The Math Forum

Ask Dr. Math - Questions and Answers from our Archives
Associated Topics || Dr. Math Home || Search Dr. Math

Short History of Geometry

Date: 09/15/2001 at 19:50:46
From: Jason Hollowed
Subject: History of geometry

I've always wondered about the development of geometry, and I just 
wanted to know if there were any people who helped to develop 
geometry besides Euclid.  Is there anyone who hasn't gotten due 
credit for developing some basic aspect of geometry?

Date: 09/15/2001 at 20:43:47
From: Doctor Jodi
Subject: Re: History of geometry

Hi Jason,

Thales, a Greek who travelled widely, is sometimes called the "father 
of geometry."  (Surely, though, even he was not the first geometer.)  

Euclid's _Elements_ is the first known geometry textbook. Many, many 
people contributed to the study of geometry before Euclid. In 
particular, the academic atmosphere of Alexandria (where Euclid 
lived) must have contributed to his work. Travellers entering 
Alexandria surrendered their books. In place of the originals - which 
went to the great library - owners received hand-made copies.

The relation between the lengths of the sides of a right triangle was 
known to many civilizations before it was named for Pythagoras. 
Babylonians, Chinese, and Egyptians had advanced understanding of 

In more recent years (since about the 1800's), mathematicians have 
studied other sorts of geometries. Gauss, Riemann, Boylai, 
Lobachevskii, and Saccheri are some of the famous names here.
Today, astrophysicists scramble to find the Hubble constant, which 
may indicate the type of geometry we inhabit in our universe.

You can find many biographies of mathematicians at   

I hope this addresses some of your question.

You may be interested in reading about the non-European roots of 
mathematics. I recommend _The Crest of the Peacock: The Non-European 
Roots of Mathematics_ by George Gheverghese Joseph.

Let us know if you have more questions!

- Doctor Jodi, The Math Forum   
Associated Topics:
Elementary Geometry
Elementary Math History/Biography
Elementary Two-Dimensional Geometry
High School Euclidean/Plane Geometry
High School Geometry
High School History/Biography
Middle School Geometry
Middle School History/Biography
Middle School Two-Dimensional Geometry

Search the Dr. Math Library:

Find items containing (put spaces between keywords):
Click only once for faster results:

[ Choose "whole words" when searching for a word like age.]

all keywords, in any order at least one, that exact phrase
parts of words whole words

Submit your own question to Dr. Math

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

Math Forum Home || Math Library || Quick Reference || Math Forum Search

Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.