Archimedes was born in Syracuse, in the early 3rd century BCE, on the island of Sicily. He was probably not fluent in Greek at birth. (Then again, who knows?)
He assembled one of the wildest and most impressive careers in mathematics, ancient or otherwise. My favorite work of his: “Sand Reckoner,” an estimate of how many grains of sand it would take to fill the universe.
Archimedes mastered the “method of exhaustion,” which smells an awful lot like what we today call “calculus.” He used this technique to deduce the circumference of circles, the volume of spheres, and the area enclosed by parabolas.
I’ve heard several historians (namely Viktor Blasjo and Chris Rorres) hail Archimedes’ analysis of floating bodies as one of the great achievements in math. It was a systematic analysis of a chaotic system, more than 20 centuries before chaos theory.
Legend has it that Archimedes refused to yield when a Roman soldier ordered him to stop drawing diagrams in the dirt. Classic mathematician.
(By the way, I recommend the Twitter thread in which historians Alberto Martinez and Viktor Blasjo debate the plausibility of this tale.)
The soldier, not knowing who Archimedes was, attacked him.
(And by the way, he really did view the sphere volume proof – that a sphere, fit snugly inside a cylinder, will fill 2/3 of its container – as his masterwork. Cicero tells us that its image appeared on his tombstone.)
I imagine Archimedes departed our mortal plane beneath a fitting piece of geometry: a parabolic arch.
(Not depicted: sphere volume proof.)
Rest in peace, Archimedes!