Archimedes, the renowned Greek scientist who lived from about 287 to about 212 BC, was asked to find out whether the King’s crown was made of pure gold or of gold mixed with a less valuable metal. The story goes that one day, preoccupied with his seemingly impossible task, he filled his bath to full and the water overflowed as he got in. Immediately, Archimedes realized the solution and rushed naked into the street shouting ‘Eureko’ which is Greek for ‘I’ ve got it’. We still use this Greek word to signify an astounding discovery.
What Archimedes realized was that he could test the quality of the crown by immersing it in water. He measured how much water the crown displaced, and then checked to see if a piece of gold having the same weight as the crown displaced the same amount of water. If so, the crown would be pure gold. In fact the king’s crown displaced more water, proving that it was adulterated with a less dense metal. What ended in triumph for Archimedes ended in tragedy for the goldsmith, who was executed.