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Archimedes: 287 BC-212 BC) was one of the leading scientists, engineers, inventors and mathematicians of ancient Greece. A number of inventions and discoveries are attributed to him, including the Archimedes screw, which was a “screw-shaped blade inside a cylinder” used at the time to remove water from the hulls of ships and still used in parts of the world as part of irrigation systems He is, however, perhaps most famous for supposedly having cried “Eureka, eureka!” upon realizing that the volume of water displaced was the same as that of the object immersed in the water. This discovery helped Archimedes determine whether King Hiero II’s crown was made of solid gold without actually damaging the crown; with knowledge of the crown’s volume and weight, Archimedes could calculate its density and determine whether the King’s crown was real gold.

In “Signs of the Times,” Carlyle contrasts Archimedes to what he calls the Mechanical Age. In this new Mechanical Age, which loses touch with the Metaphysical and Moral Sciences, even Mathematics, the “highly prized exponent of all these other sciences”becomes less “natural genius”and more “cunningly-constructed.” The reference to Archimedes contrasts between what Carlyle perceives as the presently convoluted state of science and mathematics and the clarity of mathematics in antiquity. When Carlyle remarks that “Aristotle and Plato could not have read the Mechanique Celeste,” he criticizes the byzantine nature of Mechanical Science — even great thinkers of the past would be unable to understand modern Science.

Bibliography

“Archimedes.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. . 21 March 2010. Web. 29 March 2010.

Stein, Sherman K. Archimedes: What Did He Do besides Cry Eureka? Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America, 1999. Print.


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Last modified 31 March 2010