Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Origins of "Eureka!"

Possibly one of the greatest mathematicians of all time is Archimedes. He was born in 287 BC in the Greek colony of Syracuse. Archimedes advanced geometry, founded integral calculus, and approximated the value of pi.

King Hieron had a goldsmith create him a gold crown, using the cold the king gave him. When the crown was returned, it weighed the same amount as the gold he had to work with. However, the king was suspicious as to the material used in the crown.

He called upon Archimedes to investigate the problem, who did not know what to do at first. However, he had an epiphany while sitting in a public bathtub. He realized that when he sat in the water, the water level rose. After discovering these concepts of water displacement, he was ecstatic.

He was so excited that he jumped out of the bathtub, and without putting on any clothing, ran through the crowded streets shouting "Eureka!" (I have found it!) The crown was later tested and it was made of silver.

Now, the term "Eureka" is used in many instances. For instance, the California state motto is "Eureka," referring to the fact that people found gold there in 1848. In fact, there is even a town named Eureka.

I found it interesting that this exclamation dates back to one of our most famous mathematicians and their extremely over the top reaction.

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