Pythagoras

28.03.2015 |

Episode #3 of the course “Greatest Mathematicians”

Anyone who has taken algebra will remember the one of the most basic formulas:  a^2 + b^2 = c^2. As you might recall, this is called the Pythagorean Theorem, named after Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher and mathematician. Although most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, leaving very little reliable information about him, we do know that he greatly influenced the mathematics we do today.

Pythagoras was born around 569 BC in Samos, Greece. Various writings place his death between 500 BC and 475 BC (in which case, he would have lived to be 94 years old!) in Metapontum, Lucania, Italy. His father was a gem merchant and many have noted Pythagoras’ extensive travels with his father from an early age. He traveled to Egypt and lived with priests in 535 BC. Here he learned to value secrecy, purity, and vegetarianism. Pythagoras was a prisoner for 5 years after the Persians invaded Egypt. In 518 BC, two years after being set free, Pythagoras settled in Crotona, Italy, where he founded a philosophical and religious school. His followers were known as the Pythagoreans.

Although the Pythagoreans shared their mathematical discoveries and also held a commitment to secrecy, many wrote down later in life the discoveries that were made by Pythagoras himself, including:

  • The Pythagorean theorem, which proves the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides for a right-angled triangle.

  • The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles.

  • Irrational numbers.

  • The five regular solids: tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron.


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