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DOI 10.1007/s11465-016-0368-z

RESEARCH ARTICLE

Hidetaka KUROKI

experiment?

Abstract After Archimedes and Vitruvius era, for more buoyancy though he knew Archimedes’ great achieve-

than 2000 years, it has been believed that the displaced ments well, suggesting that Archimedes found the density

water measurement of golden crown is impossible, and at of things at his Eureka moment.

his Eureka moment, Archimedes discovered the law of More than 1500 years later, Galileo Galilei wrote his ﬁrst

buoyancy (Proposition 7 of his principles) and proved the short treatise entitled “La Bilancetta” (The Little Balance)

theft of a goldsmith by weighing the golden crown in in 1586 [3] and stated his disbelief in the story of Vitruvius.

water. Galileo thought that the measurement of displaced (or

A previous study showed that a small amount of overﬂowed) water volume by a golden crown (maybe the

displaced water was able to be measured with enough shape was a wreath) was impossible. Finally, he concluded

accuracy by the introduced method. Archimedes measured that Archimedes had found the law of buoyancy and

the weight of displaced water. He did not ﬁnd the law of measured the weight of those things in water to prove the

buoyancy but rather speciﬁc gravity of things at the theft of a goldsmith at the moment.

moment. Even in modern times, it is believed that the measure-

After which, Archimedes continued to measure the ment of displaced water volume is impossible [4].

speciﬁc gravity of various solids and ﬂuids. Through these The rationale is as follows. The golden crown is

measurements, he reached the discovery of the law of supposed to be 1000 g, and 30% of the gold of the

buoyancy directly by experiment. In this paper, the process crown was stolen and replaced with silver. The volume

to the discovery of Archimedes’ principle (Proposition 5) difference between the golden crown and the same weight

is presented. of a pure gold lump will be only 13 cm3 if the opening

diameter of the vessel is 20 cm; the difference of 13 cm3 is

Keywords Archimedes’ principle, buoyancy, speciﬁc only 0.4 mm in water height. Such a small difference

gravity, Eureka, Vitruvius, displaced water, balance, cannot be measured.

ﬂoating body Furthermore, The New Encyclopaedia Britannica says

“The story that he determined the proportion of gold and

silver in a wreath made for Hieron by weighing it in water

1 Introduction is probably true” [5].

Numerous books or writings about the Eureka story

Archimedes ran through a street in Syracuse naked with have been made through more than 2000 years worldwide.

much joy shouting “Eureka! (I found it)” repeatedly. This As a result, these conclusions were made, and there seem

story was reported by Vitruvius, an architect during the 1st to be no comments about the process to the great discovery.

century BC, in his book Ten Books on Architecture [1,2]. A paper titled “What did Archimedes ﬁnd at “Eureka”

Archimedes has been widely believed to be the one that moment?” was presented at the Archimedes 2010

discovered the law of buoyancy at that time. conference in Syracuse [6]. In the paper, the following

However, Vitruvius did not mention about the law of items are pointed:

1) The displaced water volume measurement by a

golden crown is possible with enough accuracy by the

Received July 19, 2015; accepted October 20, 2015 introduced method through the use of items that Archi-

Hidetaka KUROKI ( )✉ medes could prepare.

2) Archimedes could not express displaced water

Okazaki, Aichi-ken 444-0076, Japan

E-mail: hide-emon5303@outlook.com volume numerically. There were no glass-made accurate

Hidetaka KUROKI. The process from the Eureka moment to the discovery of Archimedes’ principle 27

measured the displaced water weights by a balance. (weight) measurement

3) He proved the theft of the goldsmith through this

measurement. Then Vitruvius’ story should be recognized 3.1 Vessel for measurement of displaced water

as the fact (the method of the story was not correct).

The conclusion of the paper is that what Archimedes A vessel having a beak at one end is used, with an opening

found at ‘Eureka’ moment was the speciﬁc gravity of diameter of 21 cm (Fig. 1). The diameter is large enough to

things (SG). put the golden crown in. A thin triangle-shaped tongue is

After this moment, he continued measuring the SG of attached under the beak (Fig. 2). A Roberval balance

various solids and liquids. Through these measurements, (Murakami Kouki Co. ltd type: MS-1, Max. 1kg,) is used

he reached the law of buoyancy well known as the to weigh the displaced water (Archimedes would use an

Archimedes’ principle. old shaped balance).

In this paper, it is shown how he discovered the principle

by experiment.

