Public Nakedness

One of the greatest mathematicians of our world is best known by a possibly fictional story about the time he ran through town stark naked.  The Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse has many accomplishments to his name, including an excellent approximation of pi and some outstanding inventions.  The anecdote referenced earlier, though, has to do with how he reacted when figuring out the solution to a problem concerning the king’s crown.  The king had recently ordered a crown made of pure gold, but the king was not sure if the maker of the crown had been honest and used pure gold.  Archimedes needed to find out without putting so much as a scratch on the object.  It is said that Archimedes came to the solution while bathing.  He sat down in a tub and saw how his body displaced the water.  From this, he knew that he could measure the displacement of water with a submerged crown and compare to what an equal amount of gold would displace.  Archimedes was so thrilled with his discovery that he jumped out of the tub and ran through town shouting “Eureka!  I have found it!”  It turned out that the maker of the crown was indeed dishonest and had not used pure gold.

Is this a true story?  Historians are not sure, but Archimedes did write about principles of buoyancy in his work On Floating Bodies.  So, even if that particular event did not occur, Archimedes did know the math and physics behind it.


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