inscribe
and circumscribe to any portion of the spiral figures consisting of a
multitude of elements which are narrow sectors of circles with the
origin as centre; the area of the spiral is intermediate between the
areas of the inscribed and circumscribed figures, and by the usual
method of exhaustion Archimedes finds the areas required. Prop. 24 gives
the area of the first complete turn of the spiral (= 1/3[pi](2[pi]a)²,
where the spiral is r = a[theta]), and of any portion of it up to OP
where P is any point on the first turn. Props. 25, 26 deal similarly
with the second turn of the spiral and with the area subtended by any
arc (not being greater than a complete turn) on any turn. Prop. 27
proves the interesting property that, if R1 be the area of the first
turn of the spiral bounded by the initial line, R2 the area of the ring
added by the second complete turn, R3 the area of the ring added by the
third turn, and so on, then R3 = 2R2, R4 = 3R2, R5 = 4R2, and so on to
R_n = (n - 1)R2, while R2, = 6R1.

_Quadrature of the Parabola._

The title of this work seems originally to have been _On the Section of
a Right-angled Cone_ and to have been changed after the time of
Apollonius, who was the first to call a parabola by that name. The
preface addressed to Dositheus was evidently the first communication
from Archimedes to him after the death of Conon. It begins with a
feeling allusion to his lost friend, to whom the treatise was originally
to have been sent. It is in this preface that Archimedes alludes to the
lemma used by earlier geometers as the basis of the method of exhaustion
(the Postulate of Archimedes, or the theorem of Euclid X., 1). He
mentions as having been proved by means of it (1) the theorems that the
areas of circles are to one another in the duplicate ratio of their
diameters, and that the volumes of spheres are in the triplicate ratio
of their diameters, and (2) the propositions proved by Eudoxus about the
volumes of a cone and a pyramid. No one, he says, so far as he is aware,
has yet tried to square the segment bounded by a straight line and a
section of a right-angled cone (a parabola); but he has succeeded in
proving, by means of the same lemma, that the parabolic segment is equal
to four-thirds of the triangle on the same base and of equal height, and
he sends the proofs, first as "investigated" by means of mechanics and
secondly as "demonstrated" by geometry. The phraseology shows that here,
as in the _Method_, Archimedes regarded the mechanical investigation as
furnishing evidence rather than proof of the truth of the proposition,
pure geometry alone furnishing the absolute proof required.

The mechanical proof with the necessary preliminary propositions about
the parabola (some of which are merely quoted, while two, evidently
original, are proved, Props. 4, 5) extends down to Prop. 17; the
geometrical proof with other auxiliary propositions completes the book
(Props. 18-24). The mechanical proof recalls that of the _Method_ in
some respects, but is more elaborate in that the elements of the area of
the parabola to be measured are not straight lines but narrow strips.
The figures inscribed and circumscribed to the segment are made up of
such narrow strips and have a saw-like edge; all the elements are
trapezia except two, which are triangles, one in each figure. Each
trapezium (or triangle) is weighed where it is against another area hung
at a fixed point of an assumed lever; thus the whole of the inscribed
and circumscribed figures respectively are weighed against the sum of an
indefinite number of areas all suspended from one point on the lever.
The result is obtained by a real _integration_, confirmed as usual by a
proof by the method of exhaustion.

The geometrical proof proceeds thus. Drawing in the segment the
inscribed triangle with the same base and height as the segment,
Archimedes next inscribes triangles in precisely the same way in each of
the segments left over, and proves that the sum of the two new triangles
is ¼ of the original inscribed triangle. Again, drawing triangles
inscribed in the same way in the four segments left over, he proves that
their sum is ¼ of the sum of the preceding pair of triangles and
therefore (¼)² of the original inscribed triangle. Proceeding thus, we
have a series of areas exhausting the parabolic segment. Their sum, if
we denote the first inscribed triangle by [Delta], is

