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Plato's Academy, A Mathematical History Essay

1250 words - 5 pages

Plato's Academy--A mathematical historyThe opening of Plato's Academy in about 387 B.C. is heralded as the turning point in mathematics and was the first European university (Copleston, 127). The word Academy is derived from the name Academos -- the prior owner of the land on which the school was built -- and has become synonymous with higher thought and learning. Prior to the opening of the academy, mathematics was viewed as a subject relevant only to practical matters. Plato regarded the world that we are aware of through our senses as a place of deception, and proposed a world of ideas which were constant and true. (O'Connor and Robertson, Plato). Plato's new philosophy on teaching ...view middle of the document...

Believing that the study of mathematics would provide the finest training for the mind, Plato proposed that the study of math should occupy a student for the first ten years of his education (O'Connor and Robertson, Teaching, 1).Erich Friedman, in Plato states that "All of the most important mathematical work of the fourth century B.C. was done by friends or pupils of Plato, including Eudoxus, Aristotle, and Archytas." S. Copleston in History of Philosophy states that Eudoxus was so impressed with Plato's teachings that he moved his entire School from Cyzicus to the Academy. It would appear then, that Plato's academy was the most influential and respected school of its time. According to O'Connor and Robertson, Plato's works on proof directly influenced the content in Euclid's Elements (Plato, 1), one of the most respected mathematics books of all time.Plato's academy was closed down by Emperor Justinian in 526 AD as it was considered a Pagan establishment. However, the mathematical principles taught at the academy were solid and influenced many generations of mathematicians. Some members of the Academy looked for refuge in the pagan stronghold of Harran (located in modern day Turkey), fueling the Arab Renaissance in the 9th century A.D. (Wikipedia). The renaissance produced many notable mathematicians and mathematical works. For example, at the Bayt al-Hikma (House of wisdom), Al Ma'mum led a translation project that included many Greek texts from Plato's Academy. Abu l'Hasan al-Uqlidisi c.950 used these texts as a basis for his book on Hindu Arithmetic with new additions on algorithms and fractions (Allen, 1).One person to be directly influenced by the Academy was Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), a student of Plato's and a tutor of Alexander the Great. At one point Plato stated that Aristotle was the "intelligence of the school". While not primarily a mathematician, Aristotle wrote extensively on logic and used mathematical examples in his work (Berlinghoff and Gouvea, 19). Aristotle attended the Academy for almost twenty years until Plato's death in 347B.C. The reason he gave for leaving was that he disapproved of the emphasis on mathematics and theory in the Academy, and the decline in natural philosophy (Busse et al. 1). Despite this disapproval, Aristotle's mathematics would leave an outstanding path for others to follow.Aristotle's theories formed the foundation of formal learning during the middle ages and carried down through the next two millennia where his work on infinity influenced Karl...

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