Associated Topics || Dr. Math Home || Search Dr. Math

### Does Trying to Square a Circle Cause an Illness?

```Date: 03/14/2006 at 20:47:21
From: Caitlin
Subject: illness on trying to square a circle

People thought that trying to square a circle was an illness.  What
was that illness called?

```

```

Date: 03/14/2006 at 22:34:15
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: illness on trying to square a circle

Hi, Caitlin.

I think your statement is a little inaccurate; no one, to my
knowledge, actually thought it WAS an illness.  Here is the best
source I know for the real story:

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

This says

The popularity of the problem continued and there are many amusing
stories told by De Morgan on this topic in his book Budget of
year after his death.  De Morgan suggests that St Vitus be made the
patron saint of circle-squarers.  This is a reference to St Vitus'
dance, a wild leaping dance in which people screamed and shouted
and which led to a kind of mass hysteria.  De Morgan also suggested
the term 'morbus cyclometricus' as being the 'circle squaring
disease'.

Your source seems to be one of many sites I found that have a slightly
twisted version of the story:

http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Pines/5945/facts.html

29) A long time ago people thought there was an illness attached
to trying to 'square a circle' called Morbus Cyclometricus.

Do you see the difference? The reality is not that "people thought
there was" such a illness, but just that one person facetiously
described it as such!

By the way, to answer a question like this, all you have to do is take

square circle illness

Try it: you'll find where your teacher probably got the question, as
well as the popular version of the answer.  Then a search for "morbus
cyclometricus" gets you the real story.  That's often a good way to do
research: do the obvious search first just to gather better search
words, and then search for the best sources using the better
understanding you've picked up in the first search.

If you have any further questions, feel free to write back.

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
High School Euclidean/Plane Geometry
High School History/Biography

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