The History of Pi

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  • Topic: Pi, Irrational number, Real number
  • Pages : 3 (1093 words )
  • Download(s) : 109
  • Published : November 28, 2009
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Before I talk about the history of Pi I want to explain what Pi is. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines Pi as "1: the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet... 2 a: the symbol pi denoting the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter b: the ratio itself: a transcendental number having a value to eight decimal places of 3.14159265" A number can be placed into several categories based on its properties. Is it prime or composite? Is it imaginary or real? Is it transcendental or algebraic? These questions help define a number's behavior in different situations. In order to understand where Pi fits in to the world of mathematics, one must understand several of its properties pi is irrational and pi is transcendental. A rational number is one that can be expressed as the fraction of two integers. Rational numbers converted into decimal notation always repeat themselves somewhere in their digits. For example, 3 is a rational number as it can be written as 3/1 and in decimal notation it is expressed with an infinite amount of zeros to the right of the decimal point. 1/7 is also a rational number. Its decimal notation is 0.142857142857…, a repetition of six digits. However, the square root of 2 cannot be written as the fraction of two integers and is therefore irrational. For many centuries prior to the actual proof, mathematicians had thought that pi was an irrational number. The first attempt at a proof was by Johaan Heinrich Lambert in 1761. Through a complex method he proved that if x is rational, tan(x) must be irrational. It follows that if tan(x) is rational, x must be irrational. Since tan(pi/4)=1, pi/4 must be irrational; therefore, pi must be irrational. Many people saw Lambert's proof as too simplified an answer for such a complex and long-lived problem. In 1794, however, A. M. Legendre found another proof which backed Lambert up. This new proof also went as far as to prove that Pi^2 was also irrational. In the long history of the...
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