Euclid and Mathematics

Euclid and Mathematics

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Euclid and Mathematics


Euclid is one of the most influential and best read mathematician of all time. His prize work, Elements, was the textbook of elementary geometry and logic up to the early twentieth century. For his work in the field, he is known as the father of geometry and is considered one of the great Greek mathematicians. Very little is known about the life of Euclid. Both the dates and places of his birth and death are unknown. It is believed that he was educated at Plato's academy in Athens and stayed there until he was invited by Ptolemy I to teach at his newly founded university in Alexandria. There, Euclid founded the school of mathematics and remained there for the rest of his life. As a teacher, he was probably one of the mentors to Archimedes. Personally, all accounts of Euclid describe him as a kind, fair, patient man who quickly helped and praised the works of others. However, this did not stop him from engaging in sarcasm. One story relates that one of his students complained that he had no use for any of the mathematics he was learning. Euclid quickly called to his slave to give the boy a coin because "he must make gain out of what he learns." Another story relates that Ptolemy asked the mathematician if there was some easier way to learn geometry than by learning all the theorems. Euclid replied, "There is no royal road to geometry" and sent the king to study. Euclid's fame comes from his writings, especially his masterpiece Elements. This 13 volume work is a compilation of Greek mathematics and geometry. It is unknown how much if any of the work included in Elements is Euclid's original work; many of the theorems found can be traced to previous thinkers including Euxodus, Thales, Hippocrates and Pythagoras. However, the format of Elements belongs to him alone. Each volume lists a number of definitions and postulates followed by theorems, which are followed by proofs using those definitions and postulates. Every statement was proven, no matter how obvious. Euclid chose his postulates carefully, picking only the most basic and self-evident propositions as the basis of his work. Before, rival schools each had a different set of postulates, some of which were very questionable. This format helped standardize Greek mathematics. As for the subject matter, it ran the gamut of ancient thought. The

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