After the Eureka moment, Archimedes continued to

measure the SG of various kinds of things. In this paper,

the following objects are measured:

1) Solids heavier than water: A gold lump, a silver lump

and a golden crown mixed with 25% silver (GC25S) and a

natural stone. The gold lump, silver lump and GC25S were

replaced with the combination of glass balls having the

similar volume.

2) Solids lighter than water: A beeswax lump which was

widely used from ancient era for lighting or bonding things Fig. 1 Vessel having a beak

(e.g., as used by Icarus in Greek mythology to bond his

wings), a wood block coated with beeswax to avoid liquid 3.2 Measuring method using overﬂow ﬁnish point (OFP)

absorption, and a glass cup (many kinds of glass ware were

used in the Archimedes era). A measuring method using OFP is as follows:

3) Liquids: Sea water drawn from the Japan Sea, 10% 1) A cup is put under the tongue to receive water.

salt water where 10 wt.% of salt is dissolved, and Italian 2) Water is added gradually to the vessel until overﬂow

olive oil (916 g/l, as derived from the bottle label) begins (Fig. 2, left).

These solids and liquids could also be prepared by 3) At ﬁrst, water ﬂows out rapidly. The ﬂow decreases

Archimedes with no difﬁculties. slowly, then turns to drops.

28 Front. Mech. Eng. 2016, 11(1): 26–32

4) The water drop intervals become longer. Then, the 4.2.1 Measurement at forcibly sunk condition

ﬂow stops (Fig. 2, right). This is the basic measuring point

(OFP). This point may be considered as the ‘very brim’ Floating objects are sunk forcibly by using a 3-needle-

point that Vitruvius wrote in his book. device and the displaced water is measured. The results are

5) Next, the cup is changed to a measuring cup to receive shown in Table 2.

the displaced water.

6) An object is put into the vessel. It should not be 4.2.2 Measurement at naturally ﬂoating condition

placed so roughly, but also not so quietly.

7) At ﬁrst, water ﬂows out rapidly. The ﬂow decreases The ﬂoating objects are measured at a naturally ﬂoating

slowly and changes to water drops, then stops at OFP. condition (Table 3).

8) The water cup is taken off and its weight is measured The weights of the ﬂoating objects are found just the

by a balance. By using a counter weight equal to the empty same as displaced water weights.

cup, only the displaced water is easily weighed as shown in

Fig. 3. 4.3 Liquids

9) The measured object is taken out from the vessel and

wiped off to dry for the next measurement. The displaced liquid weight by each object is divided by

the displaced water weight that is measured in former

measurements. Here, these solid objects are used only for

4 Speciﬁc gravity measurement of various volumetric bodies.

things

4.3.1 Sea water

The results in each table are the average of 10 measure-

The SG of sea water is shown in Table 4, which is

ments.

determined as 1.02.

4.1 Solid objects heavier than water

4.3.2 10% salt water

The weight of a measured object is divided by the

displaced water weight. The SG values in Table 1 is The SG of 10% salt water is determined as 1.08 (it is found

clariﬁed by Archimedes by this experiment for the ﬁrst as lighter than 1.10) as shown in Table 5.

time in the world.

4.3.3 Olive oil

4.2 Solid objects lighter than water

The liquid characteristics of olive oil are much different

Three ﬂoating objects are tested (Fig. 4). from water, such as viscosity, surface tension, SG, etc.

Hidetaka KUROKI. The process from the Eureka moment to the discovery of Archimedes’ principle 29

Table 1 Speciﬁc gravity measurement of the chosen heavier solid In the Archimedes era, a clepsydra is used for time

objects keeping. It is a vessel having a hole at the bottom. And it

Object Weight/g Displaced water/g Speciﬁc gravity sinks in water for an arranged time length. An example of

Gold lump 1000.0 51.4 19.5 clepsydra is shown in Fig. 7. This sinks around 2 min after

Silver lump 1000.0 95.3 10.5

immersed in water. Archimedes might use a clepsydra like

this (in this paper, a countdown timer is used). The results

GC25S 1000.0 65.3 15.3

of Table 6 are the average of 5 measurement data.

Natural stone 610.1 227.2 2.7 The SG of olive oil is determined as 0.91. As the

beeswax is 0.95 heavier than olive oil, it sinks.

