When dealing with the story of a person who lived in as remote a time as Archimedes, the author has several drawbacks with which to contend. These include a paucity of original documents, the questionable reliability of subsequent authors’ accounts, and the complete absence of information concerning relevant items of interest. These are problems that have beset the many authors who have been fascinated by Archimedes and have tried to share their knowledge of him with readers as completely and accurately as possible.
For an author such as Bendick, who attempts this task on a level that will attract young readers, there are further problems to be met. Bendick cannot assume that her readers have any familiarity with the world in which Archimedes lived or with the importance of his place either in long-term history or in his contemporary society. Bendick has achieved considerable success in her task through a variety of means. For example, she begins her story of Archimedes by integrating the facts of Archimedes’ birth in 287 b.c. as the son of an established astronomer into what is known from other historical sources about the customs and ceremonies that attended the birth of a child of that social class in an important Greek city such as Syracuse. Bendick then presents a picture of the early education and training of a young boy toward becoming a worthy citizen of Greece. Her writing style is geared to the modern young reader’s interests and abilities, but at the same time she expands that reader’s vocabulary and horizons.
In dealing with the years that Archimedes spent studying in Alexandria, the author carefully explains his reasons for leaving Syracuse, the origin of the city itself, and the role that its museum had achieved as a center of learning. In that setting, Archimedes had access to a fine library, skilled teachers such as Conon of Samos, and other students of a caliber similar to his own such as...
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Bendick wrote Archimedes and the Door of Science for publication as part of a series of biographies entitled “Immortals of Science,” which introduced young readers to the lives and accomplishments of scientists responsible for modern scientific understanding. Archimedes is one of four ancient Greeks represented in the gallery, which spans more than two thousand years. Following the decline of Greek civilization and the fall of the Roman Empire, a hiatus occurred in scientific advancement—a hiatus from which Western civilization emerged only with the coming of such figures as Leonardo da Vinci and Nicolaus Copernicus.
Archimedes was the ancient Greek scientist who, when viewed in retrospect, came closest to anticipating the modern approach to scientific learning. Bendick has written this biography in a way that can interest and inform the young reader in a number of areas that will enhance the reader’s formal education. The primary focus on Archimedes’ scientific achievements can help students to appreciate the origins of some of the topics studied in science and mathematics courses, such as simple machines and geometric figures. In addition, the presentation of the scope of the Greek world of the third century b.c. will be valuable in the study of ancient history.
The details of the discussion of interpersonal interactions can help the student to appreciate human elements and characteristics that span the centuries. Another feature that will awaken the interest of modern readers is the account that Bendick provides of Archimedes’ cooperation with his government in providing military weapons for the defense of his country—an action that served as a precedent for the work of twentieth century scientists to bring World War II to an end through the use of the atomic bomb.