July 05, 2010

The genius of Archimedes

The conference program of the conference that took place in Syracuse a few weeks ago. The proceedings from Springer.

A few interesting papers from the volume:

Archimedes’ Cannons Against the Roman Fleet?

Cesare Rossi

In the paper is discussed the possibility that Archimedes built and used against the Roman fleet a steam cannon. It is well-known that Archimedes, during the siege of Syracuse, designed and built several war machines to fight against the Romans. Among these war machines, the legend about the large concave mirrors that concentrated the sun rays burning the Roman ships is rather interesting. On this topic are also interesting some drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci where a steam cannon is described and attributed to Archimedes. Starting from passages by ancient Authors (mainly Plutarchos, Petrarca and Da Vinci), the author investigates on the possibility that Archimedes built a steam cannon and used it to hit the Roman ships with incendiary proiectiles.

Archimedes Arabicus. Assessing Archimedes’ Impact on Arabic Mechanics and Engineering

Constantin Canavas

Archimedes is an author who is frequently quoted in Arabic texts in relationship with mathematics and mechanics, including hydraulic devices such as water-clocks. The present study traces transmission paths and evidence for an assessment of the impact of the Archimedean works on the Arabic tradition of mechanics and hydraulics.

The Heritage of Archimedes in Ship Hydrostatics: 2000 Years from Theories to Applications

Horst Nowacki

Archimedes left to posterity his famous treatise “On Floating Bodies”, which establishes the physical foundations for the floatability and stability of ships and other maritime objects. Yet since this treatise was long lost and also simply ignored by practitioners, it took many centuries before Archimedes’ brilliant insights were actually applied in ship design and ship safety assessment. This article traces the tedious acceptance of Archimedes’ principles of hydrostatics and stability in practical applications. It will document important milestones and explain how this knowledge was passed down through the centuries and ultimately spread into ship design practice.

Archimedean Science and the Scientific Revolution

Agamenon R. E. Oliveira

According to Richard Westfall (Westfall, 1977) the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century was dominated by two themes: the Platonic-pythagorean tradition “which looked on nature in geometric terms” and mechanical philosophy “which conceived of nature as a huge machine”. This paper is an attempt to study the appropriation of Archimedean science in the Scientific Revolution in Western Europe.

The Influence of Archimedes in the Machine Books from the Renaissance to the 19th Century

Francis C. Moon

The influence of Archimedes on the so-called theatre of machines books is reviewed using original manuscripts from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The evidence shows continuity of knowledge of ancient Greek theory of machines as well as Archimedes principles of statics, hydrostatics and concepts of centers of gravity on the development of machine science.

1 comment:

Marnie said...

Thanks, Dienekes, for telling us about this conference.

I'm glad to see that there is such a conference, which both examines mathematical and technical thinking in the ancient world, as well as the means by which this knowledge was carried to the Renaissance.

It's clear that throughout the centuries, the genius of Archimedes has been under appreciated; that is, until the discovery and recovery of the Archimedes Palimpsest:


Archimedes' mathematical work touched on methods of limits, combinatorics, Riemann sums, and of course, geometry.

That is not to diminish his other works, but the Palimpsest shows that his inventions were made by methods of mathematical proof, and not trial and error.

We likely owe the existence of the Archimedes Palimpsest to the fact that Isidore of Miletus (c. 530AD) and Eutocius (c. sixth century AD) made compilations of Archimedes' work. (Isidore of Miletus' was also one of the designers of the Aghia Sophia.)


Archimedes is one of the great world thinkers for all time and appears to finally be getting his due.