back to article Move over, Mythbusters: Was Archimedes an ancient STEVE JOBS?

Happy birthday Archimedes! The Syracusan mathematician, engineer and philosopher came into the world in 287BC. We don't know the exact date of his birth 2,300 years ago, but an appreciation of the twenty-third centenary of his birth seems apt. An engraving from 1824 edition of Mechanics Magazine. Source:Wikimedia (public …

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  1. Justice
    Trollface

    Uh... No.

    If Archimedes was an ancient Steve Jobs, all of his accomplishments would be based on other peoples work.

    1. james 68

      Re: Uh... No.

      they are

      "Archimedes is also said to have devised a giant crossbow of some sort, to further harry the Roman fleet."

      that would be a ballista then... as invented by dionysus

      1. Justice
        Facepalm

        Re: Uh... No.

        But the one Archimedes created was unique in the sense it had rounded corners.

        1. james 68

          Re: Uh... No.

          thanks - the drones here all just gave me funny looks for laughing for no apparent reason

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Uh... No.

        Except that the key technology of the Ballista, the sliding rack system and pawl for priming, was invented for the earlier "gastrophetes" or "belly bow". The ratchet system for priming means that priming is accomplished by compressing the device (gastrophetes) or with the use of a winding mechanism on the ratchet slide (ballista), rather than by pulling the string back as in all previous devices. The string is already nocked in the trigger mechanism before priming begins. That mechanical advantage allows for a weapon of far greater power than a conventional bow.

        The enhancement in the Ballista is to exploit this priming ratchet and enhance the power by swapping the bow arms for torsion bars.

      3. Johan Bastiaansen
        Facepalm

        Re: Uh... No.

        "that would be a ballista then... as invented by dionysus"

        Dionysus was a bureaucrat and a tyrant. When have you ever seen them invent anything?

    2. Andrew Moore
      Mushroom

      Re: Uh... No.

      so, he was an ancient Thomas Edison then...

      1. Androgynous Crackwhore
        Facepalm

        Re: Uh... No.

        "so, he was an ancient Thomas Edison then..."

        Uh... No.

        If Archimedes was an ancient Thomas Edison, all of his accomplishments would be based on other peoples work.

    3. Armando 123

      Re: Uh... No.

      You 8are* familiar with the term "standing on the shoulders of giants", right? Afterall, Einstein's work was just an advancement of men like Mach, Michealson, Morley, Maxwell, and others whose last names did not begin with M.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have heard Archimedes called many things but I've never heard him called a thief.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      a thief?

      Since when was developing ideas further, stealing? In that case, we are all accomplices every time we use any form of wheel other than a random, conveninetly shaped log.

      Is every idea of yours entirely original? Are we condemned to use only the very first version of anything or be branded "thieves"?

      I can not see that a person with the vision, intelligence and energy to accept, develop and drive forwards an idea, whether their own or another's, is any less useful or honest than the one who had the original idea. I suspect that, without those "standing on the shoulders of giants" (most of whom built on those before them) we would be rather a long way backwards in the stage of prehistory still. Did you ever use a pencil, or a pen, or paper? Should none of those have been made because the original idea was based on lines in sand or wood by someone who never gave their permission to develop it into modern writing instruments?

      Back to your cave please (oh, perhaps not, whose idea was it to use caves?).. With such a way of thinking, there would be no computing (Linux is a "stolen" idea, not just from UNIX and Minix, that themselves were "stolen" from Multics and other roots, that in turn came from ... from the Tote in Haringey used for gambling on greyhounds ......

      Be grateful to Gates, Jobs, Watson, Turing and all those others who recognised good ideas and developed them or simply recognised their value and made them practical, desirable and affordable. This too requires some form of "genius", hard work, imagination.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Re: a thief?

        Developing ideas is one thing...

        ...patenting the hell out of them afterwards so that it appears you "invented" them is another...

        1. ian 22
          Flame

          Re: a thief?

          As Sir Isaac said "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

          Henceforth no one may use the Calculus unless attribution to Sir Isaac is made? As there is nothing new under the sun, can nothing be patented?

          I suspect all the whinging about patents is by people who never invented anything.

          Fire is a perfect example. Nothing requiring heat treatment may be patented.

          1. Cubical Drone

            Re: a thief?

            Actually Newton wrote that as a slam on Robert Hooke in their battle over the nature of light. There are a number of people that think that Newton may have (ahem) appropriated some of Hooke's ideas.

