« Spreading The Laughter | Main | Moving On »

An Englishman In New York: Ancient Geeks - What Not To Teach Your Kids

Ace blogger David Thomasesson brings a whole new way of looking at those famous Greeks whose thoughts on this, that and the other have tormented school kids down the centuries.

Do visit David's lively Web site http://www.britoninnewyork.com/

I came across a list recently famous Geeks. And here they are, with their known and lesser well-known contributions to the Arts and Sciences.

Anthemius - Byzantine architect, and writer of country theme songs

Apollonius - Mathematician “The Great Geometer” and original designer of spacecraft, not that German chap who gets all the credit for his V-5 flying bo…., sorry I meant Saturn V rocket

Aristotle - Inventor of little-known Greek rhyming slang, later claimed for themselves by London Cockneys. Rhymes with bottle

Dinostratus - Another mathematician. Apparently died in formations, rock formations

Aristarchus - Another damn mathematician. He worked on conic sections, and was a founding member of the Greek well-to-do

Bryson - Mathematician and sophist who contributed to solving the problem of squaring the circle and calculating pi, but only to a few digits. Using only his left hand, no calculators you see. Also, well known author of wit and drollery

Callippus - Astronomer who made accurate determinations of the lengths of the seasons and constructed a calendar used by all later astronomers. Inventor of fine measuring devices

Chrysippus - Cofounder of Stoicism, the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. Modern meanings tend to be of the indifference to pain, grief or joy variety. Or as Brits like to say “Mustn’t grumble” or “I can’t complain”.

Conon - Discovered the curve known as the Spiral of Archimedes. And part-time warrior. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedean_spiral

Democritus - One of the earliest proponents of indivisibility of everything, even as small as “atoms”. An avid opponent of Dictatus and Autocratus.

Dionysodorus - Yet another mathematician, helped to solve a cubic equation using the intersection of a parabola and a hyperbola. Who knew, who cares ? Oh, and a smelly animal of the Jurassic era. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jurassic

Diophantus - Best known for his Arithmetica, which had an enormous influence on the development of number theory. Also, ring-leader of Al-gebra, a shadowy terrorist organization, responsible for developing weapons of math instruction. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algebra

Epicurus - A key figure in the development of science and the scientific method because of his insistence that nothing should be believed, unless tested through direct observation and logical deduction. Also, an inquisitive eater.

Eratosthenes - Famous for his work on prime numbers and for measuring the diameter of the earth. It’s very wide he said, and had a rat on the other knee.

Euclid - Best known for his treatise on geometry: The Elements, which has influenced mathematics forever. Also provided Bogart with his famous line in the film Casablanca “Here’s looking at Eu Clid.'' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclid%27s_Elements

Eudoxus - An astronomer who contributed to Euclid's Elements. He also mapped the stars and compiled a map of the known world. Also known as a dyslexic writer who documented the departure of the Israelites from Egypt.

Geminus - Stoic philosopher who wrote a number of astronomy texts including the influential Introduction to Astronomy. He attempted to prove Euclid's parallel postulate from the other axioms, whatever that means. Known for just getting on with it.

Hippias - A contemporary of Socrates whose only contribution to mathematics seems to be the quadratrix (also known as a trisectrix), a curve he may have used for squaring the circle and trisecting angles. An expert on free-love

Hippocrates - He taught in Athens and worked on the classical problems of squaring the circle and duplicating the cube. Swore a lot and later became a specialist shipper of large animals

Menelaus - Developed his own theorem, attributed about triangles in plane geometry. Fought in the Trojan War, and produced multi-tiered wedding cakes

Perseus - Geometer (mathematical geometry) and manufacturer of bags for ladies to put their thingseus in.

Plato - Writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. "Spin" meister in Greek restaurants

Posidonius - Philosopher, astronomer and mathematician, he followed the Stoic doctrine and attempted to estimate the size of the Sun and Moon. He said they were very big. Also, a sea god, and capsizer of ships.

Ptolemy - Contributed a mathematical theory of the motions of the Sun, Moon, and planets, in Almagest. A theory not superseded until a century after CopperNickers presented his heliocentric theory in 1543. Suffered from food poisoning, later called Ptolemaine

Pythagoras - Made important developments in mathematics, astronomy, and the theory of music. His eponymous theorem was known to the Babylonians 1000 years earlier but he may have been the first to prove it. You know, the one about the Squire and his Hippopotamuse

Serenus - Worked, quietly of course, on cylinder and cone sections.

Simplicius - One of the last of the great pagan philosophers. Can’t have been that smart, with a name like that, idiot

Thales - Developed five theorems of elemental geometry. Also responsible for low prices in Thpain

Zenodorus - Authored a treatise On isometric figures, now lost. Later came to fame as a smelly motorbike mechanic


Thanks to: http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Mathematicians/Dionysodorus.html for the more accurate historical aspects of the above.

Oh, and we mustn’t forget “Phil the Greek”, carrier of “foot in mouth” disease, and husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

Before I forget, one more thing (as Columbo would say). Have you noticed that there are very few female mathematicians and philosophers? Is that because they know they are right, all the time?

Related article

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/12/17/old.babylonian.math/index.html

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.