Half a century after the time of Herophilus there appeared a Greek physician, Heraclides, whose reputation in the use of drugs far surpasses that of the anatomists of the Alexandrian school. His reputation has been handed down through the centuries as that of a physician, rather than a surgeon, although in his own time he was considered one of the great surgeons of the period. Heraclides belonged to the "Empiric" school, which rejected anatomy as useless, depending entirely on the use of drugs. He is thought to have been the first physician to point out the value of opium in certain painful diseases. His prescription of this drug for certain cases of "sleeplessness, spasm, cholera, and colic," shows that his use of it was not unlike that of the modern physician in certain cases; and his treatment of fevers, by keeping the patient's head cool and facilitating the secretions of the body, is still recognized as "good practice." He advocated a free use of liquids in quenching the fever patient's thirst—a recognized therapeutic measure to-day, but one that was widely condemned a century ago.


We do not know just when Euclid died, but as he was at the height of his fame in the time of Ptolemy I., whose reign ended in the year 285 B.C., it is hardly probable that he was still living when a young man named Archimedes came to Alexandria to study. Archimedes was born in the Greek colony of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, in the year 287 B.C. When he visited Alexandria he probably found Apollonius of Perga, the pupil of Euclid, at the head of the mathematical school there. Just how long Archimedes remained at Alexandria is not known. When he had satisfied his curiosity or completed his studies, he returned to Syracuse and spent his life there, chiefly under the patronage of King Hiero, who seems fully to have appreciated his abilities.

Archimedes was primarily a mathematician. Left to his own devices, he would probably have devoted his entire time to the study of geometrical problems. But King Hiero had discovered that his protege had wonderful mechanical ingenuity, and he made good use of this discovery. Under stress of the king's urgings, the philosopher was led to invent a great variety of mechanical contrivances, some of them most curious ones. Antiquity credited him with the invention of more than forty machines, and it is these, rather than his purely mathematical discoveries, that gave his name popular vogue both among his contemporaries and with posterity. Every one has heard of the screw of Archimedes, through which the paradoxical effect was produced of making water seem to flow up hill. The best idea of this curious mechanism is obtained if one will take in hand an ordinary corkscrew, and imagine this instrument to be changed into a hollow tube, retaining precisely the same shape but increased to some feet in length and to a proportionate diameter. If one will hold the corkscrew in a slanting direction and turn it slowly to the right, supposing that the point dips up a portion of water each time it revolves, one can in imagination follow the flow of that portion of water from spiral to spiral, the water always running downward, of course, yet paradoxically being lifted higher and higher towards the base of the corkscrew, until finally it pours out (in the actual Archimedes' tube) at the top. There is another form of the screw in which a revolving spiral blade operates within a cylinder, but the principle is precisely the same. With either form water may be lifted, by the mere turning of the screw, to any desired height. The ingenious mechanism excited the wonder of the contemporaries of Archimedes, as well it might. More efficient devices have superseded it in modern times, but it still excites the admiration of all who examine it, and its effects seem as paradoxical as ever.

Some other of the mechanisms of Archimedes have been made known to successive generations of readers through the pages of Polybius and Plutarch. These are the devices through which Archimedes aided King Hiero to ward off the attacks of the Roman general Marcellus, who in the course of the second Punic war laid siege to Syracuse.

Plutarch, in his life of Marcellus, describes the Roman's attack and Archimedes' defence in much detail. Incidentally he tells us also how Archimedes came to make the devices that rendered the siege so famous: