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THE GREAT MECHANIC
YRACUSE in Sicily was a Greek colony. Nearly three hundred years before the
time of Christ a boy was born in that city, who grew up to be a most
wonderful man. It is said that he was a relative of the king of Syracuse,
who was very fond of him and whom he helped in war against the Romans.
This boy was named Archimedes. He had a deep love for geometry and became a
great astronomer according to the learning of his time. He invented many
wonderful machines which were used to protect his city in time of war. Some
of these threw darts and stones against the enemies who came by land; others
cast huge rocks upon the ships that sailed into the harbor to attack the
Marcellus, the Roman general, thought that these machines could only throw a
long distance and that, as his vessels came nearer, the stones would fly
over them and do no harm. But Archimedes had arranged his engines so that
when the ships drew near the rocks crashed upon them, breaking their masts,
knocking overboard the rowers, and often sinking the vessels.
It is said that he placed rows of burning-glasses so that they set fire to
the Roman vessels when they were
 far off; and that he made a long arm which reached out from the wall, caught
one of the enemy's boats and turned it around like a toy.
At any rate he made Marcellus afraid to come near the city, either by land
or sea. The soldiers and the vessels stayed out of reach and watched
Syracuse so that nobody could go in or come out. This they did for three
years hoping to conquer the people by starvation.
Archimedes did much more than protect the city. He had a very busy mind and
wrote books, copies of which are in the great libraries of the world to-day.
He found out many wonderful truths and set them down in writing and it was
nearly two thousand years before men learned more than he had taught about
Here is a story often told in regard to him.
The king of Syracuse had given a jeweler a certain weight of gold to be made
into a crown. He did not feel satisfied that all the gold had been used for
He called Archimedes and said, "Cousin, I think my jeweler has cheated me.
The crown weighs as much as the gold I gave him, but I believe he has kept
some of it
and put silver in its place. You know many things; can you help me find out
the truth about this?"
Archimedes said, "I do not know how that can be done but I will try."
He thought a long time but saw no way to answer the question. One day he was
taking a bath and noticed for the first time that his body pushed away just
so much water. The thought flashed into his mind, "Gold is heavier than
silver and takes up less room. It will then
 push aside less water. I have found the secret." A few minutes later the
people of Syracuse were astonished to see him running through the streets to
his home crying out, "Eureka! Eureka!" which means, "I have found it! I have
He put the crown into water and noticed how much of the liquid was pushed
aside. Then he took the same weight of gold and tried that. The gold pushed
away less than the crown. Then he tried silver which displaced more water;
and at last he found out exactly how much silver had been mixed with gold in
making the crown.
Do you know what a lever is? It is a stick or bar by which men can easily
move heavy weights. Archimedes used that tool a great deal and said, "Give
me a place on which to stand and I will move the world!" But he never found
He was so busy with his studies that he did not know when the Romans
captured Syracuse. After three years of waiting Marcellus entered and took
possession of the rich and beautiful city. He did not mean to harm
Archimedes, so he sent a soldier to bring the great man to him. The warrior
found the student bending over his books and told him that he must go to the
general. Archimedes asked him to please wait a little until he had finished
his study. The soldier did not know who this gray old man was but he killed
him with a blow of his sword.
Marcellus was very sorry. He made a great funeral for Archimedes and built
over his grave a monument on
 which was carved a sphere and cylinder. Archimedes had been greatly pleased
with himself for finding out the relation between these two bodies.
One hundred and thirty-six years afterwards the famous Roman, Cicero, went
to Syracuse. The chief men of the city said, "What shall we show you first?"
He answered, "Lead me to the tomb of Archimedes."
They replied, "We have never seen it. We do not know where it is!"
Cicero went alone, and searched the cemeteries. In one place he found bushes
and briers with the top of a pillar showing above them. He cleared away the
brambles and there was the grave of Archimedes and above it his monument,
engraved with the sphere and cylinder which he had wished should mark his