Spotlight on Statues: Archimedes Eureka Moment

If you ever went to the University of Manchester, or even UMIST if you are old, you may have noticed a strange statue which quite frankly looks like something from a Tim Burton movie.

The statue sits under the railway arches on Altringham Street and depicts a larger than life-size Archimedes, leaping out from a bath during his famous ‘Eureka!’ moment and is sculpted in stone by Thompson Dagnall. It was unveiled in 1990.

In case you didn’t know (because I didn’t until about forty-five minutes ago), Archimedes was an ancient Greek mathematician, philosopher and inventor who was kicking around Syracuse (modern-day Sicily) between 287-212 BC.

I’m not an idiot though, I knew the name but I just want sure if he was a star guy, or a maths guy or a think about the meaning of life guy- turns out he was all of these things and more.

He is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists in classical antiquity and wrote a number of essential works on calculus, geometry, arithmetic and mechanics. For example, we can thank Archimedes for such delights as the lever, hydraulic systems, and the ability to set things on fire with a mirror. What a lad.

The ‘Eureka’ moment refers to the time he discovered what is commonly referred to as the Archimedes Principle (naturally) which states that a body immersed in fluid loses volume equal to the weight of the amount of fluid it displaces.

This was a time when there was no real way of weighing anything and story goes that there was some sort of debacle about a King (Hiero II to be exact) and a crown he had made. The King gave the goldsmith the lump of gold and told him to make a crown. He was worried that the goldsmith had taken some of the gold for himself and replaced it with less precious silver.

Archimedes was asked to figure of the problem- sort of like an ancient scientist-detective in a toga. Oh yeah, and he wasn’t allowed to melt it down because the King liked the crown.

Archimedes thought about it, and thought about it and thought some more and it wasn’t until he drew himself a lovely hot bath and hopped in where he finally had the answer. Imagine this as the original light bulb moment.

He famously shouted “Eureka!” (which comes from the Greek ‘Εύρηκα’- meaning ‘I have found it’) before leaping out of the bath and running through the town completely starkers. We cannot confirm how old he was at this moment, so we do not know if he was wrinkly dinkly or a naked Adonis- but I choose to go with the former for comedic effect.

He discovered that the amount of water which was displaced and pushed out of the bath was equal to the volume of his body. He then used this principle to test the crown and found there was some silver in it as suspected.

The statue captures a young Archimedes as he leaps out of the bath, with a look of absolute elation on his face. To maintain his modesty, his, ahem, manhood is not on show… just in case you were wondering.

The placement of this statue is part of a wider collection of science-themed statues around that part of the University. The only downside is that it was just too tempting to climb on and they lobbed his nose off. They did repair it though but did a pretty rubbish job of it and now he looks like Voldemort with a serious case of face-rot.

Despite the railings that now prohibit pissed up idiots twerking all over Archimedes’ face while drinking Lambrini, he still remains a symbol of academic prowess. Perhaps the moment of discovery is set to inspire students to strive forward and make new discoveries?

Or not, maybe he’s just supposed to scare you shitless as you stumble your way home in the dark because it is safe to say he is pretty freaky looking.

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