            1. ian 22
              Happy

              Re: a thief?

              To reiterate: there is nothing new under the sun.

            2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
              Happy

              Re: a thief?

              Newton and Hooke. Now there were a pair of cheerful, co-operative chaps with cool tempers...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a thief? @AC 10:23

        Wow. Quite the diatribe - touched a nerve, did he? Your programming career based entirely on cut and paste or something?

      3. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: a thief?

        I can not see that a person with the vision, intelligence and energy to accept, develop and drive forwards an idea, whether their own or another's, is any less useful or honest than the one who had the original idea. I suspect that, without those "standing on the shoulders of giants" (most of whom built on those before them) we would be rather a long way backwards in the stage of prehistory still. Did you ever use a pencil, or a pen, or paper? Should none of those have been made because the original idea was based on lines in sand or wood by someone who never gave their permission to develop it into modern writing instruments?

        Where your argument falls flat on it's face, is that it ignores the issue of patents. Is it stealing to develop based on someone elses idea? No.

        Is it right, though, that you could take an existing idea, modify it slightly and then add a patent to stop anyone else using anything remotely similar?

        Not sure stealing/thievery is the right word, anyway, but trolling aside I've a feeling the OP was probably referring more to the 'we invented it' attitude Apple seem to take to anything they release

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. paulll Bronze badge

        Re: a thief?

        Listing Jobs alongside Alan Turing? Oh come on ...

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Boffin

    Let us not forget the Perfumed Garden

    Wherein one discovers in chapter 6, advertised as performed in India, El loulabi, the screw of Archimedes.

    Along with the necessary instructions, of course.

    1. Justice
      FAIL

      Re: Let us not forget the Perfumed Garden

      ...and a non industry standard connector.

      1. tirk
        Paris Hilton

        ...and a non industry standard connector.

        The big innovation of the the Lightning connector is that it fits either way round. For some reason I was moved to share that.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: ...and a non industry standard connector.

          "The big innovation of the the Lightning connector is that it fits either way round."

          Sort of like a bathroom electric shaver plug and socket?

        2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

          Re: ...and a non industry standard connector.

          "The big innovation of the the Lightning connector is that it fits either way round."

          The previous connector had a massive design flaw: it didn't fit either way round. Is it really 'innovation' to fix a mistake?

  4. SuperHoopMango
    Joke

    Eureka!

    And you don't smell so good yourself!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eureka!

      "Eureka" actually means "Change your shirt".

      1. Gavin King
        Joke

        Re: Eureka!

        So that's why he was running down the street: his landlady had had enough of the pong.

        "Eureka! Eureka! I'll change my shirt! And my pants! What do you think of it now?"

        (Do I feel bad at portraying someone great as a petulant adolescent? Only a very little.)

  5. C 18
    WTF?

    Oh dear...

    The only thing Archimedes and Steve Jobs have in common is the fact that they are both dead, and perhaps both through stubbornness in their thinking habits although in the case of the genius he would no doubt have died by now anyways.

    As the article mentioned Archimedes was introduced to his demise by refusing to loose himself from his intense pondering of things more important to him than the mere frivolity of civil order, which he no doubt held in contempt due to it being that imposed by an invading force.

    Of course it is highly likely that Steve Jobs may have survived his particular ailment if he didn't refuse the best scientific and medical treatment that was obviously available to him at an earlier stage. Why he would refuse such things is only for him to know, but certainly couldn't seriously be considered reasoned thinking. Certainly it was contemptuous in the least of the efforts of many in the field of medicine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear...

      You mean that we are all obliged to use (given we have the access and money) to respect "the efforts of many in the field of medicine" irrespective of our own wishes, beliefs or scepticism and that this shoudl be a punishable offence (until the next best efforts bring forth another theory).

      Very liberal and modern thinking.

      1. C 18

        Re: Oh dear...

        I meant no such thing.

      2. Turtle

        Re: Oh dear...

        "You mean that we are all obliged to use (given we have the access and money) to respect "the efforts of many in the field of medicine" irrespective of our own wishes, beliefs or scepticism and that this shoudl be a punishable offence (until the next best efforts bring forth another theory)."

        That's a very half-witted interpretation of the original post. It's always interesting, and occasionally somewhat amusing, to see someone with some not-too-profound idea in their not-too-voluminous head who feels absolutely compelled to give that idea a not-too-timely airing irrespective of the lack of legitimate opportunity to do so - and who doesn't mind having the not-too-advanced state of their reading comprehension displayed for all to see.

