Episode #7 of the course “Greatest Mathematicians”
The Greek mathematician Euclid, born around 330 BC, is sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara. He was educated in Plato’s Academy in Athens, but very little is known about his personal life outside of his writings.
Often referred to as the “Father of Geometry,” Euclid penned arguably the most influential textbook ever written, The Elements. Much of the mathematics in The Elements wasn’t original, but rather expanded on earlier writings of Plato’s students. However, the book forever transformed the way mathematics was perceived among scientists. Euclid broke down the barrier to enter mathematics, which up until that point only dealt with hard problems, their formulas, and solutions. Euclid provided the philosophy behind mathematics, thus allowing it to be studied as an intellectual occupation.
The 13 chapters of The Elements teach geometry as well as number theory and an old form of algebra. Euclid’s greatest achievement is the standard for clear and logical progression and thinking within his book. In essence, he set the standard for the way mathematics was taught. He made the subject approachable so that pupils of all ages could learn.
The reach of The Elements stretched far into the future, even helping Abraham Lincoln fine-tune his mind and think logically. Lincoln himself spoke of Euclid’s great teaching abilities, saying that it was Euclid who showed him how to demonstrate, not just speak. It is a great injustice that most of Euclid’s works were lost in the fire of Alexandria. Who knows how much more he would have taught the world.
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