Mathematician Focus: Archimedes

Who was he and what is he famous for?

Archimedes was born in Italy in 287 BC. He was an Ancient Greek mathematician, engineer and inventor. Not a lot is known about his personal life and most of his work in engineering and mathematics comes from writings made long after his death.

He’s probably best known for the discovery of the relation between the surface and the volume of a sphere. He also came up with the theorem for the area of a circle and most of his work was the basis of modern calculus.

It’s said that Archimedes invented the first screw pumps and he is credited with defining the principle of the pulley system.  Archimedes was killed in 212 BC when Syracuse was conquered by the Romans. There is no reliable proof but ‘Do not disturb my circles’ was supposedly Archimedes’ last words.

Did you also know?

  • He apparently developed military techniques which were used in wars.
  • A crater on the moon has been named Archimedes to honour him.
  • Archimedes featured on postage stamps in various European countries between the 1960s and the 1980s.


  • Archimedes Principle – formula to measure the volume of an irregularly shaped object
  • Area of a circle (πr2)
  • Surface area and volume of a sphere
  • Area under a parabola
  • The method of mechanical theorems – the theory of breaking up an object into smaller parts can then determine the volume or area of the object.


  • Defining the principle of the pulley lever system
  • Archimedes Screw – a device with a revolving screw-shaped blade used to pump liquid or grain. It was first used by Archimedes on a ship to remove bilge water.
  • Catapult

Some quotes from Archimedes…

  • ‘Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth’.
  • ‘Man has always learned from the past. After all, you can’t learn history in reverse’!


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