  [Delta]{1 + ¼ + (¼)² + (¼)³ + . . . .}

Archimedes proves geometrically in Prop. 23 that the sum of this
infinite series is 4/3[Delta], and then confirms by _reductio ad
absurdum_ the equality of the area of the parabolic segment to this



The _Sandreckoner_ deserves a place by itself. It is not mathematically
very important; but it is an arithmetical curiosity which illustrates
the versatility and genius of Archimedes, and it contains some precious
details of the history of Greek astronomy which, coming from such a
source and at first hand, possess unique authority. We will begin with
the astronomical data. They are contained in the preface addressed to
King Gelon of Syracuse, which begins as follows:--

"There are some, King Gelon, who think that the number of the sand is
infinite in multitude; and I mean by the sand not only that which exists
about Syracuse and the rest of Sicily but also that which is found in
every region whether inhabited or uninhabited. Again, there are some
who, without regarding it as infinite, yet think that no number has been
named which is great enough to exceed its multitude. And it is clear
that they who hold this view, if they imagined a mass made up of sand in
other respects as large as the mass of the earth, including in it all
the seas and the hollows of the earth filled up to a height equal to
that of the highest of the mountains, would be many times further still
from recognising that any number could be expressed which exceeded the
multitude of the sand so taken. But I will try to show you, by means of
geometrical proofs which you will be able to follow, that, of the
numbers named by me and given in the work which I sent to Zeuxippus,
some exceed not only the number of the mass of sand equal in size to
the earth filled up in the way described, but also that of a mass equal
in size to the universe.

"Now you are aware that 'universe' is the name given by most astronomers
to the sphere the centre of which is the centre of the earth, while the
radius is equal to the straight line between the centre of the sun and
the centre of the earth. This is the common account, as you have heard
from astronomers. But Aristarchus of Samos brought out a book consisting
of some hypotheses, in which the premises lead to the conclusion that
the universe is many times greater than that now so called. His
hypotheses are that the fixed stars and the sun remain unmoved, that the
earth revolves about the sun in the circumference of a circle, the sun
lying in the centre of the orbit, and that the sphere of the fixed
stars, situated about the same centre as the sun, is so great that the
circle in which he supposes the earth to revolve bears such a ratio to
the distance of the fixed stars as the centre of the sphere bears to its

Here then is absolute and practically contemporary evidence that the
Greeks, in the person of Aristarchus of Samos (about 310-230 B.C.), had
anticipated Copernicus.

By the last words quoted Aristarchus only meant to say that the size of
the earth is negligible in comparison with the immensity of the
universe. This, however, does not suit Archimedes's purpose, because he
has to assume a definite size, however large, for the universe.
Consequently he takes a liberty with Aristarchus. He says that the
centre (a mathematical point) can have no ratio whatever to the surface
of the sphere, and that we must therefore take Aristarchus to mean that
the size of the earth is to that of the so-called "universe" as the size
of the so-called "universe" is to that of the real universe in the new

