That ‘eureka’ moment

October 18th, 2011

Potato harvest, West Belka, Bangladesh

On a recent holiday in Sicily I visited the tomb of Archimedes, engineer and inventor of the 3rd century BC – famous for his ‘eureka’ moment.  Born in the rich and powerful city of Syracuse, he benefited from the financial support of its ruler Hiero II.

He was considered the greatest mathematician of the ancient world and was responsible for many important discoveries.  The Archimedes screw is still extensively used throughout the world as a method of raising water.

His home city of Syracuse was at war with Rome and under siege for two years with the result that Archimedes was obliged to devote a great deal of his time to the design of the machinery of war.  He proved remarkably good at this.  But imagine what he might have achieved if his work had been devoted to inventions for human good rather than human destruction.

In our sophisticated modern world we still devote a disproportionate amount of our budgets and great scientific minds to the pursuit of war.  The technologies in which we invest most in the developed world are designed either to provide us with an even greater level of comfort and ease than we already enjoy or to destroy our enemies.  And we expend vast sums in the destruction of our beautiful planet.  Only a small proportion of our enormous wealth is devoted to finding solutions to the basic needs of more than a billion people in the world who live in poverty.

This is a great injustice and one which Practical Action is determined to address. Providing clean, sustainable energy systems, more easily accessible water supplies and better sanitation give poor men and women the opportunity to live healthier and more rewarding lives.   Surely that’s worth fighting for?

3 responses to “That ‘eureka’ moment”

  1. vishwas Joshi Says:


    I like the narration but than it I like what state in the end. Adequate access to clean energy and fresh water are to basic requirements of any community. Geographical distribution of both these resources is uneven and major factor which contributes poverty.

    The recent development in the field of renewable energy however offers hope to improve situation. Using solar energy we have developed and filed tested solar deep well hand pump for bore well. The system works using solar power during the day and after sun set if required the user can operate the system manually to obtain water. The system thus ensures 24×7 access to water supply. The system can be installed on 100mm dia. and above bore wells. It is very useful for remote villages with out access to grid power and as alternative to use of fossil fuel. It offers an option to upgrade bore well hand pumps already install and to improve service level.

    I shall be happy to share more details as required

  2. Tim Newark Says:

    great blog post, can I just ask if Practical Action is a member of the DEC?


  3. Amanda Ross Says:

    No, we aren’t because we focus on long-term development rather than disaster response.

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