Eureka Man The Life and Legacy of Archimedes

Alan Hirshfeld

Walker Books




256 Pages


Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

Many of us know little more about Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) than his famous exclamation of "Eureka!" upon discovering that the spillage of water produced by an immersed object reveals the object's volume. That seemingly simple insight helped establish the key principles of buoyancy that govern the flotation of everything from boats to balloons.

From his calculations of value of pi and the size of the universe to his feats of engineering and his ingenious use of levers, pulleys, and ropes, Archimedes's impact on the development of mathematics and science is unparalleled. Eureka Man brings to life the genius of Archimedes and chronicles the remarkable saga of the Archimedes Palimpsest—the long-lost manuscript rediscovered in the twentieth century, a vivid reminder that Archimedes' cumulative record of accomplishment places him among the exalted ranks of Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein.


Praise for Eureka Man

"Alan Hirshfeld [cuts] through the centuries of hype surrounding this ancient genius. Against the vivid backdrop of a city under Roman siege, we're told what little is known of the life of Archimedes, and of the futuristic war machines he invented at his king's behest, which for years kept the invaders at bay. Hirshfeld explains Archimedes's mathematical achievements, from calculating pi to developing the beginnings of calculus, and traces the survival of key copies of his work through history as poetically as if they were travelers sailing to port over a stormy sea. A charming introduction to the life and legacy of an extraordinary man."—New Scientist

"An insightful and engaging biography of the man of the legendary exclaim. To my surprise, Archimedes was a Newton, Edison, General Patton, and Einstein, all rolled into one: the eighth wonder of the ancient world. Alan Hirshfield provides both a delightful romp through this great man's mathematical proofs and a thrilling tale of the centuries-long search for Archimedes' greatest manuscript. We are introduced to a genius well worth knowing."—Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe and adjunct professor of science writing at MIT

"Naked Archimedes running down the street shouting ‘Eureka!' It's an image to chuckle over and cherish. But, oh my, there is so much more to fascinate in the tale of this astonishing man. Alan Hirshfeld has merged storytelling and science in a wonderful book that even includes a modern discovery with twists and turns of intrigue."—Joy Hakim, author of The Story of Science and A History of US

"Hirshfeld (The Electric Life of Michael Faraday) offers a lively look at the work underlying Archimedes' renown . . . Science fans will find this a quick read, and readers interested in the transmission of ancient manuscripts will be fascinated by Hirshfeld's account of the palimpsest."—Publishers Weekly
"Thoroughly enjoyable look at the tumultuous life and resounding influence of a genius of antiquity."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Alan Hirshfeld

  • Alan Hirshfeld is professor of Physics at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and an associate of the Harvard College Observatory. He is author of The Electric Life of Michael Faraday and Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos. His essay on Michael Faraday won second prize in the 2005 John Templeton Foundation Power of Purpose essay competition.