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ABOUT:

Euclid was a great mathematician and often called the father of geometry. Learn more about Euclid and
how some of our math concepts came about and how influential they have become.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

"The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God." And this is a quote by Euclid of
Alexandria, who was a Greek mathematician and philosopher who lived about 300 years before Christ.
And the reason why I include this quote is because Euclid is considered to be the father of geometry. And
it is a neat quote. Regardless of your views of God, whether or not God exists or the nature of God, it
says something very fundamental about nature. The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of
God. That math underpins all of the laws of nature. And the word geometry itself has Greek roots. Geo
comes from Greek for Earth. Metry comes from Greek for measurement. You're probably used to
something like the metric system. And Euclid is considered to be the father of geometry not because he
was the first person who studied geometry. You could imagine the very first humans might have studied
geometry. They might have looked at two twigs on the ground that looked something like that and they
might have looked at another pair of twigs that looked like that and said, this is a bigger opening. What is
the relationship here? Or they might have looked at a tree that had a branch that came off it like that. And
they said, oh there's something similar about this opening here and this opening here. Or they might have
asked themselves, what is the ratio? Or what is the relationship between the distance around a circle and
the distance across it? And is that the same for all circles? And is there a way for us to feel really good
that that is definitely true? And then once you got to the early Greeks, they started to get even more
thoughtful essentially about geometric things when you talk about Greek mathematicians like Pythagoras,
who came before Euclid. But the reason why Euclid is considered to be the father of geometry, and why
we often talk about Euclidean geometry, is around 300 BC-- and this right over here is a picture of Euclid
painted by Raphael. And no one really knows what Euclid looked like, even when he was born or when
he died. So this is just Raphael's impression of what Euclid might have looked like when he was teaching
in Alexandria. But what made Euclid the father of geometry is really his writing of Euclid's Elements. And
what the Elements were were essentially a 13 volume textbook. And arguably the most famous textbook
of all time. And what he did in those 13 volumes is he essentially did a rigorous, thoughtful, logical march
through geometry and number theory, and then also solid geometry. So geometry in three dimensions.
And this right over here is the frontispiece piece for the English version, or the first translation of the
English version of Euclid's Elements. And this was done in 1570. But it was obviously first written in
Greek. And then during much of the Middle Ages, that knowledge was shepherded by the Arabs and it
was translated into Arabic. And then eventually in the late Middle Ages, translated into Latin, and then
obviously eventually English. And when I say that he did a rigorous march, what Euclid did is he didn't just
say, oh well, I think if you take the length of one side of a right triangle and the length of the other side of
the right triangle, it's going to be the same as the square of the hypotenuse, all of these other things. And
we'll go into depth about what all of these things mean. He says, I don't want to just feel good that it's
probably true. I want to prove to myself that it is true. And so what he did in Elements, especially the six
books that are concerned with planar geometry, in fact, he did all of them, but from a geometrical point of
view, he started with basic assumptions. So he started with basic assumptions and those basic
assumptions in geometric speak are called axioms or postulates. And from them, he proved, he deduced
other statements or propositions. Or these are sometimes called theorems. And then he says, now I know
if this is true and this is true, this must be true. And he could also prove that other things cannot be true.
So then he could prove that this is not going to be the truth. He didn't just say, well, every circle I've said
has this property. He says, I've now proven that this is true. And then from there, we can go and deduce
other propositions or theorems, and we can use some of our original axioms to do that. And what's
special about that is no one had really done that before, rigorously proven beyond a shadow of a doubt
across a whole broad sweep of knowledge. So not just one proof here or there. He did it for an entire set
of knowledge that we're talking about. A rigorous march through a subject so that he could build this
scaffold of axioms and postulates and theorems and propositions. And theorems and propositions are
essentially the same thing. And essentially for about 2,000 years after Euclid-- so this is unbelievable
shelf life for a textbook-- people didn't view you as educated if you did not read and understand Euclid's
Elements. And Euclid's Elements, the book itself, was the second most printed book in the Western world
after the Bible. This is a math textbook. It was second only to the Bible. When the first printing presses
came out, they said OK, let's print the Bible. What do we print next? Let's print Euclid's Elements. And to
show that this is relevant into the fairly recent past-- although whether or not you argue that about 150,
160 years ago is the recent past-- this right here is a direct quote from Abraham Lincoln, obviously one of
the great American presidents. I like this picture of Abraham Lincoln. This is actually a photograph of
Lincoln in his late 30s. But he was a huge fan of Euclid's Elements. He would actually use it to fine tune
his mind. While he was riding his horse, he would read Euclid's Elements. While was in the White House,
he would read Euclid's Elements. But this is a direct quote from Lincoln. "In the course of my law reading,
I constantly came upon the word demonstrate. I thought at first that I understood its meaning, but soon
became satisfied that I did not. I said to myself, what do I do when I demonstrate more than when I
reason or prove? How does demonstration differ from any other proof?" So Lincoln's saying, there's this
word demonstration that means something more. Proving beyond doubt. Something more rigorous. More
than just simple feeling good about something or reasoning through it. "I consulted Webster's Dictionary."
So Webster's Dictionary was around even when Lincoln was around. "They told of certain proof. Proof
beyond the possibility of doubt. But I could form no idea of what sort of proof that was. "I thought a great
many things were proved beyond the possibility of doubt, without recourse to any such extraordinary
process of reasoning as I understood demonstration to be. I consulted all the dictionaries and books of
reference I could find, but with no better results. You might as well have defined blue to a blind man. "At
last I said, Lincoln--" he's talking to himself. "At last I said, Lincoln, you never can make a lawyer if you do
not understand what demonstrate means. And I left my situation in Springfield, went home to my father's
house, and stayed there till I could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight." So the six
books concerned with planar geometry. "I then found out what demonstrate means and went back to my
law studies." So one of the greatest American presidents of all time felt that in order to be a great lawyer,
he had to understand, be able to prove any proposition in the six books of Euclid's Elements at sight. And
also once he was in the White House, he continued to do this to make him, in his mind, to fine tune his
mind to become a great president. And so what we're going to be doing in the geometry play list is
essentially that. What we're going to study is we're going to think about how do we really tightly, rigorously
prove things? We're essentially going to be, in a slightly more modern form, studying what Euclid studied
2,300 years ago. Really tighten our reasoning of different statements and being able to make sure that
when we say something, we can really prove what we're saying. And this is really some of the most
fundamental, real mathematics that you will do. Arithmetic was really just computation. Now in geometry--
and what we're going to be doing is really Euclidean geometry-- this is really what math is about. Making
some assumptions and then deducing other things from those assumptions.
IMPORTANT EXPLANATIONS:

