Archimedes’ burning mirrors
Archimedes was born in 287 BC in the Sicilian city of Syracuse. The son of an astronomer, he studied in Alexandria in his youth. He wrote important works about geometry, maths and mechanics and is so revered there’s even a crater on the moon named after him. Here’s a fun animation telling the story of one of his most well-known discoveries. How taking a bath led to Archimedes’ Principle.
He was a very practical man. His genius inventions included the hydraulic screw, a machine for raising water to a higher level. It is still used today for irrigating fields in developing countries.
Whether he had a hand in creating the Pharos mirror is a matter of debate. However, he did develop many ‘engines of war’ to defend Syracuse from the Romans. They included his famous burning mirrors. According to historical accounts, he torched a fleet of invading Roman ships by harnessing the power of the sun. The story still attracts interest. In 2005 a team of American scientists from MIT tried, with limited success, to recreate Archimedes’ ‘death ray’ for the television programme Mythbusters.
The siege of Syracuse in 212 BC cost Archimedes his life. The story goes that he was drawing figures in the dust, oblivious to the events around him, when a Roman soldier demanded that he should accompany him. It’s said his last words before the angry soldier killed him were, ‘Don’t disturb my circles!’
For more Pharos links and images on my pinterest page click here.