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Pythagoras – the man, and the theorem

Pythagoras of Samos, whom we fondly know as the a2 + b2 = c2 guy, is known for his theorem on right-angled triangles.

Basically, if you have a right-angled triangle:

  • The shortest side, call it a.
  • The second longest side, call it b.
  • The longest side is the hypotenuse. Call it c.

Imagine that a is a side of a square (blue), b is a side of a square (red), and c is a side of a  square (purple). The area of the blue square is a2. The area of the red square is b2. The area of the purple square is c2.

If you add up the area of the blue square (a2), with the area of the red square (b2), it’s the same as the area of the purple square (c2).

Hence, Pythagoras’ theorem is proven!

a2 + b2 = c2

*Actually, it doesn’t matter which side you call a or b. As long as you don’t get c mixed up.

Did you know that Pythagoras was not really a mathematician? He was first known as a philosopher, and also as a founder of a religious movement. Then only was he known for his contribution to mathematics, but even that is questionable.

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher who greatly influenced Plato, and through him, subsequently influenced all of Western philosophy. Pythagoras also founded a religious sect called Pythagoreanism. Here is an idea of how Pythagoras fuses his philosophy, religion and mathematics, all into one:

“The so-called Pythagoreans, who were the first to take up mathematics, not only advanced this subject, but saturated with it, they fancied that the principles of mathematics were the principles of all things.” – Aristotle, 350 B.C.

The principles of mathematics were the principles of all things! It governs your sciences, influences your morals, and basically forms the basis of your way of life.

Doesn’t that sound strangely familiar? Like someone used to say it a lot in class…

There are very few known facts about Pythagoras’ life. Too few, and too late of a date to be considered trustworthy. Even his contemporaries gave very little written information about him. His identity remains hidden in a  shroud. The secrecy of the Pythagorean brotherhood did not help much either. Therefore, along with the passage of time, the invention of myths took the place of Pythagoras’  biographical facts.

However, modern day anthropologists have discovered new evidence about Pythagoras. Combined with the work of well-reknown historians and artists, they have put together what they believe to be the most accurate archeological record to date. Pythagoras is believed to look something like this…

The team of anthropologists are still trying to get approval from the International Museum of Natural History.

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August 25, 2010 - Posted by | Mathematics Form 2

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