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History of Pi Essay

  • Submitted by: jorge10101010
  • on March 16, 2014
  • Category: History
  • Length: 296 words

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Below is an essay on "History of Pi" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Throughout the history of mathematics, one of the most enduring challenges has been the calculation of the ratio between a circle's circumference and diameter, which has come to be known by the Greek letter pi. From ancient Babylonia to the Middle Ages in Europe to the present day of supercomputers, mathematicians have been striving to calculate the mysterious number. They have searched for exact fractions, formulas, and, more recently, patterns in the long string of numbers starting with 3.14159 2653..., which is generally shortened to 3.14. William L. Schaaf once said, "Probably no symbol in mathematics has evoked as much mystery, romanticism, misconception and human interest as the number pi" (Blatner, 1). We will probably never know who first discovered that the ratio between a circle's circumference and diameter is constant, nor will we ever know who first tried to calculate this ratio. The people who initiated the hunt for pi were the Babylonians and Egyptians, nearly 4000 years ago. It is not clear how they found their approximation for pi, but one source (Beckman) makes the claim that they simply made a big circle, and then measured the circumference and diameter with a piece of rope. They used this method to find that pi was slightly greater than 3, and came up with the value 3 1/8 or 3.125 (Beckmann, 11). However, this theory is probably a fantasy based on a misinterpretation of the Greek word "Harpedonaptae," which Democritus once mentioned in a letter to a colleague. The word literally means "rope-stretchers" or "rope-fasteners." The misinterpretation is that these men were stretching ropes in order to calculate circles, while they were actually making measurements in order to mark the property limits and areas for temples, according to (Heath, 12

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