From these results, the SG of various solids and liquids

Therefore, its measuring condition is also different from are clearly presented. However, Archimedes did not

water. The tongue attached under the beak of the vessel mention anything regarding this in his writings. The

needs to be a large triangle shape (its width at the end of the physical properties, such as SG, may not be worthwhile for

beak is 20 mm and its length is 40 mm) and a time of more him.

than 20 min is needed to ﬁnish dropping.

Figure 5 shows the dropped olive oil weight curves after 4.3.4 Notice of principle of ﬂoatation by Archimedes

the changing point of continuous ﬂow to drops. The results

show the different curves. In item 4.2.2, the weights of ﬂoating objects are the same

Figure 6 shows the curves on 2 to 20 min (cleared to 0 g as the weights of displaced water. “Maybe, this is the

at 2 min), which show very similar curves. At 20 min, their principle of ﬂoatation” Archimedes noticed. “Any solid

difference is only 1.3 g. Then the 2 min after changing lighter than water will, if placed in water, be so far

point is chosen as the end point for the olive oil ﬂow. immersed that the weight of the solid will be equal to the

Table 2 Speciﬁc gravity measurement at forcibly sunk condition Table 3 Displaced water measurement of ﬂoating objects

Object Weight/g Displaced water/g Speciﬁc gravity Object Weight/g Displaced water/g Difference/g

Beeswax 261.9 275.5 0.95 Beeswax 261.9 261.8 –0.1

Wood block 132.9 303.7 0.44 Wood block 132.9 133.1 + 0.8

Glass cup 210.0 – – Glass cup 210.0 210.0 0.0

Object Displaced sea water/g Displaced water/g Speciﬁc gravity

Gold lump 52.5 51.4 1.02 Table 5 Speciﬁc gravity measurement of 10% salt water

Silver lump 97.5 95.3 1.02 Displaced 10% Displaced

Object Speciﬁc gravity

salt water/g water/g

GC25S 65.9 65.3 1.01

Gold lump 55.3 51.4 1.08

Beeswax* 282.1 261.8 1.02

Silver lump 101.6 95.3 1.07

Wood block* 309.3 303.7 1.02

Natural stone 244.5 227.2 1.08

*: Beeswax and wood block are forcibly sunk by 3-needle-device.

30 Front. Mech. Eng. 2016, 11(1): 26–32

Object Displaced olive oil/g Displaced water/g Speciﬁc gravity

Gold lump 45.7 51.4 0.89

Silver lump 86.4 95.3 0.91

Natural stone 207.0 227.2 0.91

Beeswax* 251.6 261.8 0.91

Wood block** 276.3 303.7 0.91

*: Beeswax sinks in olive oil; **: Wood Block is forcibly sunk by 3-needle-

device.

Fig. 7 Clepsydra, as 2 min timer The displaced liquid weight is measured in sea water being

SG = 1.02. As shown in Table 7, difference is only – 0.5 to

weight of water displaced”. However, only water is 0.4 g. Displaced sea water weight is also equal to object

measured so far. Other liquids are tested for generalization. weight.

4.4 Floating object measurement in various liquids 4.4.2 10% salt water

The displaced liquid weights by ﬂoating objects are Displaced liquid weight is measured in 10% salt water

measured in various liquids having different SG. being SG = 1.08. As shown in Table 8, difference is at most

Hidetaka KUROKI. The process from the Eureka moment to the discovery of Archimedes’ principle 31

Object Weight/g Displaced sea water/g Difference/g

Beeswax 261.9 262.3 0.4

Wood block 132.9 132.9 0.0

Glass cup 210.0 209.5 – 0.5

water

Object Weight/g Displaced 10% salt water/g Difference/g

Beeswax 261.9 263.1 1.2

Wood block 132.9 134.4 1.5

Glass cup 210.0 211.2 1.2

object weight.

4.4.3 Olive oil Fig. 8 Volume difference of displaced liquid by glass cup

SG = 0.91. As shown in Table 9, difference is only up to

– 1.1 g. Displaced olive oil weight is also equal to object

weight.

Object Weight/g Displaced olive oil/g Difference/g

Beeswax 261.9 (Sink) —

Wood block 132.9 131.8 – 1.1

Glass cup 210.0 209.8 – 0.2

recognized to have the same weights in all liquids. Fig. 9 Displaced liquid (olive oil) is balancing with the ﬂoating

However, their volumes are signiﬁcantly different. An object (glass cup)

example is shown in Fig. 8. Reading volume by the scale

of a 250 cm3 mess-cylinder is not accurate. Volume ﬂuid displaced” [7]. The results obtained through above

measurement is not easy even in nowadays. experiments in this paper are showing just the same as

these words.

