Pythagoras' theorem discovered on a clay tablet that is more than 1,000 years older than the mathematician

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Pythagoras' theorem turned out to be much older than its ''discoverer''. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The famous Pythagorean theorem, which all high school students have learned during math classes, was most likely not invented by an ancient Greek mathematician. It existed long before Pythagoras was born and was known to the Babylonians.

This is stated in a study published in the Journal of Targeting, Measurement and Analysis for Marketing.

The study showed that the Pythagorean theorem, which was not called that way back then, of course, was known by the ancient Babylonians and even written down on a clay tablet.

Later, the equation was named in honor of the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who lived about 2,500 years ago.

This theorem is one of the most famous statements in mathematics, and, as the authors of the study put it, "the fourth most beautiful equation."

However, as it turns out, Pythagoras did not discover the important equation a2 + b2 = c2 but only paraphrased it. Pythagoras' theorem states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse (c) in a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides (a and b).

Babylonian mathematicians were probably the first to realize this. This is evidenced by the Babylonian tablet IM 67118, found by scientists, which predates Pythagoras by more than a millennium and uses the principles of the same theorem to calculate the length of a diagonal inside a rectangle.

According to IFL Science, the tablet dates back to 1770 BC, long before Pythagoras was born around 570 BC. Another tablet with marked triangles inside a square dating from about 1800-1600 BC was also found.

At first, the researchers did not know what exactly was depicted on the tablets, but when mathematicians deciphered the notation using the Babylonian number system with base 60, it turned out that the ancient mathematicians were familiar with the theorem we know as the Pythagorean theorem. They also knew other advanced mathematical concepts.

"The conclusion is inevitable. The Babylonians knew the relationship between the length of the diagonal of a square and its side: d = the square root of 2," wrote the study's author, mathematician Bruce Ratner.

He noted that this was probably "the first known irrational number."

"In turn, this means that they were familiar with Pythagoras' theorem or at least with its special case for the diagonal of a square (d2 = a2 + a2 = 2a2) more than a thousand years before the great sage after whom it was named," the scientist said.

He explained that the authorship could have been attributed to Pythagoras by accident since Pythagorean knowledge was not preserved in writing form and was orally passed down from generation to generation, having few written materials.

Ratner adds that Pythagoras' students were so grateful that they often attributed their own discoveries to Pythagoras himself.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL reported that humanity had been misreading Newton's first law for 300 years.

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