Archimedes and the Door of Science

by Jeanne Bendick

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Jeanne Bendick has organized Archimedes and the Door of Science into a series of fourteen chapters whose lengths vary from two to fifteen pages, each focused on a particular period in Archimedes’ life or on a particular scientific topic that he investigated. At the end of the text, she has provided an appendix listing the writings of Archimedes that are known to have existed, as well as an index to the book.

Bendick, an illustrator as well as an author, has incorporated into her text some simple, rather charming sketches to bring characters and episodes to life. In addition, she has provided maps to show the geographical context of Archimedes’ life and diagrams to make clear the physical and mathematical principles described in her text.

Nine of the fourteen chapters deal primarily with contributions that Archimedes made to specific areas of astronomy, mathematics, and physics. The other five are concerned with the early years of his life, his education in Alexandria, and the final years before his death at the age of seventy-five.

At an early age, Archimedes displayed a keen intellect and liked to concentrate on scientific and mathematical problems. Through a period of study at the Museum in Alexandria, he came under the tutelage of established scholars and associated with other eager students. Thus, he came in contact with the best minds and the most advanced information that was known to Greek culture at the time.

Upon returning to his birthplace in Syracuse, Sicily, Archimedes became an associate of King Hiero II, who valued Archimedes’ friendship and often sought his advice. For the most part, however, Archimedes concentrated on his studies, making notable contributions of scientific and technological value as well as adding to the contemporary store of mathematical and astronomical learning. His interests ranged widely, his efforts were prodigious, and his approach came closest among the ancient Greeks to modern scientific practice. Thus, Bendick has subtitled her biography and the Door of Science.

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