Famous Scientists


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The famous Greek scientist and mathematician Euclid (300 BC) is best known as the author of the Elements, the oldest book consisting of geometrical theorems which is considered to be a standard for logical exposition.

Historical Introduction:

Not much is known aobut Euclid personally. There have been speculations whether he was a creative mathematician himself or merely collected the work of others. Much data about Euclid is recounted by Proclus, a 5th-century-AD philosopher. Euclid and Archimedes are often considered contemporaries. Euclid’s mathematical education is thought to be obtained from Plato’s pupils in Athens.

No work about geometrical theorems older than the Elements of Euclid has survived. The Elements superseded all earlier writings. This made it hard for historians to find out the earlier mathematicians whose works were could have been more significant in the development of Greek mathematics than Euclid’s. The Greek mathematician Thales is known to have discovered a number of theorems in 600 B.C. that appear in the Elements.

Eudoxus was given credit for the discovery of the method of exhaustion. Book XII of the Elements uses this method. While earlier mathematics may have been initiated by concrete problems, for instance finding out areas and volumes, by the time of Euclid mathematics had grown into an abstract construction, an intellectual occupation for philosophers as compared to scientists.

The Elements

The Elements is a collection of 13 books. Each book contains a sequence of propositions or theorems, around 10 to 100, introduced with proper definitions. For instance in Book I, 23 definitions are followed by five postulates, after which five common notions or axioms are included.

Other Contributions and Accomplishments:

Majority of the work of Euclid is known only through references by other writers. The Data is on plane geometry. The word “data” implies “things given”. The treatise consists of 94 propositions related to the kind of problem where certain data is presented about a figure and from which other data can be deduced. For instance, if a triangle has one angle given, the rectangle contained by the sides including the angle has to the area of the triangle a given ratio.

The Latin and Arabic manuscript translations of the Elements were also done, but it was not until the first printed edition, published in Venice in 1482. The work was very influential in Western education. The first comprehensive English translation was made in 1570. The most important mathematical period in England, around 1700, Greek mathematics was examined most passionately. Euclid was widely respected by all major mathematicians, including Isaac Newton.

The developing prepotency of the sciences and mathematics in the 18th and 19th centuries earned Euclid a crucial place in the curriculum of schools and universities throughout the Western world. The Elements was considered educational as a primer in logic.

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