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Mathematics of Ancient Greece

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Date: 3/25/96 at 12:11:42
From: Beth Zumot
Subject: Mathematics in Ancient Greece

Dr. Math,

I am a 6th grader at Bonny Doon School in Santa Cruz, California
currently working on a report on mathematics in ancient Greece.
My last report was on mathematics in ancient Egypt.  In my research
I was able to find how the ancient Egyptians did place value, addition,
subtraction, multiplication and division.  I would like to find out the
same information about the people of ancient Greece.

I have been looking for some information and have found some but
it is difficult for me to understand.  If you can help me or tell me of
a book that would give me information that I need in a format that I can
understand it would really help me a lot.

Can you tell that I like math??

Sincerely, Marcus Sosa
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Date: 3/25/96 at 20:33:22
From: Doctor Jodi
Subject: Re: Mathematics in Ancient Greece

Hi there Marcus!

I found a few interesting web pages about the history of Greek
mathematics.  The Clark University History of Mathematics has a
web page on Greece which includes some maps and links to
biographies about mathematicians from ancient Greece.

If you're interested in a specific mathematician whose name you
know, you can search for biographies at

http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history

Some of the most famous Greek mathematicians are

Euclid - who wrote a few books of proofs on plane geometry - my
college still studies his books!

Ptolemy - who wrote several books, is best known for the Almagest,
which explained the apparent motions of the stars.  Ptolemy is often
ridiculed because his system suggests that the sun moves around the
earth.  Copernicus, a later mathematician, simplified the mathematics
of astronomy by having the earth move around the sun.  (But today,
astronomers know that even the SUN isn't at rest.  The Milky Way, our
galaxy, rotates constantly.  Some of the great work in relativity, done
by Einstein and others, discusses the fact that REST (as in staying
still) DOESN'T EXIST!)

Hypatia - a great woman who edited one of my favorite Greek math
texts, Apollonius' conics - thus ensuring its survival - and invented the
astrolabe and the planesphere

Apollonius of Perga - who wrote about the conic sections (these are
slices of a cone)  To see what conic sections look like, make a filled-in
model of an ice cream cone (maybe with play-dough or something
similar, and see how many ways you can slice it.  (Write back if you

Archimedes - a REALLY ingenious man who did lots of great work in
mechanics and solved lots of problems.  Here's one that maybe you and
your class would enjoy.  The king of Syracuse (no, not Syracuse, NY,
silly, it didn't even exist back then!) came to Archimedes with a
problem:

"I'm worried that my goldsmith is cheating me," the king said
(except it was in Greek, not in English!)  "I need to know if this crown
is pure gold, Archimedes.  But since it will be a gift to the gods, you
cannot break it or destroy it in any way."

Can you solve the problem of the crown?

Aristotle and Plato, mostly known for their work in philosophy, are
also known for work in mathematics.

These are just a few, but definitely something to get started with.

Another is the Vatican exhibit on the history of mathematics.
The words are a bit big, but it's really cool anyway.  Give it a shot
at:

http://sunsite.unc.edu/expo/vatican.exhibit/exhibit/d-mathematics/Mathematics.html

I hope this helps! Good luck with your report and let us know if we can

-Doctor Jodi,  The Math Forum

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Associated Topics:
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