A Legacy

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“Don’t disturb my circles!” 

Archimedes

Legacy

Rome wanted control of Syracuse, Sicily for strategic purposes.  Archimedes was an old man; some suggest nearing 80, when Roman ships closed in on his city in 212 B.C.  Even as Syracuse was being besieged, Archimedes continued inventing all kinds of clever contraptions to keep the enemy at bay.  But even his remarkable skills could not overcome the military might of Rome.

Archimedes’s legendary feats had reached the ears of the Roman commander Marcellus, who was determined that no harm should befall him.  Archimedes was to be treated with the respect accorded to a man of his stature. Yet, fate had a different outcome for our noble Archimedes.  The Roman officer, who discovered Archimedes busily drawing circles and making calculations in his sand tray, had not received Marcellus’s orders. When Archimedes shouted, “Please do not disturb my calculations,” the officer was in no mood to obey an old, foolish man.  When Archimedes insisted on finishing his calculations, the soldier ended his life.

The death of Archimedes is a poignant reminder that whatever ideas, thoughts, calculations that remain locked in a human mind, is forever lost to the world.  Unless, there is a record!  In 1906, the philologist J.L. Heiberg discovered a palimpsest, also known as a scroll in which the original writing has been partially erased to be repurposed for new text.  Miraculously, beneath the Greek orthodox scriptures, were hidden copies of assorted key works by Archimedes. The Arab mathematicians safeguarded his work through the Dark Ages until it could be swept into the seventeenth century scientific revolution.

But that is another story…

“Mathematics reveals its secrets only to those who approach it with pure love, for its own beauty.” 
Archimedes

 

34 thoughts on “A Legacy

  1. Amazing!! What a discovery. I’ve just been catching up on your posts, dear Rebecca. There are some wonderful pearls of wisdom, little gems, historical knowledge [unknown to me], and some wonderful photos and quotes. I loved the stories and quotes of the Native American Indians. [I think I must have been one in a past life!!]
    I’ve really missed my daily forages among the social networks. I used to spend many hours each day on the internet, but it rather began to take over my life. And there are so many things I still want to do.
    So I decided I would devote the whole of today to catching up with my friends at WordPress [I always seem to be playing catch-up lately!]. It’s been a treat to connect with your innate wisdom and supportive friendship. You are a heaven-sent gift. Bless you, dear friend.

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    • Dear Lizzie – How wonderful to receive your heart-warming comments. There is always a balance in life, with each side offering their tempting gifts. I have been playing catch-up for years until I realized I was so far behind that I was really in first place. I think that you will like these word by Chief Dan George (Tsleil-Waututh):

      “The time will soon be here when my grandchild will long for the cry of a loon, the flash of a salmon, the whisper of spruce needles, or the screech of an eagle.
      But he will not make friends with any of these creatures and when his heart aches with longing, he will curse me.
      Have I done all to keep the air fresh?
      Have I cared enough about the water?
      Have I left the eagle to soar in freedom?
      Have I done everything I could to earn my grandchild’s fondness?”
      – Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh (1899-1981)

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      • Thank you for these beautiful thought-provoking words, dear Rebecca. I will keep them with me today, as my thought for the day. Bless you.

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    • I was too! When I started to read about his legacy, I was at first elated that he was going to be spared and then, alas! It was a reminder to me that our destiny plays out in unusual ways. But, he was a true scientist to the very end….

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      • Me too!! A few years back, I was reading the biography of George Washington. I just started to cry. When my husband asked me what was wrong, all I could say was that “George died.”
        “George who?” he asked, concerned. When I told him, George Washington, he reminded me gently that it was a fact that he had passed a couple of centuries ago. I agreed but then added, that it wasn’t fair. Death, even when it happens centuries ago, engenders grief.

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  2. “Stör meine Kreise nicht …” – Archimedes was able to calculate polygonal surfaces. This knowledge was lost for 2000 years. Who knows how our world would look today if that had not happened with the circles …

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    • A very, very insightful thought!!! I was just listening to a interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson and realized how much we know, and how much there is yet to know. Archimedes was a man for all times. I think he would appreciate knowing his efforts have contributed greatly to the work of science.

      “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
      ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

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  3. Fascinating story, Rebecca. And I never thought of Syracuse as being in another country, only here in our NYS.

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    • I have often wondered about the connection of the two Syracuse cities. Another great research project, I think!!! Great to have you stop by…

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    • Thank you so much! I have learned so much over the last week that I have decided to extend this series of post for another week!!! Your presence and comments are always appreciated.

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