Since theorems in Euclidean geometry are assumed to be true and are the
foundation of much of mathematics, wouldn't almost everything we've learned by
obsolete if this assumption of truth happened to be false?

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Andrew M

6 years ago

Theorems in Euclidean geometry are not assumed to be true, they are true. In math,
you can have absolute truth. 2+2 is 4, there is not doubt about it whatsoever.

Now, if you want to apply math to the real world, you encounter questions about
whether you are applying it properly. If space is flat, then Euclidean geometry
applies, and we have nothing to worry about. We already know, though, thanks to
Einstein, that space is not flat, and we have already learned how to use non-
Euclidean geometry, when necessary, to deal with the types of non-flatness we
know about (gravitational fields, really). We also know that geometry on the surface
of a sphere is non-Euclidean, and we know how to deal with that. The drivers of the
Mars rover do not expect to follow a triangular path whose angles add to 180 and
end up back where they were, because triangles on spheres don't add to 180.

We still do not know the extent to which Euclidean geometry would or would not
apply to the universe in a broad sense, although we have strong evidence that, on
average, space is "flat", ie Euclidean principles will hold
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Rebecca Gray

5 years ago

Were any of Euclid's basic geometric assumptions (or axioms/postulates) ever


shown to be incorrect?

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Christi

5 years ago

There was a big debate for hundreds of years about whether you really needed all 5
of Euclid's basic postulates. Mathematicians kept trying to prove that the 5th
postulate (commonly known as the parallel postulate) could be proved from the first
four postulates and thus was unnecessary. Some really great proofs were created
by mathematicians trying to prove the parallel postulate.

In the late 19th century (approximately 1823), three different mathematicians


(Bolyai, Lobachevsky and Gauss) proved independently that there was a different
system that could be used that assumed the 5th postulate was incorrect. Later
(1868) it was proved that the two systems were equally consistent and as consistent
as the real number system. We can see different versions of systems where the
parallel postulate is false by assuming that either there are no parallel lines, or that
for any line and point not on a line there are an infinite number of parallel lines.

