Monday, March 10, 2014

Biography of Euclid

(Sorry, I thought that I had posted this last week.  I'm sure I wrote it.  Goblins must have eaten it.)

We know almost nothing about Euclid.  We don't know when he was born or when he died.  We don't know where he lived.  In fact, almost his entire biography is inferred from things that other people wrote about him.  There is a theory that the works of Euclid were actually the work of a team of mathematicians and that one single name was put on the entire work. 
While working through the Elements, I was struck by the enormous conceptual leap that they represent.  The entire idea of creating an abstract plane to prove things on isn't an obvious one.  And yet, it opened up so many avenues.  It allows ideas to be spread on a few sheets of parchment.  A group of people could learn the new ideas without actually going out in a field with ropes and stakes. 
I don't know enough about other cultures and their mathematics to compare.  Did Chinese mathematicians use similar methods?  How about the various Meso-American cultures?  The Persians?  The Arabs?  I honestly don't know. 
In any case, it's tremendous.

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