Innovative Thinking – Archimedes – Blog 024

Archimedes’ Eureka Moment


Archimedes was challenged by the King to help discover a possible theft.  The King had previously commissioned a goldsmith (jeweler), the create a beautiful crown of emeralds, rubies, and gold.

Soon after, the goldsmith presented his beautiful crown to the king.  The king became suspicious of the goldsmith.  He thought “What if the goldsmith made a crown of pewter and plated the cheap metal with gold keeping all the remaining gold for himself?”

The problem was, how could the King test the crown without cutting it open?  The process of verifying the gold content would destroy the crown itself.  So, the King asked Archimedes, one of the most brilliant minds of his day for help.


Archimedes lamented over how to test the crown without destroying it forever.  He looked everywhere and asked every scientist he could find.  He read all the texts, and thought about it day and night.


One day he decided to take a break and a hot bath.  He got the water piping hot and filled his tub to the very top.  As he stepped into the water, he noticed the water was slowly pouring over the top of the tub onto the floor.


He realized the more he put his leg into the water, the more the water spilled over.  This led him to realize the volume of water spilling over was exactly the same as the volume of his leg.  The volume in equaled the volume out.


He further thought if he were to lower some scrap gold into a vessel filled to the top with water, he could measure the volume and weight of the water that spilled over.  This would lead him to a ratio between the weight and volume of the water.  He could do the same for other non-precious metals such as pewter.


He deducted after lowering the crown into a vessel of water, the water the crown displaced should have the same ratio as the scrap gold.  If the weight to volume ratio was not exactly that of the pure gold, then the crown could not have been made of gold.


At that moment, as the story goes, Archimedes yelled “Eureka”, jumped from the tub and ran naked through the streets of Greece.  At that very moment, Archimedes had discovered Specific Gravity.


He ran to tell the King (I think a friend must have to him to at least put on some pants).  After explaining what he had discovered, the King ordered the crown and the goldsmith to be brought before him.  When they both arrived, the King ordered to have the crown cut in half.


When the King was presented with both halves of the gold crown, it was evident that the crown was made of pewter and only plated with the gold.  The goldsmith had stolen the King’s gold.


That moment was one of Archimedes greatest triumphs, a great day for science greatest discoveries, but not so much for the goldsmith.  His head was cut off.


Where Do You Get Your Eureka Moments?  In the hot tub or shower, the car, while exercising, walking, or listening to music.  Give this some thought.  Close your eyes right now and think about it.


Lon Safko
Serial Innovator, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Innovative Thinking


Tags: innovative thinking, creative, creative thinking, Innovation, critical thinking definition, innovation definition, critical thinking skills, creative process

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