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Bust of Pythagoras at the Vatican Museum.

Pythagoras of Samos was a famous Greek mathematician and philosopher, (c. 570 – c. 495 BC)[1][2]. He is known best for the proof of the important Pythagorean theorem, which is about right triangles. He started a group of mathematicians, called the Pythagoreans, who worshiped numbers and lived like monks. He was an influence for Plato.

He had a great impact on mathematics, theory of music and astronomy. His theories are still used in mathematics today. He was one of the greatest thinkers of his time.

Pythagoras was born in Samos, a little island off the western coast of Asia Minor. There is not much information about his life. He was said to have had a good childhood. Growing up with two or three brothers, he was well educated. He did not agree with the government and their schooling, so he moved to Croton and set up his own cult (little society) of followers under his rule. His followers did not have any personal possessions, and they were all vegetarians. Pythagoras taught them all, and they had to obey strict rules.

Graphical demonstration of the Pythagorean theorem

Some say he was the first person to use the term philosophy. Since he worked very closely with his group, the Pythagoreans, it is sometimes hard to tell his works from those of his followers.

Religion was important to the Pythagoreans. They swore their oaths by "1+2+3+4" (which equals 10). They also believed that the soul is immortal and goes through a cycle of rebirths until it can become pure. They believed that these souls were in both animal and plant life. Pythagoras himself claimed to remember having lived four different lives. He also told of hearing the voice of a dead friend in the howl of a dog being beaten, and was then attacked by an angry mob.[source?]

Pythagoras' most important belief was that the physical world was mathematical and that numbers were the real reality.

Pythagorean theorem[change | change source]

Pythagoras is most famous for his theorem to do with right angled triangles. He said that the length longest side of the right angled triangle called the hypotenuse (C) squared would equal the area of the other sides squared. And so a x a + b x b = c x c was born. There are many different proofs for this.

References[change | change source]

  1. "The dates of his life cannot be fixed exactly, but assuming the approximate correctness of the statement of Aristoxenus (ap. Porph. V.P. 9) that he left Samos to escape the tyranny of Polycrates at the age of forty, we may put his birth round about 570 BC, or a few years earlier. The length of his life was variously estimated in antiquity, but it is agreed that he lived to a fairly ripe old age, and most probably he died at about seventy-five or eighty". Guthrie W.K.C. 1978. A history of Greek philosophy, volume 1: The earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans. Cambridge University Press, page 173.
  2. Biographies

Other websites[change | change source]