Archimedes, and the rest of us, screwed at Syracuse!



When I was a postgraduate student doing research for my PhD in chemistry, one highly competitive aspect amongst fellow researchers was to cite/quote from the earliest historical reference to anything connected to your work and insert it into your doctoral thesis. The earliest/oldest scientific reference was the winner. In 1974 I won by citing Archimedes’ discovery that when sea water was passed over washed sand, it became drinkable; this was the earliest known observation of the phenomenon of ion exchange theory. Now what the hell has this got to do with a Mediterranean cruise and a visit to Syracuse on the island of Sicily.

Sicily was colonised by Aegean Greeks in 729 BC and its most famous citizen some 500 years later was ….. Archimedes; you know the one who cried out “Eureka” on realising that the volume of water displaced as he sat in a full bath was equal to the volume of his own body. He developed other practical things too such as The Archimedes Screw for raising water from a well and a catapult capable of hurling huge rocks considerable distances, especially against the Roman invaders who, unfortunately for him, captured Syracuse in 212 BC. They killed him during the siege! No human rights lawyers in those days!
At this time, Syracuse was the richest city on the island, but I don’t know a lot more because, once again, most of us switched off as the tour guide babbled on for 20 mins at the entrance to the ancient Greek Theatre. So, a few of us wandered off again and took a few photos before visiting the small Archimedes museum for an hour then enjoying some of the local Vino Rosso in a nearby cafe.
Only one more of these booked tours to go. In the meantime , here’s ONE photo from Syracuse, the Greek Theatre. Plus a bonus photo of myself and Archimedes.

3 thoughts on “Archimedes, and the rest of us, screwed at Syracuse!

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