Next, he has to assume certain dimensions for the earth, the moon and
the sun, and to estimate the angle subtended at the centre of the earth
by the sun's diameter; and in each case he has to exaggerate the
probable figures so as to be on the safe side. While therefore (he says)
some have tried to prove that the perimeter of the earth is 300,000
stadia (Eratosthenes, his contemporary, made it 252,000 stadia, say
24,662 miles, giving a diameter of about 7,850 miles), he will assume it
to be ten times as great or 3,000,000 stadia. The diameter of the earth,
he continues, is greater than that of the moon and that of the sun is
greater than that of the earth. Of the diameter of the sun he observes
that Eudoxus had declared it to be nine times that of the moon, and his
own father, Phidias, had made it twelve times, while Aristarchus had
tried to prove that the diameter of the sun is greater than eighteen
times but less than twenty times the diameter of the moon (this was in
the treatise of Aristarchus _On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and
Moon_, which is still extant, and is an admirable piece of geometry,
proving rigorously, on the basis of certain assumptions, the result
stated). Archimedes again intends to be on the safe side, so he takes
the diameter of the sun to be thirty times that of the moon and not
greater. Lastly, he says that Aristarchus discovered that the diameter
of the sun appeared to be about 1/720th part of the zodiac circle, i.e.
to subtend an angle of about half a degree; and he describes a simple
instrument by which he himself found that the angle subtended by the
diameter of the sun at the time when it had just risen was less than
1/164th part and greater than 1/200th part of a right angle. Taking this
as the size of the angle subtended at the eye of the observer on the
surface of the earth, he works out, by an interesting geometrical
proposition, the size of the angle subtended at the centre of the earth,
which he finds to be > 1/203rd part of a right angle. Consequently the
diameter of the sun is greater than the side of a regular polygon of 812
sides inscribed in a great circle of the so-called "universe," and _a
fortiori_ greater than the side of a regular _chiliagon_ (polygon of
1000 sides) inscribed in that circle.

On these assumptions, and seeing that the perimeter of a regular
chiliagon (as of any other regular polygon of more than six sides)
inscribed in a circle is more than 3 times the length of the diameter of
the circle, it easily follows that, while the diameter of the earth is
less than 1,000,000 stadia, the diameter of the so-called "universe" is
less than 10,000 times the diameter of the earth, and therefore less
than 10,000,000,000 stadia.

Lastly, Archimedes assumes that a quantity of sand not greater than a
poppy-seed contains not more than 10,000 grains, and that the diameter
of a poppy-seed is not less than 1/40th of a _dactylus_ (while a stadium
is less than 10,000 _dactyli_).

Archimedes is now ready to work out his calculation, but for the
inadequacy of the alphabetic system of numerals to express such large
numbers as are required. He, therefore, develops his remarkable
terminology for expressing large numbers.

The Greek has names for all numbers up to a myriad (10,000); there was,
therefore, no difficulty in expressing with the ordinary numerals all
numbers up to a myriad myriads (100,000,000). Let us, says Archimedes,
call all these numbers numbers of the _first order_. Let the _second
order_ of numbers begin with 100,000,000, and end with 100,000,000². Let
100,000,000² be the first number of the _third order_, and let this
extend to 100,000,000³; and so on, to the _myriad-myriadth_ order,
beginning with 100,000,000^(99,999,999) and ending with
100,000,000^(100,000,000), which for brevity we will call P. Let all the
numbers of all the orders up to P form the _first period_, and let the
_first order_ of the _second period_ begin with P and end with
100,000,000 P; let the _second order_ begin with this, the _third order_
with 100,000,000² P, and so on up to the _100,000,000th order_ of the
_second period_, ending with 1,000,000,000^(100,000,000) P or P². The
_first order_ of the _third period_ begins with P², and the _orders_
proceed as before. Continuing the series of _periods_ and _orders_ of
each _period_, we finally arrive at the _100,000,000th period_ ending
with P^(100,000,000). The prodigious extent of this scheme is seen when
it is considered that the last number of the first period would now be
represented by 1 followed by 800,000,000 ciphers, while the last number
of the 100,000,000th period would require 100,000,000 times as many
ciphers, i.e. 80,000 million million ciphers.

As a matter of fact, Archimedes does not need, in order to express the
"number of the sand," to go beyond the _eighth order_ of the _first
period_. The orders of the _first period_ begin respectively with 1,
10^8, 10^16, 10^24, ... (10^8)^(99,999,999); and we can express all the
numbers required in powers of 10.

