Pythagoras was born in about 570 BC on the Greek island of Samos. His father was a merchant. He was taught mathematics by Thales, who brought mathematics to the Greeks from Ancient Egypt, and by Anaximander, who was an earlier student of Thales.
Amazing Facts about Pythagoras
- Thales advised Pythagoras to visit Egypt, which he did when he was about 22 years old.
- Pythagoras must have liked Egypt.He lived there for about the next 22 years of his life, mastering mathematical ideas AND spiritual ideas.
- Pythagoras didn’t leave Egypt willingly. He was caught up in a Persian invasion and taken as a prisoner to Babylon.
- The Babylonians were probably the finest mathematicians in the world at that time. In Babylon, where he lived for about 12 years, Pythagoras learned mathematics and Eastern spiritual ideas, possibly from as far away as India.
- Aged 56 or so, he was finally set free. He returned to Samos, his birthplace. There he began teaching people his philosophy of life, which was based on a mixture of his own ideas, mathematics, and mysticism from Ancient Egypt and the East.
- After two years, Pythagoras left Samos. Too many people there were hostile to his new ideas. He moved to the
city of Croton, then part of Ancient Greece, now in Southern Italy.
- There his ideas fell on more fertile soil and he established the Pythagoreans.
- The Pythagoreans were a religious sect or cult whose beliefs were based on the power of numbers; honesty; living a simple, unselfish life; and generally trying to show kindness to people and animals.
- To Pythagoreans 10 was the supreme number.
- 10 can be made by adding the first four numbers, 1,2,3 and 4. These numbers form a perfect, equilateral triangle, the Tetractys.
- Ratios of numbers from the Tetractys are important in musical scales, which the Pythagoreans also thought had mystical powers.
- Pythagoreans prayed to the Tetractys and swore oaths of faith to it.
- For a right angled triangle the sum of the squares on the other two shorter sides equals the hypotenuse squared. Pythagoras learned this rule from the Egyptians and Babylonians. It bears his name because Pythagoras was probably the person who proved it was true for all right angled triangles.
- The mathematical proof that √2 is irrational was found by a Pythagorean.
- Pythagoras was actually a skilled lyre player and probably studied the relationship between musical pitch and string length.