Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 16:54:50 +0930
Sender: David

Subject: Math

Dear Math Central,
I am wondering if you have any information about Pythagoras and his accounts in math.

Middle class question (6-9). Student asking the question

Hi Michael

There are many interesting stories about Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. A sample can be found in any encyclopedia, in any book on the history of mathematics, or in any geometry text that has historical notes. All that is known is that he lived during the sixth century BC (that is, between 500 and 600 years before Christ). Everything written by or about him has been lost. What remains are the legends that were passed along for centuries before being written down. To complicate matters further, he was a mystic and the society he founded was a secret religious society. Among other things, ideas were shared by all so that credit for their discovery went to the society, not to an individual. There is no doubt that his society discovered much of the geometry that Euclid put into his ELEMENTS more than 200 years later. (Carl B. Boyer uses 12 pages to describe these discoveries in his History of Mathematics published by Wiley.) Tradition has declared Pythagoras "the father of mathematics", but because of the lack of supporting evidence, nobody knows whether he really deserves that title.


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