Since the diameter of a poppy-seed is not less than 1/40th of a
dactylus, and spheres are to one another in the triplicate ratio of
their diameters, a sphere of diameter 1 _dactylus_ is not greater than
64,000 poppy-seeds, and, therefore, contains not more than 64,000 ×
10,000 grains of sand, and _a fortiori_ not more than 1,000,000,000, or
10^9 grains of sand. Archimedes multiplies the diameter of the sphere
continually by 100, and states the corresponding number of grains of
sand. A sphere of diameter 10,000 _dactyli_ and _a fortiori_ of one
stadium contains less than 10^21 grains; and proceeding in this way to
spheres of diameter 100 stadia, 10,000 stadia and so on, he arrives at
the number of grains of sand in a sphere of diameter 10,000,000,000
stadia, which is the size of the so-called universe; the corresponding
number of grains of sand is 10^51. The diameter of the real universe
being 10,000 times that of the so-called universe, the final number of
grains of sand in the real universe is found to be 10^63, which in
Archimedes's terminology is a myriad-myriad units of the _eighth order_
of numbers.



It is said that Archytas was the first to treat mechanics in a
systematic way by the aid of mathematical principles; but no trace
survives of any such work by him. In practical mechanics he is said to
have constructed a mechanical dove which would fly, and also a rattle to
amuse children and "keep them from breaking things about the house" (so
says Aristotle, adding "for it is impossible for children to keep

In the Aristotelian _Mechanica_ we find a remark on the marvel of a
great weight being moved by a small force, and the problems discussed
bring in the lever in various forms as a means of doing this. We are
told also that practically all movements in mechanics reduce to the
lever and the principle of the lever (that the weight and the force are
in inverse proportion to the distances from the point of suspension or
fulcrum of the points at which they act, it being assumed that they act
in directions perpendicular to the lever). But the lever is merely
"referred to the circle"; the force which acts at the greater distance
from the fulcrum is said to move a weight more easily because it
describes a greater circle.

There is, therefore, no proof here. It was reserved for Archimedes to
prove the property of the lever or balance mathematically, on the basis
of certain postulates precisely formulated and making no large demand on
the faith of the learner. The treatise _On Plane Equilibriums_ in two
books is, as the title implies, a work on statics only; and, after the
principle of the lever or balance has been established in Props. 6, 7 of
Book I., the rest of the treatise is devoted to finding the centre of
gravity of certain figures. There is no dynamics in the work and
therefore no room for the parallelogram of velocities, which is given
with a fairly adequate proof in the Aristotelian _Mechanica_.

Archimedes's postulates include assumptions to the following effect: (1)
Equal weights at equal distances are in equilibrium, and equal weights
at unequal distances are not in equilibrium, but the system in that case
"inclines towards the weight which is at the greater distance," in other
words, the action of the weight which is at the greater distance
produces motion in the direction in which it acts; (2) and (3) If when
weights are in equilibrium something is added to or subtracted from one
of the weights, the system will "incline" towards the weight which is
added to or the weight from which nothing is taken respectively; (4) and
(5) If equal and similar figures be applied to one another so as to
coincide throughout, their centres of gravity also coincide; if figures
be unequal but similar, their centres of gravity are similarly situated
with regard to the figures.

The main proposition, that two magnitudes balance at distances
reciprocally proportional to the magnitudes, is proved first for
commensurable and then for incommensurable magnitudes. Preliminary
propositions have dealt with equal magnitudes disposed at equal
distances on a straight line and odd or even in number, and have shown
where the centre of gravity of the whole system lies. Take first the
case of commensurable magnitudes. If A, B be the weights acting at E, D
on the straight line ED respectively, and ED be divided at C so that A :
B = DC : CE, Archimedes has to prove that the system is in equilibrium
about C. He produces ED to K, so that DK = EC, and DE to L so that EL =
CD; LK is then a straight line bisected at C. Again, let H be taken on
LK such that LH = 2LE or 2CD, and it follows that the remainder HK = 2DK
or 2EC. Since A, B are commensurable, so are EC, CD. Let x be a common
measure of EC, CD. Take a weight w such that w is the same part of A
that x is of LH. It follows that w is the same part of B that x is of
HK. Archimedes now divides LH, HK into parts equal to x, and A B into
parts equal to w, and places the w's at the middle points of the x's
respectively. All the w's are then in equilibrium about C. But all the
w's acting at the several points along LH are equivalent to A acting as
a whole at the point E. Similarly the w's acting at the several points
on HK are equivalent to B acting at D. Therefore A, B placed at E, D
respectively balance about C.

