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  • Topic: Pythagoras, Thales, Samos Island
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  • Published : February 18, 2002
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Pythagoras of Samos is often described as the first pure mathematician. He is an extremely important figure in the development of mathematics yet we know little about his achievements. There is nothing that is truly accurate pertaining to Pythagoras's writings. Today Pythagoras is certainly a mysterious figure. Little is known of Pythagoras's childhood. Pythagoras's father was Mnesarchus, and his mother was Pythais. Mnesarchus was a merchant who came from Tyre. Pythais was a native of Samos. As a child Pythagoras spent his early years in Samos, but traveled with his father. There are accounts, that during their travels, Mnesarchus returned to Tyre with Pythagoras, and had him taught there by the Chaldaeans. "Certainly growing up he was well educated, learning to play the lyre, learning poetry, and learning how to recite Homeric plays." ( There were three philosophers, though, who had an influence on Pythagoras while he was a young man. One of the most important was Pherekydes who was described as the teacher of Pythagoras. The other two philosophers were Thales and his pupil Anaximander, who both lived on Miletus. Pythagoras visited Thales when he was between 18 and 20 years old. By this time Thales was an old man, and probably didn't teach him a great deal. Yet, he advised Pythagoras to travel to Egypt, and learn more in the field of mathematics and astronomy. Thales's pupil, Anaximander, lectured in Miletus, and Pythagoras attended. Anaximander was interested in geometry and cosmology. Many of his ideas influenced Pythagoras's own views. Pythagoras went to Egypt after a tyrant named Polycrates seized control of Samos. His time in Egypt was spent visiting many temples and taking part in many discussions with priests. Later, in a temple at Diospolis, Pythagoras was accepted into priesthood after completing the rites necessary for admission. "Pythagoras moved on and later learned geometry from the Egyptians, but it is likely that he was...
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