A Famous Streaker

Long after those physics definitions have faded from memory, we can often recall stories associated with the scientists behind an idea.  For example, many people who can no longer state Archimedes’ Principle formally, (that the ratio of a body’s weight to that of the displaced water is called its specific gravity) still remember that Archimedes ran down the street almost naked shouting in Greek, “Eureka! Eureka!”, or “I’ve found it! I’ve found it!”

The fuss began when King Heiron grew suspicious that his new crown was not solid gold, but gold alloyed with a cheaper metal.  Short of melting it down, Archimedes knew of no quick way to determine the crown’s composition.  But as he stepped into his bath, which happened to be full to the brim, he had a brainstorm that allegedly turned him into the first scientific streaker.

He compared the volume of water displaced by a lump of gold weighing exactly the same as the crown, with the volume of water displaced by the crown itself.  Archimedes was able to show that the King had indeed been cheated because the alloyed crown displaced more water than the pure lump of gold.  The dishonest jeweller was never heard from again.

So next time you forget the details or definition, remember there’s always a person, and a moment of inspiration behind a great idea.