Archimedes and the Door of Science Critical Context - Essay

Jeanne Bendick

Critical Context

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.