4.5 Discovery of the law of buoyancy

4.6 Discovery of Proposition 7

It can be said that the weight of a ﬂoating object is the same

as the displaced liquid weight in all liquids having different After discovery of Proposition 5, Archimedes continued

SGs. By using a balance, when the displaced liquid cup is measuring weights of heavier solids by placing them in

placed on one dish and a ﬂoating object is placed on liquid and hanging them on a thin string. He conﬁrmed that

another dish, they will be in balance as seen in Fig. 9. the decreased weight from its weight in the air is the same

After these experiments, Archimedes reached the as displaced liquids. On Floating Bodies Book 1 Proposi-

discovery of the law of buoyancy. His book On Floating tion 7 says, “A solid heavier than a ﬂuid will, if placed in it,

Bodies Book 1 Proposition 5 says, “Any solid lighter than descend to the bottom of the ﬂuid, and the solid will, when

a ﬂuid will, if placed in the ﬂuid, be so far immersed that weighed in the ﬂuid, be lighter than its true weight by the

the weight of the solid will be equal to the weight of the weight of the ﬂuid displaced”.

32 Front. Mech. Eng. 2016, 11(1): 26–32

5 Flow from Eureka moment to the The process to the discovery has not been explained until

discovery now.

However, in this paper, the process from the Eureka

moment to the discovery of Proposition 5 is clariﬁed in this

Even nowadays, the process by which Archimedes

paper.

discovered the law of buoyancy has not been made clear.

Afterwards, Archimedes measured the weight of heavier

In the previous and current paper [6], the process from

solids in liquids and found Proposition 7. This is a very

the Eureka moment to the discovery is shown.

accurate method even in nowadays. It is used for

The ﬂow is summarized as follows: investigating the purity of noble metal accessories.

1) In a bath, Archimedes suddenly got the solution of Archimedes’ interest was mainly in the mathematical

King Hieron’s problem and ran naked on a Syracuse street, principle. He also made many great developments on the

shouting “Eureka”. ﬁeld of mechanics. His achievements are recognized as the

2) He measured a small amount of the displaced water of

important foundations for modern mechanics.

the crown by using a certain method.

This paper clearly showed the process on how

3) There were no glass-made measuring cylinders in his

Archimedes discovered the law of buoyancy, one of his

era. Thus, he measured the weight of the displaced water.

great achievements, through an experiment.

He determined the purity of the golden crown and proved

the theft of the goldsmith.

4) At the Eureka moment, Archimedes found the SG of

things.

References

5) After this moment, he continued to determine the SG

of many kinds of solids and liquids. 1. Pollio M V. Ten Books on Architecture (trans. Morgan M H).

6) During these measurements, he noticed that the Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010 (Original work published

displaced water weights are the same as ﬂoating bodies. 1st century BC)

7) By conducting experiments on other liquids having 2. Pollio M V. Kenchikusho (in Japanese, trans. Morita Keiichi). Tokyo:

different SGs, he reached the discovery of the law of Toukai University Press, 1979 (Original work published 1st century

buoyancy (Proposition 5). BC)

3. Galileo Galilei. The Little Balance (in Japanese, trans. Toshiyuki

Fujita). Skaino-Meicho, 1975, 21: 36–41 (Original work published

6 Conclusions 1586)

4. Archimedes Homepage by Prof. Chris Rorres of Drexel University.

http://www.math.nyu.edu/~crorres/Archimedes

After the Archimedes and Vitruvius era, for more than 5. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica.

2000 years, it has been thought that the displaced water is 15th ed. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007

so little that the measurement of a golden crown is 6. Kuroki H. What did Archimedes ﬁnd at “Eureka” moment? In:

impossible. Thus, at the Eureka moment, Archimedes Paipetis S A, Ceccarelli M, eds. The Genius of Archimedes—23

found the law of buoyancy and proved the theft by Centuries of Inﬂuence on Mathematics, Science and Engineering.

weighing it in water. This relates to Proposition 7 of Amsterdam: Springer, 2010, 265–276

Archimedes’ the principle. Proposition 5 is the most 7. Heath T L. The Works of Archimedes. Cambridge: Cambridge

famous but seems to be considered as a theoretical clause. University Press, 1897, 253–260

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