Pythagoras of Samos

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PYTHAGORAS OF SAMOS

Pythagoras of Samos, more commonly known as Pythagoras is recognized as the world’s first mathematician. Pythagoras’ image is mysterious because none of his writings are published, and the ‘society he led, half religious and half scientific, followed a code of secrecy’ (O’Connor and Robertson, 1993). He was born c575 BC in Samos, Greece, and was killed in c495 BC. Details about Pythagoras can be found in early biographical writings who would write of him having ‘divine powers’ and ‘present him as a god-like figure.’ (O’Connor and Robertson, 1993). Overall, stories that have been written about Pythagoras and his journey are generally seen as legend. Historians accept that Pythagoras spent his childhood in Samos and traveled with his father, a merchant. He was schooled by tutors in Chaldea and Syria, was able to ‘play the lyre, learn poetry and recite Homer (O’Connor and Robertson, 1993). His greatest influences were his teachers Pherekydes, Thales, and Anaximander. Thales and Anaximander were the two who ‘introduced him to mathematical ideas’ (O’Connor and Robertson). He was noted to have left Green for southern Italy to flee the cruel government led by Polycrates. He also is to have traveled to Egypt and Babylon during his travels and eventually self-imposed exile.

While in Egypt, Pythagoras explored many temples and spoke to priests, as well as was exposed to geometry. At Diospolis, he studied, completed the process and became a priest. While studying the culture and customs of Egypt, it was invaded by the Persians, and Pythagoras was captured and taken to Babylon. While there, he studied with the Magi people of Persia, and was introduced to ‘sacred rites and learnt about a very mystical worship of gods (O’Connor and Robertson, 1993), and mastered his mathematical genius which were taught by the Babylonians.

Returning to southern Italy, he formed a group of followers who adhered to the teaching of ‘metempsychosis, which...
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