        What he meant, I think, was something along the lines of "we are all obliged to use (given we have the access and money) to respect 'the efforts of many in the field of medicine' irrespective of our own wishes, beliefs or scepticism if we want to remain alive".

        No one said that you have to live. And ending up dead for one's stupidity is kind of its own punishment (or, richly-deserved reward.)

        1. C 18

          Re: Oh dear...

          >What he meant, I think,...

          I would like to clarify my thinking, and in doing so do not wish to suggest that you are incorrect in your interpretation...

          It is not so much that we are obliged but are, I believe, privileged to live in a time (past the Age Of Enlightenment let us not forget) where reason and science have provided us with many opportunities to outlive the many possible fatal instruments of nature which would otherwise bring about the untimely demise of our precious lives.

          Perhaps it is an obligation therefore to prolong these lives, but that is one for greater philosophers and dead people to debate.

          Belief is a very powerful force. It gave us the iPhone, the pyramids, nuclear power, the Holocaust, the Crusades, 9/11, the eradication of smallpox, American Pop Idols Got Talent Get Me Out Of Here, the Internet, and lots of other terrific (both current and archaic definitions) things that we can experience. Everybody is welcome to believe what they wish, and of course this is exactly what they do. It just so happens that some people believe in reality and others, well... that's why evolution is essentially the epitome of hacking.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh dear... @Turtle

          "It's always interesting, and occasionally somewhat amusing, to see someone with some not-too-profound idea in their not-too-voluminous head who feels absolutely compelled to give that idea a not-too-timely airing irrespective of the lack of legitimate opportunity to do so - and who doesn't mind having the not-too-advanced state of their reading comprehension displayed for all to see."

          Interesting how mention of the old guys brings out pretention. I like HP Lovecraft's stories, and your writing style makes *me* wince. Well, and what it implies about your personality too :)

          1. Turtle

            Re: Oh dear... @Turtle

            "Interesting how mention of the old guys brings out pretention. I like HP Lovecraft's stories, and your writing style makes *me* wince. Well, and what it implies about your personality too :)"

            I realize that that's not intended as a compliment... but thanks!

            : )

      3. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Oh dear...

        given that the stupid pricks wishes, beliefs or scepticism caused his death....

        duhh!

        yes!

      4. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear...

        He punished himself out of existence.. so there is no need to punish him (or way...)

    2. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Oh dear...

      Jobs the frutarian refused proper medicine because he knew what a real doctor, who had been to college and everything, would have said when they found out about his ridiculous diet.

      'It will kill you one day, and sooner rather than later' (with an optional 'you stupid arrogant twat')

      The RDF protected him from this :-S

      however the RDF proved inefective against his stupid arrogant twattery.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Oh dear...

      Supposedly Socrates had a sudden interestingly philosophical thought in the middle of a battle, and stopped to think about it for the rest of the afternoon. Which, surprisingly, didn't get him killed. Can't remember where I saw that now, but I think it must have been Thucydides. If he had been killed, it might have saved me from having to read all that Plato at school.

      Once Hannibal had got his elephants over the Alps, he said, "I love it when a plan comes together."

  6. Mick Stranahan

    water power

    water powered flour mills and saw mills seemed to be pretty common throughout the Roman Empire. We constantly underestimate the ancients and doubt contemporary authors. Pliny the Younger' s description of the pyroclastic flow at Pompeii in 79AD was thought to be cobblers until quite recently.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: water power

      Indeed ... the recent excavations in London have demonstrated that the Romans management of water was not to be equalled until Victorian London.

      If you like your history and engineering, there's a cracking Time Team special about an experiment to recreate an amazing piece of machinery found in London - unknown anywhere else in the Roman Empire. It was a conveyor belt of buckets powered by animals.

  7. Adam Cherrett

    2299th birthday, surely?

    I always thought the year before 1AD was 1BC. Some years (that I wish I could forget) spent debugging other people's Fortran 77 makes me particularly sensitive to this kind of thing.

    1. Chris Miller
      Joke

      Re: 2299th birthday, surely?

      Or was it Fortran 76?

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: 2299th birthday, surely?

      Yes you are right.

      IIRC that's because there's no zero in the Roman numeric system.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: 2299th birthday, surely?

      Worse than that, how many days are in the year you are calculating? We've been through a number of major changes, some of them more recently than most of us think. For instance was George Washington born on February 11 or February 22?

      http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/washington/

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: 2299th birthday, surely?

