Know Your School of Athens Mathematicians: Pythagoras

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Raphael, School of Athens (Detail), 1511

A lot of words are used to describe Pythagoras. A philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and even a mystic, Pythagoras embodied the perfection and extent to which knowledge could elevate you. Pythagoras was described by many other philosophers in his day (including Herodotus and Isocrates) as but one of few who were capable of extending the reaches of modern math and science.

Pythagoras was born on the Greek island of Samos sometime around 570 BC. Very little is known of his childhood but accounts during his time claimed him to be an avid traveler visiting places like Egypt and parts of Asia all before he hit twenty. It was after his studies away that he went to Croton and created a secret society with a new religion. However, when he involved the society with town politics, he was thrown out of the city with the meeting places burned and thus, his religious group disbanded. He lived the rest of his days in Metapontum, Greece.

His contributions to the worlds of Science and art were countless. His two most important contributions to the world of science are the Pythagorean Theorem and the Musica Universalis. The Pythagorean Theorem is a well-known formula that is required knowledge for any math course involving right triangles and geometry in general. Less known is the Musica Universalis. Pythagoras was among the first people who discovered timing and occurrence of solar eclipses and lunar eclipses saying that both occur during a lapse during this theory. The theory itself states that the sun, the moon, and the earth all move according to a harmonic plan or song. Although that that is wrong, Pythagoras was among the first to realize that the moon, sun, and earth were all set by a pattern.

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