Babylonians Used Pythagoras’ Theorem Before Pythagoras

In Plato’s Timaeus, the Athenian statesman Solon, who lived over a hundred years before Socrates, meets Egyptian priests who hold even more ancient knowledge. “Oh Solon, Solon,” says the Egyptian priest, “You Greeks are but children.” The Babylonians would agree. Three thousand years before the age of the Ionian pre-Scoratic philosophers, the Mesopotamian mathematicians were using something very, very like Pythagoras’ Theorem. Here’s more from Science Focus:

Students may not believe that Pythagoras’ Theorem has real-world uses, but a 3,700-year-old tablet proves that their maths teachers are right. The artifact, named Si.427, shows how ancient land surveyors used geometry to draw boundaries accurately.

Discovered in central Iraq in 1894, Si.427 sat in a museum in Istanbul for over a century. Now, mathematician Dr Daniel Mansfield from the University of New South Wales, Australia, has studied the clay tablet and uncovered its meaning.

“Nobody expected that the Babylonians were using Pythagorean triples in this way,” Mansfield said. “It is more akin to pure mathematics, inspired by the practical problems of the time.

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