Introducing Mathematicians from History: 2 : Pythagoras – When and where did he live?

In the second blog in our series of maths blogs on the lives of famous mathematicians, an Oxford Home Schooling tutor considers the life of Pythagoras.

Introducing Mathematicians from History: 2 : Pythagoras – When and where did he live?

Pythagoras was born around 569 BC in Samos, Greece. He travelled to Egypt where he was taken prisoner and sent to Babylon (now Iraq). On his release he went back to Greece and then moved to a Greek colony in Southern Italy. He died in Italy sometime between 475 and 500 BC.

Why is he famous?

Pythagoras is most famous for his theorem on right angled triangles. “In any right angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides”. This was known by the Babylonians 1000 years earlier but Pythagoras (or one of his followers) is thought to have been the first person to prove it.

Unusual facts

Pythagoras formed a religious group of followers in Italy. They were men and women who believed that numbers were the foundation of everything and that they even had personalities. Followers of Pythagoras had to be vegetarians and could not eat beans. Many of the stories of how Pythagoras was killed involve him being captured because he refused to run away through a field of beans.

Links to modern mathematics

Pythagoras’ Theorem is still seen as a cornerstone of mathematics. Mathematicians have now found more than 400 different proofs.

Debby Gill


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