Mathematician (c470 BC – c410 BC)
Except from Hippocrates of Cos, the famous physician and philosopher of antiquity, Greek history has preserved another Great Greek with the name Hippocrates, this one being a renowned mathematician and geometer.
According to ancient literature, he was a merchant. When he lost his goods, he travelled to Athens to earn a living. There, he came into contact with the Pythagoreans and became acquainted with mathematics.
According to Proclus, Hippocrates was the first who wrote treatises on geometry and which had a profound influence on geometry. These were termed Elements of Geometry. He discovered numerous theorems, his most important theorem being the so-called Lune of Hippocrates, which he discovered upon trying to square the circle and was preserved in Euclid’s Elements. Aside from its geometric importance, the Lune of Hippocrates is also presented as a solution to 3rd degree algebraic equations.
Moreover, he attempted to solve the problem of “doubling the cube”. Even though he did not fully achieve it, he reduced its complexity making it simpler to solve for future mathematicians. Another of his great achievements that remains elusive to mathematicians is the use of a theorem that circles are to one another as the squares on their diameter, a theorem that was proved years later by Eudoxus, which paradoxically is already known to Hippocrates.
Hippocrates’ theorems today can only be found through references made in the works of other mathematicians or in German encyclopaedias of sciences. Hippocrates’ contributions to mathematics are but a sample of the level the ancient Greek mathematics had reached in the 5th century BC.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. ”Hippocrates of Chios.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. 26 Feb, 2016.