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Euclid Photo

Very little is known about the date or place of Euclid’s birth and even less about his personal life. According to a rough estimate, it is believed that Euclid may have been born somewhere during 330 B.C. Al-Qifti, an Arabian author does mention a Euclid in his writings, who’s fathers name was Naucrates, of Greek origin, born in Tyre and lived in Damascus. However, there is no proof that it’s the same Euclid who was known as “Father of Geometry”. Since in history there is mention of Euclid of Megara as well, a philosopher who lived during the reign of Plato. So the chances of Euclid of Megara being confused with Euclid of Alexandria are quite high.

But what is known about Euclid of Alexandria, is that he was a teacher of mathematics during the reign of Ptolemy I, at the Alexandria library and his “Stoicheia or Elements”, a thirteen-volume work is considered to be one of the most enduring works of mathematical calculations from that time. This near-encyclopedic compilation of geometrical calculations is based on the ideas of Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle, ThalesPythagoras, Menaechmus and other masters and remained in use for more than 2000 years. The Elements is a series of thirteen books;

  • Books one to six is plane geometry.
  • Books seven to nine is the number theory
  • Book eight is about geometrical progression
  • Book ten explains irrational numbers and
  • Books eleven to thirteen are about three-dimensional geometry.

Euclid organized simple geometrical ideas from simple definitions to axioms and theorems and provided 467 logical proofs in the plane and solid geometry. He worked on the theorem of Pythagoras and proved that its equation is always true for every right triangle. Since its publication, The Elements became one of the most popular textbooks of the time and was known to have more than 1000 editions printed since its inception.

Euclid went on to prove that there is no such thing as the “largest prime number,” since if you do happen to take the largest prime number, add 1 to the product of all the primes, you will end up with another prime number. Due to its simplicity and clarity, Euclid’s proof of this theorem is considered a “classic” proof. There are millions of prime numbers available and more are added by mathematicians and computer scientists every day, but so far no one has been able to find a pattern in the sequence of prime numbers, except Euclid. It is mentioned that one day when Ptolemy I asked Euclid if there was an easier way of understanding geometry, he replied, “Sire, there is no royal road to geometry.”

Previously, axioms were considered to be true by default. Euclid however, explained that nothing can be accepted as true in the absence of proof, and to prove them right he devised logical steps.

John Dee an English mathematician was the first to translate The Elements into English in 1570. He translated it from a Latin translation of an Arabic translation of the original Greek.

Apart from working on The Elements, Euclid investigated other fields of mathematics as well.

Optics – Euclid studied the proportion of an object in comparison to its distance from the eye. In Proposition 45, he stated that if two objects of unequal size were observed, one will find a point of vision from which both will appear equal.

Phaenomena – A study of Spherical geometry  – studying objects in space and using geometry to create measurements.

Division of Figures – dividing figures into more basic parts.

Data – Looking at any given information from a geometrical perspective.

The Greek and Roman numerical systems made calculations very tedious, since they had no zero, and were only made up of whole numbers. To make-up for this handicap, graphical techniques using a compass and straightedge were used to produce geometric constructions. These became known as Euclidean Constructions.


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