SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Buffon's burning mirrors. Coloured historical artwork of an experiment carried out by the French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788) in Paris, France, in 1740. Buffon (in hat at upper left) had read of the defence of Syracuse, by the Greek mathematician Archimedes (287-212 BC). Archimedes had supposedly used mirrors and the Sun's rays to set fire to the attacking Roman fleet. Buffon used 168 mirrors, each measuring 15 centimetres by 20 centimetres, to successfully ignite wooden logs at a distance of 50 metres. He concluded that Archimedes could have defended Syracuse using a similar system.
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