Eureka Man: The Life and Legacy of Archimedes (Hardcover)

The Life and Legacy of Archimedes

By Alan W. Hirshfeld

Walker & Company, 9780802716187, 256pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2009



The extraordinary genius of Archimedes—scientist, mathematician, engineer, and showman.

Many of us know little about Archimedes other than his “Eureka” exclamation upon discovering that he could immerse an object in a full tub of water and measure the spillage to determine the object’s volume. That simple observation helped establish the key principles of buoyancy that govern the flotation of hot-air balloons, boats, and denizens of the sea.  Archimedes had a profound impact on the development of mathematics and science: from square roots to the stability of ships; number systems to levers; the value of pi to the size of the universe. Yet this same cerebral man developed machines of war that held at bay the greatest army of antiquity. Ironically, Archimedes’ reputation swelled to mythic proportions in the ancient world for his feats of engineering: the hand-cranked irrigation device—commonly known as “Archimedes’ screw”—and his ingenuous use of levers, pulleys, and ropes to launch, single-handedly, a fully laden ship!

His rediscovered treatises guided nascent thinkers out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. Indeed, Archimedes’ cumulative record of achievement places him among the exalted ranks of Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. Eureka Man brings to life for general readers the genius of Archimedes, offering succinct and understandable explanations of some of his amazing discoveries and innovations.

About the Author

Alan Hirshfeld is a professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and an associate of the Harvard College Observatory. He is the author of "The Electric Life of Michael Faraday "and "Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos." He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Praise For Eureka Man: The Life and Legacy of Archimedes

"Although you may not have ever thought you needed to read a book about Archimedes, this book might leave you wondering how you got through life thus far without reading one. In this, lies Hirshfeld's rare talent. And if you have been looking for such a book, this one should have you leaping from your bathtub and heading for the door, proclaiming "Eureka -- I have found it.""—Metro West Daily News

“Alan Hirshfeld [cuts] through the centuries of hype surrounding this ancient genius. Against the vivid backdrop of a city under Roman siege, we're told what little is known of the life of Archimedes, and of the futuristic war machines he invented at his king's behest, which for years kept the invaders at bay. Hirshfeld explains Archimedes's mathematical achievements, from calculating pi to developing the beginnings of calculus, and traces the survival of key copies of his work through history as poetically as if they were travellers sailing to port over a stormy sea. A charming introduction to the life and legacy of an extraordinary man.”—New Scientist

“An insightful and engaging biography of the man of the legendary exclaim.  To my surprise, Archimedes was a Newton, Edison, General Patton, and Einstein, all rolled into one: the eighth wonder of the ancient world. Alan Hirshfield provides both a delightful romp through this great man's mathematical proofs and a thrilling tale of the centuries-long search for Archimedes' greatest manuscript.  We are introduced to a genius well worth knowing."—Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe and adjunct professor of science writing at MIT

“Naked Archimedes running down the street shouting ‘Eureka!’ It's an image to chuckle over and cherish. But, oh my, there is so much more to fascinate in the tale of this astonishing man. Alan Hirshfeld has merged storytelling and science in a wonderful book that even includes a modern discovery with twists and turns of intrigue.”—Joy Hakim, author of The Story of Science and A History of US

“Alan Hirshfeld has given us a gripping biography of Archimedes, one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Even more exciting, he shows us how scholars resurrect from obscurity a person who has been dead for 2,200 years, piecing together a dramatic life from fragments of remembrance.”—Chet Raymo, author of The Path

“For this account of one of antiquity’s most renowned mathematicians, Hirshfeld combines three elements: a biography, accessible presentations of several mathematical proofs, and a narrative of the recent recovery of long-lost texts. The last, detailed in The Archimedes Codex (2007), by Reviel Netz and William Noel, loses no intellectual drama in Hirshfeld’s briefer treatment, and his work’s clarity in the biography and math departments confirms the facility for popular science that Hirshfeld displayed in Parallax (2001) and The Electric Life of Michael Faraday (2006)… And whether or not a naked Archimedes really ran around yelling ‘Eureka,’ the story’s too good, among others, to omit from Hirshfeld’s fine portrayal.”— Booklist

“University of Massachusetts Dartmouth science prof Hirshfeld offers a lively look at the work underlying Archimedes’ renown… Science fans will find this a quick read, and readers interested in the transmission of ancient manuscripts will be fascinated by Hirshfeld’s account of the palimpsest.” —Publishers Weekly

“Thoroughly enjoyable look at the tumultuous life and resounding influence of a genius of antiquity”—Kirkus Reviews