Tag: pi

Archimedes, Inventing Calculus, and the Value of Pi


Let’s get one thing straight upfront; I blame @SaintAugustine. If you’ll recall he wrote a post about a month ago about Leibniz, who is smarter than I. I offered up a joking reply to his question naming someone else who’s smarter than I, the Greek mathematician Archimedes. He’s probably most famous for discovering the principle of displacement one day in the bath. He announced it by shouting “Eureka!” and (depending on the account) running through the streets to announce it without so much as a towel. Aside from the bathtub thing Archimedes is the mad scientist of antiquity, having devised weapons of war (including the first known death ray) to face off Roman invaders. That part of the legend has probably grown in the telling.

A Boy and His Circles

Matter of fact, Archimedes didn’t survive the Second Punic war. Rome sacked Syracuse after a long siege (having thus far been stymied by Mad Science). Archimedes was drawing diagrams in the dirt when a Roman soldier found him. “Stop disturbing my circles!” yells Archimedes. The Roman, not about to be lectured by some weird old guy, runs him through with his sword. Probably for the best; the mind shudders at what might have resulted had that Roman, equally interested in circles, stopped his looting in order to contemplate conic sections.

Member Post


“The history of π is a quaint little mirror of the history of man.  It is the story of Archimedes of Syracuse, whose method of calculating π defied substantial improvement for some 1900 years, and it is also the story of a Cleveland businessman, who published a book in 1931 announcing the grand discovery that π was exactly […]

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