        "Worse than that, how many days are in the year you are calculating?"

        Irrelevant. If Archimedes was born about 25 days after the spring equinox, and the earth has orbited the sun 2299 times since then, then that is 2299 years ago.

  8. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Pythagoras

    If we are to compare famous ancient people with Steve Jobs, then I reckon that Pythagoras would be a better example.

    What is commonly attributed to Pythagoras is more than likely the results of work from his school or already existing common knowledge. In contrast to Apple and her devotees Pythagoras demanded an almost religious zeal from his followers.

    However, instead of finding an ancient SJ, I rather find a latter day Socrates [1]. Now, that'd be fun.

    [1] To quote scripture: A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed.

  9. Hasham
    Trollface

    No Steve Jobs

    There are no historical sources showing Archimedes to be a c*nt

    1. tirk

      Re: No Steve Jobs

      I bet Marcellus would disagree.

  10. Ari 1

    "You keep usinig that word. I do not think it means what you think it means!"

    "You keep usinig that word. I do not think it means what you think it means!"

    in•no•vate (ˈɪn əˌveɪt)

    v. -vat•ed, -vat•ing. v.i.

    1. to introduce something new; make changes (often fol. by on or in): to

    innovate on another's creation.

    v.t.

    2. to introduce (something new): to innovate a computer operating system.

    3. Archaic. to alter.

    [1540–50; < Latin innovāre to renew, alter =in- in-2 + novāre to revew, v. derivative of novus new]

    in′no•va`tor, n.

    in′no•va•to`ry (-vəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i) adj.

  11. Colin Millar
    Alert

    Oh noes

    Archimedes is back - and he's looking for his patent fees.

    All those crowbar makers better watch out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Oh noes

      "All those crowbar makers better watch out."

      I interviewed a famous scientist about that.

      He said, and I quote:

      ""

      (and then proceeded to beat Archimedes with the crowbar)

  12. Ari 1

    definitions can matter

    The point with that definition is that innovation (and what the actual word contains) is not magically creating something new without any prior influence, but rather creating something new that may be heavily based on prior work and the innovation may lie in some small detail such as how it is made, the exact configuration, or even for what use it is made.

    Thus, figuring out that the basic design of a crossbow could be scaled up with the materials that you have access to and using that as a stationary or dragged heavy weapon.. well.. that is a definite innovation even though there is nothing absolutely new there. It's basically just a big crossbow. But it is still new (and an innovation) if ballistas haven't been made before. Nothing new, yet ALL new! No new components, yet a completely new object. Like an iPod...

  13. John 98

    Assyrian Archimedes screw

    The British Museum displays evidence for an Archimedes screw around 700 BC - to pump water for palace gardens.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Assyrian Archimedes screw

      Was she a tourist?

      Was she a 'he'? with those damn Greeks one never knows Sometimes with ancient names it's difficult to know for sure.

  14. George Karavias

    You comment may be closer to the truth than you think

    Good of you to remind us of Archimedes. However I think you missed a rather serious point. May I suggest that you look up the latest theories about the Antikithera Mechanism. This mechanism is hugely complicated and sophisticated - it was essentially the iPad of its time, a "pocket" mobile navigational computer. A number of serious archaelogists nowadays attribute this invention to Archimedes. Everything appears to fit this theory, the age of the mechanism, the complex technology involved, the projected location of origin, the Greek dialect used, etc.

  15. Mephistro Silver badge
    Coat

    I´m not against a little bit of St Steve´s bashing now and then, but...

    ... aren't we taking it a little too far? I mean, come on! It's an article about Archimedes, and most of the posts are discussing Steve Jobs. Seriously, there should be an option in Elreg to disable the subheading.

    Having said that... all right, I'll join the fray. :o)

    It seems to me that Archie was a prototypical nerd, being good at science and technology, either by discovering new things or by integrating old knowledge and explaining it mathematically, while Steve was good with people, understanding their needs and desires and the ways to manipulate them. Probably both were geniuses, each in his way.

    Another difference is that Archie didn't patent his discoveries. Lucky for Egyptians, that had been using block-and-tackle pulleys for thousands of years before Archimedes, and would have had to pay Archie tons of cash, and probably suffer a court order banning them from exporting their pyramids. On the other hand, Jobs...

  16. Sosman

    I think his birthadya was 17th March, 2300 years ago.

    1. Mister_C

      Gregorian or Julian calendar?

  17. Chika
    Trollface

    Hmm...

