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AFRICAS CONTRIBUTION TO MATHEMATICS

Cheikh Anta Diop on the Contributions of Africa to Mathematics


Archimedes is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the
greatest of all time. Archimedes, a Greek who studied his craft in Alexandria, Egypt, lived from
287 BC c.212 BC., and is credited with (1) discovering the area and tangents to the curve
traced by a point moving with uniform speed along a straight line which is revolving with uniform
angular speed about a fixed point. This curve, described by r = a in polar coordinates, is now
called the spiral of Archimedes. He is also credited with (2) exacting the numerical value of pi,
(3) principles of leverage, and (4) inventing the so-called Archimedes Screw (more on that
later).
The tomb of Archimedes is famous for it depicts his famous diagram, a sphere in a cylinder of the
exact height and diameter. Archimedes had allegedly proved that the volume and surface area of
the sphere would be two thirds that of the cylinder.

Archimedes greatest so-called "discovery"

However, Archimedes stole this so-called discovery and many others from the texts he
studied in Egypt. Cheikh Anta Diop wrote in Civilization or Barbarism that Archimedes did not
even have the excuse of an honest scholar who would rediscover an established theorem,
without knowing that it had been discovered two thousand years before him by his Egyptian
predecessors. The other borrowings in which he indulged himself during and after his trip to
Egypt, without ever citing the sources of his inspiration, show clearly that he was perfectly
conscious of his sin, and that hereby he was being faithful to a Greek tradition of plagiarism.
He goes on to say It is remarkable that the Romans, who had less contact with the Egyptians,
have contributed practically nothing to the exact sciences, geometry in particular.

1. Egyptians discovered mathematical formulas for determining cylindrical


surface values two millenia before Archimedes, and 2. Archimedes failed to
truly discover pi, whereas the Egyptians had discovered the value as early
as 3,000 B.C.
We know this thanks to an Egyptian mathematical papyrus that was written in 1700 B.C. The
Rhind Mathematical Papyrus consists of reference tables and a collection of 20 arithmetic and 20

algebraic problems. The problems start out with simple fractional expressions, followed by
completion (sekhem) problems and more involved linear equations (aha problems).
In the opening paragraphs of the papyrus, Ahmes presents the papyrus as giving Accurate
reckoning for inquiring into things, and the knowledge of all things, mysteriesall secrets. He
continues with:
This book was copied in regnal year 33, month 4 of Akhet, under the majesty of the King of
Upper and Lower Egypt, Awserre, given life, from an ancient copy made in the time of the King of
Upper and Lower Egypt Nimaatre. The scribe Ahmose writes this copy.
Problems 41 46 of the Rhind Papyrus show how to find the volume of both cylindrical and
rectangular based granaries. In problem 41 the scribe computes the volume of a cylindrical
granary. Given the diameter (d) and the height (h), the volume V is given by:

In modern mathematical notation (and using d = 2r) this clearly equals The quotient 256/81
approximates the value of pi as being ca. 3.1605.

Archimedes, however, failed to discover pi. Cheikh Anta Diop writes:


Archimedes does not explicitly calculate the value of 3.1416 (the value of pi). He shows that the
ratio of the circumference to the diameter lies between 3.1/7 and 3.10/71. The next best
approximation was found by the Babylonians, and their calculation was (incorrectly) a whole
number (3) or else 3.8!

3. The Egyptians invented the scale the worlds first rigorous scientific
application of the theory of leverage.
Archimedes is credited with saying Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place
it, and I shall move the world. The Egytians not only knew the power of the lever, they used them
in both simple and complex ways. Levers like the shadoof, a lever with unequal arms, was used
to raise heavy building blocks, and to water gardens.

An Egyptian using the shadoof to water a garden. This is the lever


that Archimedes claimed would allow him to

Archimedes published a treatise entitled On the Equilibrium of Planes or of Their Center of


Gravity which would deal with the equilibrium of a lever. But once again, his treatise was a
useless plagiarism of a problem that the Egyptians had already solved more than 2,000 years
before Archimedes was born. It should be noted that while the Egytians used this technology for
peacful purposes, Archimedes used it to create weapons of war.

4. The Archimedes Screw predates Greek history, and was old news that
was in regular use in Egypt by the time Archimedes came along.
Cheikh Anta Diop writes:
Archimedes would not invent the continuous screw, the spiral, in Sicily, but during a trip to
Egypt where this screw was invented, evidently, centuries before the birth of Archimedes.
Euclid of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician who is often referred to as the Father of
Geometry, was as much a fake as Archimedes. A second Egyptian papyrus, the Moscow
Mathematical Papyrus, asks for a calculation of the surface area of a hemisphere. Solving this
problem requires extensive and mature knowledge of geometry. The text of problem 10 runs like
this: Example of calculating a basket. You are given a basket with a mouth of 4 1/2 . What is its
surface? Take 1/9 of 9 (since) the basket is half an egg-shell. You get 1. Calculate the remainder
which is 8. Calculate 1/9 of 8. You get 2/3 + 1/6 + 1/18. Find the remainder of this 8 after
subtracting 2/3 + 1/6 + 1/18. You get 7 + 1/9. Multiply 7 + 1/9 by 4 + 1/2. You get 32. Behold this
is its area. You have found it correctly.
The solution amounts to computing the area as

The 14th problem of the Moscow Mathematical calculates the volume of a frustum.
Problem 14 of the Moscow papyrus states that a pyramid has been truncated in such a way that
the top area is a square of length 2 units, the bottom a square of length 4 units, and the height 6
units, as shown. The volume is found to be 56 cubic units, which is correct.

The text of the example runs like this: If you are told: a truncated pyramid of 6 for the vertical
height by 4 on the base by 2 on the top: You are to square the 4; result 16. You are to double 4;
result 8. You are to square this 2; result 4. You are to add the 16 and the 8 and the 4; result 28.
You are to take 1/3 of 6; result 2. You are to take 28 twice; result 56. See, it is of 56. You will find
it right
The solution to the problem indicates that the Egyptians knew the correct formula for obtaining
the volume of a truncated pyramid:

In addition to the above, the Moscow and the Rhind Papyrus shows us that the Egyptians knew
were intimate with algebra and knew how to rigorously calculate the square root, irrational
numbers, the so-called Pythagorean theorem, the quadrature of a circle, trigonometry (used to
calculate the slope of a pyramid using sine, cosine, tangent, and cotangent), and the surfaces of
triangles, circles, rectangles, and trapezium. Remember, this is all 2,000+ years before the white,
so-called father of geometry was born.

The key takeaway is this: from early in education, the world is taught that western civilization
originated everything of value to the world. Not only is this untrue, but it should be said that the

west learned everything they knew of value from Africa. The real origins of Christianity,
mathematics, architecture, medicine, and literature originated with the Black man and woman.