On a side note, in 1890, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll author of Alice in
Wonderland) published a book with a "proof" of the parallel postulate using the first 4
postulates. Not a great proof and written after it was proven that this could not be
proved.

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Rahul Hirlekar

5 years ago

If Euclid studied under Plato and Archimedes why is Euclid the only one credited for
the many theorems?

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Noble Mushtak
5 years ago

Most of the time, if a person has taught someone knowledge and based off of that
knowledge, the person's student accomplishes something, the person is not credited
for his work. The teacher did not do his work, but rather he built the building blocks
to help him do so. I don't think Plato should have any credit of finding Euclid's
theorem, but rather teaching him which led to Euclid finding his theorems.

I hope this helps!

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rayna2rk

6 years ago

At

3:55
Sal talks how postulates are used to deduce theorems. When the postulates were
proven does it make them theorems? If not, what is the difference?

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Matthew Daly

6 years ago

Not quite. The postulates are the things that we assume to be true from the
beginning that form the foundation for all of our theorems. There are five in
Euclidean geometry: that any two points can be connected by a straight line, that
any line segment can be stretched out forever in either direction, that we can always
define a circle given a center and a radius, that all right angles are congruent, and
that for any line and any point not on that line there is exactly one line parallel to the
given line that passes through the given point. None of those postulates can be
defined from each other, but with the five of them we can prove everything in
geometry.

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bathula.yashaswi

5 years ago

Is there a museum where there is an original copy of "The Elements" on display?

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Just Keith

5 years ago

No. That is lost to history. The oldest surviving copy of the original version is at
Oxford and dates to about 888 C.E. There is an older version, which is not the
original but a version edited by Theon of Alexandria, that dates to the fourth century
C.E.

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VanossGaming

5 years ago

Are there any copies of The Elements textbook? I thank you in advance for helping
me.

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Just Keith

5 years ago

Here is an online copy of it.


http://www.archive.org/stream/thirteenbookseu00heibgoog#page/n8/mode/2up
You can get more modern translation from Amazon.com

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Hope

5 years ago

At

4:47
, he says that "People didn't view you as educated if you did not read and
understand the Euclid's Elements." If you think about society today, I for one don't
know anyone who has read the book. What does that say about our expectations of
learning and education? Do you think it was inevitable for the standard of education
to go down?

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Matthew Daly

5 years ago

Surprisingly, you probably know a lot of people who essentially studied from The
Elements, For all intents and purposes, the geometry textbooks used in the United
States (and elsewhere probably) through the 1980's were translations of Euclid's
work except with homework problems and some of the proofs were improved. So
most everyone you know that is over 45 has studied Euclid.

Changing the standards in geometry was a controversial decision and I'm sure it
was a bittersweet day to walk away from the most profound textbook in world
history. Still, I think it was the right decision. From the middle ages through the mid-
twentieth century, geometry was the end of the road for non-mathematicians, so
understanding it the way Euclid did was appropriate. Nowadays, we're expecting
students to get through calculus, so we should teach geometry in a way that
prepares students to learn calculus. This means emphasizing some things a little
more, changing the order in which we present stuff, and leaving out some things that
will make more sense in a calculus class. This is definitely not a reduction in
standards -- someone who graduates from high school today knows far more math
than his or her grandparents had to know.

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Jeremy

6 years ago

I really did not get the video. But I really want a copy of the "Element" textbook so I
can learn more. Does anyone know where to get a copy?

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Matthew Daly

6 years ago

If you search Amazon, you'll find no lack of copies of Euclid's Elements.


Alternatively, any geometry textbook that is more than thirty years old follows
Euclid's path quite precisely. Also, if you google for Euclid's Elements, the top hit will
be a fantastic online companion hosted by Clark University that gives context and
commentary to every proposition along the way.

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shushruth kallutla

4 years ago

can somebody please explain euclids 5th postulate cause i dont get it

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Just Keith

4 years ago

Here is what the Fifth Postulate means, though Euclid didn't state it quite this way:

Two lines intersect a third line.


Measure the interior angles of the two lines on the same side of the third line.
Add the two interior angles together.
If the sum of those two interior angles is less than 180°, then those lines will
intersect on that side of the third line.
If the sum is greater than 180°, then those lines intersect on the other side of the
third line.
If the sum is exactly 180°, then those lines are parallel and will never intersect.

This postulate has never been successfully proven. It only works on flat surfaces
(Euclidean geometries). On curved surfaces, the fifth postulate is not true.