Pythagoras and His Contributions to the Math World Although Pythagoras was not the best known Greek mathematician, he made many contributions to the way we use math today. Pythagoras is credited
with inventing the Pythagorean theorem. He also founded the Pythagorean
brotherhood. Pythagoras also invented a lot of number patterns. Plato and
Aristotle were influenced by Pythagoras's way of thinking. Also, he was a
Greek religious leader who made huge developments in math that may have
changed the math world.
Pythagoras of Samos is often described as the first pure mathematician.
He is an extremely important figure in the development of modern mathematics
yet we know relatively few facts of his life. We are not exactly sure of his birth
and death date.
Pythagoras was born in about 569 BC in Samos, Ionia. He died in about
475 BC but his death place is not known. Little is known of Pythagoras's
childhood. All accounts of his physical appearance seem to be false except the
description of a birthmark which he had on his thigh. Pythagoras's father was
Mnesarchus who was a merchant from Tyre. There is a story told that
Mnesarchus brought corn to Samos at a time of famine and was granted
citizenship of Samos as a mark of gratitude. Pythagoras's mother was Pythais
and she was a native of Samos.
Pythagoras took many trips in his life. His first came when he was only a
child. He visited Italy with his father. In about 535 BC Pythagoras went to Egypt.
This happened a few years after the Tyrant Polycrates seized control of Samos.
There is evidence to suggest that Pythagoras and Polycrates were friends at first
but when Polycrates abandoned his alliance with Egypt and attacked it, their
friendship abruptly ended. Soon after Polycrates death, Pythagoras returned to
Samos. Pythagoras invented many theorems. Probably his most popular
theorem is the Pythagorean Theorem. This is used for a right angled triangle.
This theorem enables you to find the length of the third side of a right triangle
when only knowing the length of two sides. This is considered his most important
contribution to math.
Pythagoras also invented the five regular solids. It is thought that
Pythagoras himself knew how to construct the first three but it is unlikely that he
knew how to construct the other two.
Pythagoras also founded a philosophical and religious school in Croton
(now Crotone, on the east of the heal of southern Italy) that had many followers.
Pythagoras was the head of the society with an inner circle of followers known as
mathematikoi. The mathematikoi lived permanently with the Society, had no
personal possessions and were vegetarians. They were taught by Pythagoras
himself and obeyed strict rules. The beliefs that Pythagoras held were:
(1) At its deepest level, reality is mathematical in nature,
(2) Philosophy can be used for spiritual purification,
(3) The soul can rise to union with the divine,
(4) Certain symbols have a mystical significance, and
(5) All brothers of the order should observe strict loyalty and secrecy.
This society defined figurate numbers to be the number of dots in certain
geometrical configurations (Mathematical Structures for Computer Science, Pg. 145).
Of Pythagoras's actual work nothing is known. His school practiced
secrecy and communalism making it hard to distinguish between the work of
Pythagoras and that of his followers. Certainly his school made outstanding
contributions to mathematics, and it is possible to be fairly certain about some of
Pythagoras's mathematical contributions. Pythagoras's accomplishments have
changed the math world tremendously and his contributions to the math world
are truly incredible.