    I'm not sure that I would have bothered with a computer called the Acorn Jobs. ;)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Obligatory Apple bashing...

    I assume the death ray didn't work because Archimedes was holding it wrong

  19. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Punic? This war is MASSIVE

    Punic has nothing to do with size, it's derived from Poeni, the Latin name for the Carthaginians. They were called Poeni because it was thought that they originated from Phoenicia.

    Yes, I know it's a pun, and I can see the joke (though not actually laugh at it). But opportunities to display knowledge of this sort are few and far between.

    1. SoaG

      Re: Punic? This war is MASSIVE

      So you're just waving your E-poeni then?

  20. Pet Peeve
    Boffin

    Antikythera mechanism

    I watched a really good NOVA episode a couple weeks ago that makes a fairly good case that the antikythera mechanism was loot from Archimedes' studio when his city was sacked. They don't have any proof he made it, but he built orreries (the mechanism has been confirmed to be a planetary/moon position calculator and an eclipse predictor) and the wreck that the mechanism was found in came from that area. Cool stuff.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Antikythera mechanism

      Saw that episode too. The one in the NOVA episode (the Antikythera mechanism) was a copy of the original Archimedean (?) invention. They attributed the invention to Archimedes based on Marcellus having taken an original from Archimedes estate after the capture of Syracuse, and then subsequent documentation that this original was in Marcellus' family's prized possessions some generations after the siege.

      Mine's the legionnaire's armor hanging on the hook over there...

      1. GumboKing
        Coat

        Re: Antikythera mechanism

        I saw that episode too, and thought that is what this story would be about. Too bad they couldn't confirm that the Antikythera mechanism had rounded corners.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: Antikythera mechanism

          Personally I reckon that all the Antikythera mechanism proves is that Steampunk cosplayers have been around rather longer than we previously suspected.

  21. Naughtyhorse

    Mythbusters...

    did not so much 'devote' two episodes, rather wasted 2 hours of my fecking life with a 'myth' that could have been busted in 5 minutes using just a protractor, a single sheet of A4 paper and a moderately blunt 2b pencil.

    bastards! they could have been making stuff 'go away' with anfo instead!

    when in doubt... C4

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I still want to know what his real name was.

    Unless he told his parents at birth to call him Top Thinker.

    Its quite possible a lot of the stuff we like to say he invented was just documented by him and like some a bunch of creeping sycophants attributed everything as his own inventions.

    But if the stuff from the palimpsest is his then there's no arguing with his abilities.

    If he was around today he'd definitely be working in unresearch.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good article

    Nice work, Simon.

  24. David Simpson 1

    No be thankful for all the smart people Jobs hired, Jobs invented nothing - he just new how to sell.

  25. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Fortran 77??

    Sorry. All purists use Fortran 66.

    We need both 'H' format specifications, and One time DO loops!

  26. Ian Johnston
    Unhappy

    If Archimedes had been like Jobs

    He'd have pinched a couple of ideas, made them look cool and then spent all his energy suing anyone else who tried anything vaguely similar. "Giant death ray in a rectangular shape with rounded corners? Not on my archipelago"

    Still they do have one thing in common: they both died because they didn't do what a professional advised.

  27. fafa1971
    Alert

    Hometown

    As a former citizen of Syracuse (now living in Bristol) I have really enjoyed this article.

    Thanks, El Reg!

  28. Irony Deficient

    Noli, obsecro, istum disturbare!

    So would the Death Ray have been aimed at the ships, or at their sails? If the former, then perhaps part of its effectiveness might have been due to the flammability of the pitch used for waterproofing?

    Simon, rather than use doubled- and tripled-asterisks for the second and third footnotes, I’d recommend the traditional practice of using † to mark footnote #2 and ‡ for #3. (And for the sake of completeness, #4 through #6 are §, ‖, and ¶ respectively. If you need more than six footnotes on a single page, use superscripted numbers instead.)

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Noli, obsecro, istum disturbare!

      Or you could just borrow the mechanism that's become fairly common amongst the commentarderie and superseded the general use of multiple asterisks for footnotes several years ago.

      [1], [2], [3], etc......

  29. mhenriday
    Boffin

    Too bad so many of the manuscripts regarding Archimedes' work

    seem to have been used by Christian monks to write their religious tracts on, depriving us - and, not least, earlier generations - of vital knowledge on ancient Greek maths and physics. It's enough to give the term «palimpsest» a bad name !...

    Henri

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