Prop. 7 deduces by _reductio ad absurdum_ the same result in the case
where A, B are incommensurable. Prop. 8 shows how to find the centre of
gravity of the remainder of a magnitude when the centre of gravity of
the whole and of a part respectively are known. Props. 9-15 find the
centres of gravity of a parallelogram, a triangle and a
parallel-trapezium respectively.

Book II., in ten propositions, is entirely devoted to finding the centre
of gravity of a parabolic segment, an elegant but difficult piece of
geometrical work which is as usual confirmed by the method of



The science of hydrostatics is, even more than that of statics, the
original creation of Archimedes. In hydrostatics he seems to have had no
predecessors. Only one of the facts proved in his work _On Floating
Bodies_, in two books, is given with a sort of proof in Aristotle. This
is the proposition that the surface of a fluid at rest is that of a
sphere with its centre at the centre of the earth.

Archimedes founds his whole theory on two postulates, one of which comes
at the beginning and the other after Prop. 7 of Book I. Postulate 1 is
as follows:--

"Let us assume that a fluid has the property that, if its parts lie
evenly and are continuous, the part which is less compressed is expelled
by that which is more compressed, and each of its parts is compressed by
the fluid above it perpendicularly, unless the fluid is shut up in
something and compressed by something else."

Postulate 2 is: "Let us assume that any body which is borne upwards in
water is carried along the perpendicular [to the surface] which passes
through the centre of gravity of the body".

In Prop. 2 Archimedes proves that the surface of any fluid at rest is
the surface of a sphere the centre of which is the centre of the earth.
Props. 3-7 deal with the behaviour, when placed in fluids, of solids (1)
just as heavy as the fluid, (2) lighter than the fluid, (3) heavier
than the fluid. It is proved (Props. 5, 6) that, if the solid is lighter
than the fluid, it will not be completely immersed but only so far that
the weight of the solid will be equal to that of the fluid displaced,
and, if it be forcibly immersed, the solid will be driven upwards by a
force equal to the difference between the weight of the solid and that
of the fluid displaced. If the solid is heavier than the fluid, it will,
if placed in the fluid, descend to the bottom and, if weighed in the
fluid, the solid will be lighter than its true weight by the weight of
the fluid displaced (Prop. 7).

The last-mentioned theorem naturally connects itself with the story of
the crown made for Hieron. It was suspected that this was not wholly of
gold but contained an admixture of silver, and Hieron put to Archimedes
the problem of determining the proportions in which the metals were
mixed. It was the discovery of the solution of this problem when in the
bath that made Archimedes run home naked, shouting [Greek: eurêka,
eurêka]. One account of the solution makes Archimedes use the
proposition last quoted; but on the whole it seems more likely that the
actual discovery was made by a more elementary method described by
Vitruvius. Observing, as he is said to have done, that, if he stepped
into the bath when it was full, a volume of water was spilt equal to the
volume of his body, he thought of applying the same idea to the case of
the crown and measuring the volumes of water displaced respectively (1)
by the crown itself, (2) by the same weight of pure gold, and (3) by the
same weight of pure silver. This gives an easy means of solution.
Suppose that the weight of the crown is W, and that it contains weights
w1 and w2, of gold and silver respectively. Now experiment shows (1)
that the crown itself displaces a certain volume of water, V say, (2)
that a weight W of gold displaces a certain other volume of water, V1
say, and (3) that a weight W of silver displaces a volume V2.

From (2) it follows, by proportion, that a weight w1 of gold will
displace w1/W · V1 of the fluid, and from (3) it follows that a weight
w2 of silver displaces w2/W · V2 of the fluid.

