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Pythagoras Photo

Pythagoras was born in 569 B.C. on the island of Samos. His father was a gems merchant and it is believed that apart from Pythagoras he had two or three other sons as well.

There is great contradiction among historians concerning Pythagoras’s personal life. Some believe that he was married to Theano and they had a daughter named Damo, and a son named Telauges, who succeeded Pythagoras as a teacher of Empedocles. Others are of the opinion that Theano was a student of Pythagoras, who never married or had children.

Pythagoras was an enlightened man with interest in music, poetry, mathematics, philosophy and astronomy. In 535 B.C. he traveled to Egypt to hone his ideas and interests with the temple priests. Many of the values he later implemented in Italy can be traced back to Egypt, i.e. need for moral purity, codes of secrecy, refusal to wear animal skins, etc.

In 520 BC, Pythagoras returned to Samos and started his school called The Semicircle. Later on, he settled in Crotona and founded his philosophical and religious school based on the belief that practicing was better than preaching. Pythagoras believed that numbers are in everything and everywhere. To him “mathematics was the basis of everything and geometry was the highest form of mathematics.” He also believed that life as we know it can easily be explained by numbers.

Philosophy of Life

At his school, Pythagoras taught that human brain is the true seat of the soul, which is immortal. This immortal soul is transferred from one person to another and sometimes even into animals through reincarnation called transmigration until it becomes what it was meant to be. Pythagoras believed that this state of purification can be gained by mathematics and music.

The students at his school lived under strict laws of loyalty and secrecy. It is because of this secrecy, that no one has been able to determine if all the theorems Pythagoras is known for were really his or not. To his credit, Pythagoras has three major theorems:

  • The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles.
  • The theorem of Pythagoras – for a right-angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.
  • Constructing figures of a given area and geometrical algebra.

Pythagoras is also credited for the discovery of irrational numbers, but it seems highly unlikely since this discovery does not align with the philosophy of numbers Pythagoras believed in; numbers being the ratio of two whole numbers. Pythagoras was a student of odd and even numbers, triangular numbers and perfect numbers. It is his life’s work which today explains angles, triangles, areas, proportion, polygons and polyhedra.

It is also believed that Pythagoras knew how to construct tetrahedron, cube and octahedron, but not icosahedron, dodecahedron, the five regular solids.

According to Pythagoras, the Earth was a globe in the centre of the Universe and that the path of the planets was circular. He believed that the morning star was indeed the evening star as well, called Venus.

Pythagoras was an accomplished Lyre player as well and tended to relate music to mathematics. He demonstrated that when the length of the strings was proportional to whole numbers, the music they created was far sweeter and harmonious. Being the cornerstone of mathematics, he even related playing an instrument with doing the math. His definitions in mathematics are so unique and interesting that till date there are more than 400 different ways his theorems have been proven by modern day mathematicians.

Death & Legacy

As is with the rest of his life, there is a great contradiction about his death as well, according to some historians Pythagoras got caught up in the war between the Agrigentum and the Syracusans and was killed by the Syracusans. Others argue that he had been thrown out of his own school in Crotona due to which he migrated to Metapontum where he starved himself to death.

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