Who Discovered the Pythagorean Theorem?

From the studies that you, perhaps, have learned in school, the person credited to be the one who discovered the Pythagorean Theorem is the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras. However, there are some who say that this is not so.

If you were to study the history of the theorem, you may see that it may not be Pythagoras after all who discovered the Pythagorean Theorem.

The Early History Accounts of the Theorem

In Northern Europe and Egypt during 2500 BC, there were some accounts pointing to an algebraic discovery of the Pytha gorean triples as expressed by Bartel Leendert van der Waerden. It was used in megalithic monuments during that time which had right triangles with integers as its sides.

There were also written accounts during 2000 and 1786 BC which includes an Egyptian papyrus bearing a Pythagorean triple solution.

During the circa 1750 and 1790 BC, a Mesopotamian tablet also contained many written entries which were similar to Pythagorean triples during Hammurabi the Great’s reign.

India also had some records on the Pythagorean triples during the 2nd century and the 8th century BC.

That was years before Pythagoras (circa 580 BC to 500 BC) was said to have discovered this theorem. But, it was actually five centuries later after Pythagoras lived that the Pythagorean Theorem was attributed to Pythagoras.

The Tale of the Discovery of Pythagoras

It was believed that Pythagoras discovered this theorem when waiting for the tyrannical ruler, Polycrates. While looking at the floor’s square tiling of the palace of Polycrates, Pythagoras thought of this interesting idea: A diagonal line may be used to cut or divide the square, and two right triangles would be produced from the cut sides.

Examining it further, Pythagoras formulated the formula in mind.

A Modern Book Bearing the Answer

A book titled “The History of Mathematics” was written by Roger Cooke. In the pages of the book, Cooke shows that the Babylonians after all may have discovered the theorem years after the discovery of Pythagoras.

To support this belief, Cooke based it on Plato’s dialogue Meno. Cooke’s suggestions depict that the discovery may have been done as an element of fun or practical purpose by someone. And that someone may have thought it as necessary to make a square twice the size of a given square. To do so would result to about four right triangles with sides equal to the center square. It also can show two rectangles equal to the four triangles, and two squares on the bottom or legs of the right triangle. All these things point to the Pythagorean Theorem.

But with all these accounts, the Pythagorean Theorem is still linked to Pythagoras, the one believed by many to be the person who discovered the Pythagorean Theorem. Perhaps, it may be safe to say that although Pythagoras wasn’t the first to discover this, records show that this person may have been the first to prove this theorem.

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