Did Pi Ruin Socrates' Career?From: Anonymous Date: Thu, 03 Nov 94 16:49:38 EST Subject: Ask Dr. Math Dear Dr. Math, This is a math history question. Is it true that Socrates is believed to have been imprisoned for teaching the existence of pi? I understand that the belief in, or the teaching of, the existence of pi was considered heresy in his day. Tom Date: Fri, 4 Nov 1994 01:45:28 -0500 Subject: Re: Ask Dr. Math Off the top of my head, I don't know the specific reason why Socrates was imprisoned, but I do remember reading that the Greeks had a very hard time with irrational numbers. It didn't fit with their model of a "beautiful" universe which could be described by simple geometrical shapes. For example, the right triangle with unit legs threw them through a loop, for the hypotenuse had a length measure of square root of two, the existence of which the Greeks would not recognize. As for Socrates, I'll try to findthe exact incident which led to his arrest, although I recall that he was arrested for allegedly "misleading" the Athens youth with ideas which did not appeal to the Athens government. Hope this helped. I'll try to get more info shortly... Gabe, Math doc Date: Fri, 4 Nov 1994 10:32:01 -0500 Subject: Re: Ask Dr. Math Tom, as far as we can tell the irrational numbers as such had no mathematical status in Classical Greece although there were certainly fractional approximations by Pythagoreans and others for the square root of two and other numbers they ran into. Socrates had no real interest in math, but Plato did. As far as we know, he was not arrested for his beliefs in irrational numbers. -- steve Date: Sun, 6 Nov 1994 17:09:53 +0000 Tom, If you're interested in the history of p, there's a book, "The History of p" by Petr Beckman, which makes for entertaining reading. Elizabeth, a very new math doctor |
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