By any measure, the Pythagorean theorem is the most famous statement in all of mathematics, one remembered from high school geometry class by even the most math-phobic students. Well over four hundred proofs are known to exist, including ones by a twelve-year-old Einstein, a young blind girl, Leonardo da Vinci, and a future president of the United States. Here--perhaps for the first time in English--is the full story of this famous theorem.
Although attributed to Pythagoras, the theorem was known to the Babylonians more than a thousand years before him. He may have been the first to prove it, but his proof--if indeed he had one--is lost to us. Euclid immortalized it as Proposition 47 in his Elements, and it is from there that it has passed down to generations of students. The theorem is central to almost every branch of science, pure or applied. It has even been proposed as a means to communicate with extraterrestrial beings, if and when we discover them. And, expanded to four-dimensional space-time, it plays a pivotal role in Einstein's theory of relativity.
In this book, Eli Maor brings to life many of the characters that played a role in the development of the Pythagorean theorem, providing a fascinating backdrop to perhaps our oldest enduring mathematical legacy.
"This excellent biography of the theorem is like a history of thought written in lines and circles, moving from ancient clay tablets to Einstein's blackboards. . . . There is something intoxicating about seeing one truth revealed in so many ways. It all makes for hours of glorious mathematical distraction."--Ben Longstaff, New Scientist
"[The Pythagorean Theorem] is aimed at the reader with an interest in the history of mathematics. It should also appeal to most well-educated people...It is a story based on a theme and guided by a timeline...As a popular account of important ideas and their development, the book should be read by anyone with a good education. It deserves to succeed."--Peter M. Neumann, Times Higher Education Supplement
"Based on this recent book, Maor just keeps getting better. Already recognized for his excellent books on infinity, the number e, and trigonometry, Maor offers this new work as a comprehensive overview of the Pythagorean Theorem...If one has never read a book by Eli Maor, this book is a great place to start."--J. Johnson, Choice
"Maor's book is a concise history of the Pythagorean theorem, including the mathematicians, cultures, and people influenced by it. The work is well written and supported by several proofs and exampled from Chinese, Arabic, and European sources the document how these unique cultures came to understand and apply the Pythagorean theorem. [The book] provides thoughtful commentary on the historical connections this fascinating theorem has to many cultures and people."--Michael C. Fish, Mathematics Teacher
"This book will make for good supplementary reading for high school students, high school teachers, and those with a general interest in mathematics. . . . The author's enthusiasm for his subject is evident throughout the book."--James J. Tattersull, Mathematical Reviews
Table of Contents
This book has been translated into:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Eli Maor: