Archimedes of Syracuse first developed the idea of limits to measure curved figures and the volume of a sphere in the third century B.C. By carving these figures into small pieces that can be approximated, then increasing the number of pieces, the limit of the sum of pieces can give the desired quantity. Archimedes' thesis, The Method, was lost until 1906, when mathematicians discovered that Archimedes came close to discovering infinitesimal calculus.
As Archimedes' work was unknown until the twentieth century, others developed the modern mathematical concept of limits. Englishman Sir Issac Newton and German Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz independently developed the general principles of calculus (of which the theory of limits is an important part) in the seventeenth century.