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Ctesibius or Ktesibios or Tesibius (Greek: Κτησίβιος; fl. 285–222 BC) was a Greek inventor and mathematician in Alexandria, Ptolemaic Egypt.[1] He wrote the first treatises on the science of compressed air and its uses in pumps (and even in a kind of cannon). This, in combination with his work on the elasticity of air On pneumatics, earned him the title of "father of pneumatics." None of his written work has survived, including his Memorabilia, a compilation of his research that was cited by Athenaeus. Ctesibius' most commonly known invention today is a pipe organ (hydraulis), on which the invention of the piano was later based.

Inventions

Ctesibius was probably the first head of the Museum of Alexandria. Very little is known of his life, but his inventions were well known. It is said (possibly by Diogenes Laërtius) that his first career was as a barber. During his time as a barber, he invented a counterweight-adjustable mirror. His other inventions include the hydraulis, a water organ that is considered the precursor of the modern pipe organ, and improved the water clock or clepsydra ("water thief"). For more than 1,800 years the clepsydra was the most accurate clock ever constructed, until the Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens' invention of the pendulum clock in 1656.

Ctesibius described one of the first force pumps for producing a jet of water, or for lifting water from wells. Examples have been found at various Roman sites, such as at Silchester in Britain. The principle of the siphon has also been attributed to him.

According to Diogenes Laërtius, Ctesibius was miserably poor. Laërtius details this by recounting the following concerning the philosopher Arcesilaus:

When he had gone to visit Ctesibius who was ill, seeing him in great distress from want, he secretly slipped his purse under his pillow; and when Ctesibius found it, "This," said he, "is the amusement of Arcesilaus."

Reputation

Ctesibius's work is chronicled by Vitruvius, Athenaeus, Pliny the Elder, and Philo of Byzantium who repeatedly mention him, adding that the first mechanicians such as Ctesibius had the advantage of being under kings who loved fame and supported the arts. Proclus (the commentator on Euclid) and Hero of Alexandria (the last of the engineers of antiquity) also mention him.
References

Encyclopædia Britannica: Ctesibius. "Greek physicist and inventor, the first great figure of the ancient engineering tradition of Alexandria, Egypt."

Further reading
Landels, J.G. (1978). Engineering in the ancient world. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03429-5.
Lloyd, G.E.R. (1973). Greek science after Aristotle. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-04371-1.
Vitruvius (1914). The Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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Ancient Greek and Hellenistic mathematics (Euclidean geometry)
Mathematicians
(timeline)
Anaxagoras Anthemius Archytas Aristaeus the Elder Aristarchus Apollonius Archimedes Autolycus Bion Bryson Callippus Carpus Chrysippus Cleomedes Conon Ctesibius Democritus Dicaearchus Diocles Diophantus Dinostratus Dionysodorus Domninus Eratosthenes Eudemus Euclid Eudoxus Eutocius Geminus Heliodorus Heron Hipparchus Hippasus Hippias Hippocrates Hypatia Hypsicles Isidore of Miletus Leon Marinus Menaechmus Menelaus Metrodorus Nicomachus Nicomedes Nicoteles Oenopides Pappus Perseus Philolaus Philon Philonides Porphyry Posidonius Proclus Ptolemy Pythagoras Serenus Simplicius Sosigenes Sporus Thales Theaetetus Theano Theodorus Theodosius Theon of Alexandria Theon of Smyrna Thymaridas Xenocrates Zeno of Elea Zeno of Sidon Zenodorus
Treatises
Almagest Archimedes Palimpsest Arithmetica Conics (Apollonius) Catoptrics Data (Euclid) Elements (Euclid) Measurement of a Circle On Conoids and Spheroids On the Sizes and Distances (Aristarchus) On Sizes and Distances (Hipparchus) On the Moving Sphere (Autolycus) Euclid's Optics On Spirals On the Sphere and Cylinder Ostomachion Planisphaerium Sphaerics The Quadrature of the Parabola The Sand Reckoner
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Angle trisection Doubling the cube Squaring the circle Problem of Apollonius
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Circles of Apollonius
Apollonian circles Apollonian gasket Circumscribed circle Commensurability Diophantine equation Doctrine of proportionality Golden ratio Greek numerals Incircle and excircles of a triangle Method of exhaustion Parallel postulate Platonic solid Lune of Hippocrates Quadratrix of Hippias Regular polygon Straightedge and compass construction Triangle center
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In Elements
Angle bisector theorem Exterior angle theorem Euclidean algorithm Euclid's theorem Geometric mean theorem Greek geometric algebra Hinge theorem Inscribed angle theorem Intercept theorem Pons asinorum Pythagorean theorem Thales's theorem Theorem of the gnomon
Apollonius
Apollonius's theorem
Other
Aristarchus's inequality Crossbar theorem Heron's formula Irrational numbers Menelaus's theorem Pappus's area theorem Problem II.8 of Arithmetica Ptolemy's inequality Ptolemy's table of chords Ptolemy's theorem Spiral of Theodorus
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Cyrene Library of Alexandria Platonic Academy
Other
Ancient Greek astronomy Greek numerals Latin translations of the 12th century Neusis construction

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