Archimedes: Finishing the Problem
by Geneva Durand (13)
Archimedes was one of the most brilliant and intelligent people ever. Although he invented many things, one of the most important was the lever. Talking with Hiero, King of Syracuse, he confidently stated that if he only had another earth on which to stand, he could move the world itself! Laughingly, Hiero challenged Archimedes to move a brand new ship. "All my dock slaves have not been able to nudge it. Move that, Archimedes, and I will believe you." "I accept your challenge," replied Archimedes. Off he went to work on his present pushing problem. Word spread quickly. When the day arrived, many people gathered to watch and see. Calmly, Archimedes began to turn the giant screw connected to his levers and pulleys. The ship moved! To the spell-bound gazers on the dock it was a near miracle, but to the intelligent Archimedes, moving a giant ship was a matter of twisting a screw!
Since he was very clever, Archimedes devised many war-machines for defending his home in Syracuse, a town on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the wars between Carthage and Rome, Syracuse would likely be attacked by one or the other, and King Hiero did not want to be caught unprepared. He was right. Although the assault did not come in his lifetime, soldiers eventually surrounded Syracuse. Attacking on both sides, they terrified the inhabitants. Archimedes was ready. Suddenly, arrows shot out from over the wall, rocks crashed into siege machines and soldiers, and claws sticking out over the wall grabbed ships and shook them back and forth like rag-dolls or plunged them into the sea! Wisely, the Roman general withdrew his frightened troops. Still, he was not safe until he had retreated a long way. Using big metal mirrors, Archimedes cleverly set fire to the Roman boats, harassing the enemy so much that when a soldier saw a rope dangling from a wall, he fled in terror, afraid of some dreadful machine being suddenly released!
Archimedes was also very absorbed in his problems. Almost everyone knows about King Hiero's crown, which he suspected was not made of pure gold. "Eureka!" Archimedes shouted as he solved that problem. Later Archimedes became absorbed in other problems as the people of Syracuse carelessly ceased to guard certain spots, believing that the machines would protect them. Observing this, the Roman general had his soldiers creep noiselessly in during one of the city's feasts, surprising the defenders. When a soldier found Archimedes, he haughtily commanded him to go to the general, who had ordered that Archimedes was not to be hurt. "Wait," replied Archimedes. "Let me finish my important problem." Smiling spitefully, the soldier stepped on Archimedes's drawing. Angrily, Archimedes brought his long pointed drawing stick down sharply on the soldier's foot. Furious, the soldier drew out his sword, running Archimedes through. Archimedes's absorption made him great, but it cost him his life. Who knows what the world would be if Archimedes had finished that problem!