  Hence       V = w1/W · V1 + w2/W · V2;

  therefore   WV = w1V1 + w2V2,

  that is,    (w1 + w2)V = w1V1 + w2V2,

  so that     w1/w2 = (V2 - V)/(V - V1),

which gives the required ratio of the weights of gold and silver
contained in the crown.

The last two propositions of Book I. investigate the case of a segment
of a sphere floating in a fluid when the base of the segment is (1)
entirely above and (2) entirely below the surface of the fluid; and it
is shown that the segment will in either case be in equilibrium in the
position in which the axis is vertical, the equilibrium being in the
first case stable.

Book II. is a geometrical _tour de force_. Here, by the methods of pure
geometry, Archimedes investigates the positions of rest and stability of
a right segment of a paraboloid of revolution floating with its base
upwards or downwards (but completely above or completely below the
surface) for a number of cases differing (1) according to the relation
between the length of the axis of the paraboloid and the principal
parameter of the generating parabola, and (2) according to the specific
gravity of the solid in relation to the fluid; where the position of
rest and stability is such that the axis of the solid is not vertical,
the angle at which it is inclined to the vertical is fully determined.

The idea of specific gravity appears all through, though this actual
term is not used. Archimedes speaks of the solid being lighter or
heavier than the fluid or equally heavy with it, or when a ratio has to
be expressed, he speaks of a solid the weight of which (for an equal
volume) has a certain ratio to that of the fluid.


The _editio princeps_ of the works of Archimedes with the commentaries
of Eutocius was brought out by Hervagius (Herwagen) at Basel in 1544. D.
Rivault (Paris, 1615) gave the enunciations in Greek and the proofs in
Latin somewhat retouched. The _Arenarius_ (_Sandreckoner_) and the
_Dimensio circuli_ with Eutocius's commentary were edited with Latin
translation and notes by Wallis in 1678 (Oxford). Torelli's monumental
edition (Oxford, 1792) of the Greek text of the complete works and of
the commentaries of Eutocius, with a new Latin translation, remained the
standard text until recent years; it is now superseded by the definitive
text with Latin translation of the complete works, Eutocius's
commentaries, the fragments, scholia, etc., edited by Heiberg in three
volumes (Teubner, Leipzig, first edition, 1880-1; second edition,
including the newly discovered _Method_, etc., 1910-15).

Of translations the following may be mentioned. The Aldine edition of
1558, 4to, contains the Latin translation by Commandinus of the
_Measurement of a Circle_, _On Spirals_, _Quadrature of the Parabola_,
_On Conoids and Spheroids_, _The Sandreckoner_. Isaac Barrow's version
was contained in _Opera Archimedis_, _Apollonii Pergoei conicorum
libri_, _Theodosii Sphoerica_, _methodo novo illustrata et demonstrata_
(London, 1675). The first French version of the works was by Peyrard in
two volumes (second edition, 1808). A valuable German translation, with
notes, by E. Nizze, was published at Stralsund in 1824. There is a
complete edition in modern notation by T. L. Heath (_The Works of
Archimedes_, Cambridge, 1897, supplemented by _The Method of
Archimedes_, Cambridge, 1912).



        624-547    Thales
        572-497    Pythagoras
        500-428    Anaxagoras
        470-400  / Hippocrates of Chios
                 \ Hippias of Elis
        470-380    Democritus
        460-385    Theodorus of Cyrene
        430-360    Archytas of Taras (Tarentum)
        427-347    Plato
        415-369    Theætetus
        408-355    Eudoxus of Cnidos
                 / Leon
  fl. about 350 <  Menæchmus
                 | Dinostratus
                 \ Theudius
        fl. 300    Euclid
        310-230    Aristarchus of Samos
        287-212    Archimedes
        284-203    Eratosthenes
        265-190    Apollonius of Perga

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