That was easy enough.
Since this column is always about
inventors and their inventions, we take a look at three of the most
famous and successful one-named inventors of the pre-modern era.
When it comes to inventors who don't
need to use their last names, even Tom (Edison), Ben (Franklin) and
Alexander (Bell) needed a surname. But Archimedes, Galileo and
Leonardo needed only their first names.
Greek mathematician and inventor
Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) was born in the city-state of Syracuse and
educated in Alexandria, Egypt. He invented the hydraulic screw, also
known as -- all together now -- the Archimedes screw. It was used in
pumping water from the Nile River. Another one of his inventions,
the worm gear, is still in use today. He also invented the world's
first winch with a system of ropes and pulleys, which he used to
move a ship while it was docked on land.
Wartime inventions go all the way
back to Archimedes' era, and it was Archimedes who invented the
catapult. Known more as a mathematician than an inventor, he also
calculated the value of pi. He also had a couple of inventor
colleagues who were known by just their first names: Ctesibius and
If you've ever wondered where the
word "eureka" comes from or what it means, it was Archimedes who
coined this word. He did so when he discovered the displacement of
water while taking a bath one day. He sprang up out of the tub and
ran through the streets naked yelling "eureka." The word literally
means "I've found it."
When the Romans invaded Archimedes'
hometown in 212 B.C., the Roman ruler ordered that Archimedes be
left alone. One of the soldiers didn't recognize him, though, and
killed him with his sword.
Galileo (1564-1642) was an Italian
mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. He never ran through the
streets yelling "eureka," but he did invent the thermometer in 1593.
But he did not invent the device for which he is most
famously known -- the telescope. That was invented by optician Hans
Lippershey, who needed two names.
[to top of second column in this article]
Galileo did make improvements to the
telescope, but his only lasting improvement is the technology used
in opera glasses. Also, at age 20, he discovered "the law of the
pendulum," which he used to suggest using a pendulum to time the
pulse rate of medical patients.
It's been said that the world
doesn't want an invention that's 15 years ahead of its time but
rather one that is 15 minutes ahead of its time. Left-handed
inventor Leonardo da Vinci created new inventions as much as 400
years ahead of their time. For example, he designed the
submarine before Cornelius Van Drebbel invented it in 1620; he
designed the world's first bicycle 200 years before Bermany's Baron
Karl von Drais invented it in 1817; and he designed the first modern
scissors nearly 300 years before Louise Austin invented them in
In the world of aviation, he
designed his version of what an airplane should look like nearly 300
years before the Wright brothers invented their version in 1903. He
also designed his version of a parachute nearly 300 years before the
Baldwin brothers and Stefan Banic both invented their own versions
of it in the early 1900s.
He designed a rocket with an engine
400 years before the first rocket was invented, and he designed a
helicopter that is believed to have inspired Igor Sikorsky, the
inventor of the modern helicopter, to study helicopter design.
In case you were wondering,
Galileo's last name was Galilei. It remains unknown what Archimedes'
last name was, or even if he had one. Or maybe "Archimedes" was his
Paul Niemann is the author of Invention Mysteries. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2005