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Ancient Science: Mechanics

Thousands of years of research and discoveries in physics have led to the technologies of today.

During ancient times, many scientists were interested in the development of machines.


The work by Archimedes (287-212 BCE), a Greek mathematician, shaped the fields of physics and practical engineering.


The preface to The Method consists of a letter to his friend Eratosthenes, where Archimedes describes a process of discovery in mathematics. He explains that investigating problems starts by means of mechanics. Thus, Archimedes suggests theorems have to be first investigated by means of mechanics, and then demonstrated or proved, through the use of geometry.


Archimedes is known best for his military innovations as well as inventing levers, pulleys, and pumps including the famous screw pump known as Archimedes’ Screw, for raising water.

Heron of Alexandria (c. 10AD - 85 AD), often considered the greatest experimenter of antiquity, constructed mechanical models powered by water, compressed air, and heat.


Of all of his ancient contraptions, Hero is most famous for inventing a steam-powered energy source, known as the aeolipile, that used steam to spin a hollow metal sphere as described in his book Pneumatica. This is said to be the first recorded steam turbine.


Although much of the work from Archimedes and Heron has been lost, what does survive leaves us in awe.


Works cited:

Drexel.edu, 2019, www.cs.drexel.edu/~crorres/Archimedes/contents.html.


“Archimedes Archimedes | Lemelson.” Lemelson.mit.edu, lemelson.mit.edu/resources/archimedes-archimedes.


“Heron of Alexandria - Biography.” Maths History, mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Heron/.

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