Date: Oct 21, 2006 9:52 AM
Author: Robert (Bob) Eldon Taylor
Subject: [HM] Archimedes: On the Sphere and Cylinder, Prop. 2

Greetings to All,

Archimedes (in On the Sphere and Cylinder Prop. 2 ) asserts:

"Given two unequal magnitudes, it is possible to find two unequal

straight lines such that the greater straight line has to the less a

ratio less than the greater magnitude has to the less."

He begins his proof:

"Let AB, D be two unequal magnitudes, and let AB be the greater. "

And then says:

"By the second proposition in the first book of Euclid let BG be placed

equal to D"

The proposition referred to is surely not the second in the modern

numbering scheme, but perhaps the third:

"To cut off from the greater of two given unequal straight lines a

straight line equal to the less."

But Euclid I.3 is about lines, not general magnitudes, and, it seems to

me, is useless in this case. (But how can such a great mathematician

make such an error? Perhaps the statement is an interpolation.) What is

needed here is not a reference to a theorem, nor even a postulate, but

to a definition of magnitude, namely, that a magnitude is such a thing

that, of two unequal magnitudes of the same kind, the less can be "cut

off" from the greater.

Magnitude was never defined, and one can see why - the difficulty of the

thing is very great.

Another possibility is that I am really confused - not for the first

time this week.

Regards from a sunny, chilly Comer, Georgia,

Bob

Robert Eldon Taylor

philologos at mindspring dot com