Today was the last day of my work as a volunteer in the University of Central Florida Library Special Collections and University Archives. Starting this Friday, the work I do will be “on the clock.” As for the blog, I intend to keep making entries after every the work day. However, if my schedule becomes too laborious, I may reduce it to a weekly review. Time will tell on which format I use. While deciding on the format of the blog, it would be a shame if I did not mention what was the work for the day.
As I greeted the staff, there were some new faces in the staff to greet as well as the interns for the semester. After greeting everyone, I met with Ms. Rubin on what the nature of this Friday would entail. I clarified the time I would would arrive and the intention of putting in a solid day’s work. She let me know she had a meeting that day, but afterwards she would be available should I need help.
After this small meeting, I gathered the materials needed for the Howard Eves Audio Collection and resumed my “tutelage” on the first floor. Resuming from last week, the first topic Dr. Eves covered was the approximate rectifications of a circle. But, the soon shifted into a subcategory subject regarding The Chronology of Pi (π). This was the extensive subject Dr. Eves spoke of for today.
After briefly touching upon Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian approximations of Pi, Dr. Eves returned to Archimedes and his contributions in developing the Classical Method of Computing Pi. This led to a brief discussion of Claudius Ptolemy and the Table of Cords. During this discussion, Dr. Howard Eves gave his opinion on attempts by some historians to discredit Ptolemy’s work (claiming he borrowed all of the concepts he is credited with) by saying he never understood the drive behind the motivations to do such a thing. From here, he spoke of Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi’s contributions and early mathematicians attempts to extend Pi to prove Pi was a rational number. The audio ended following the contributions of Indian mathematician, Aryabhata.
The second track picked up with the story of the wedding of Bhāskara II’s daughter and the mathematical contributions of Bhāskara II. After this discussion, Dr. Eves reviewed the contributions of Adrianus Romanus (also known as Adriaan van Roomen) and Ludolph van Ceulen. In the middle of this discussion, Dr. Eves tells about paper he wrote on inscriptions written on tombstones of mathematicians (Archimedes especially). Eves briefly touched on Archimedes’ work with spheres and cylinders before relating it to Archimedes’s death, funeral, and burial. He also touched upon the rediscovery of the Tomb of Archimedes by Cicero because of the tomb’s unique design. This related back to Ludolph van Ceulen and his missing tombstone [it was restored in 2000, long after this recording].
Dr. Eves moved on to discuss contributions of Willebrord Snell, John Wallace, James Gregory and the Infinite Series, Abraham Sharp, John Machin, Thomas Fantet de Lagny (and his peculiar death), and Johann Heinrich Lambert proving Pi is irrational. Eves also demonstrated the probability of prime numbers and how it relates to probability of Pi. From this point, contributions of Johann Martin Zacharias Dase and Lightning (Mental) Calculators and William Shanks’ approximation of Pi were reviewed. Dr. Eves demonstrated how numbers can be algebraic before reviewing Ferdinand von Lindemann’s proof of the transcendentalism of Pi (not algebraic). This led to a discussion of mnemonics in mathematics before briefly touching on the 1987 (not 1986, as Eves mentioned) achievement by Yasumasa Kanada, Yoshiaki Tamura, Yoshinobu Kubo and others of calculating Pi to 134 million decimal places. The class is dismissed after this.
The next disc resumed the lecture of the Chronology of Pi, specifically the irrationality of Pi. Adrien-Marie Legendre’s contribution was discussed followed by how D. F. Ferguson checked Shanks’ calculations led to an establishment of a set of rules for Pi. After this, Dr. Eves discussed incidents caused by what he called “The Circle Squaring Disease.” The incidents include how a 1892 writer in New York Tribune claimed to have found a secret of pi, a book claiming to found another calculation of Pi was complimentary donated to libraries across the United States (most kept the book as an oddity), and how the U.S. state of Indiana almost legislated House Bill No. 246 into law that would have left the value of Pi at 3.2 but the bill stalled in the state Senate in 1897.
From this point, Dr. Eves began to lecture a look into the history of Euclid’s Elements. After discussing the importance of the book, Dr. Eves how it influenced his interest in mathematics. That was actually touching to hear and it reminded me of my own interest in history. Dr. Eves gave background context of the book with the aftermath of the Peloponnesian War, the Rise of Alexander the Great (founding of Alexandria), Ptolemy I Soter’s rule, and the Academy of Alexandria. From here, Dr. Eves explained how Euclid founded the Alexandrian School of Mathematics.
Unlike Thales and Pythagoras, Dr. Eves revealed that there were only two anecdotes attributed with Euclid. The first is of the “Royal Road” involving Ptolemy I Soter and Euclid (in short, there is no “Royal Road”). The second is of a student complaining of the purpose of the study of mathematics and Euclid’s answer. Dr. Eves the begins a lecture of a deeper examination of the first book and first four propositions entailed with in it (along with the postulations that make up the propositions). Most of these were constructions that involved the use of collapsing compasses. Before ending the class for the day, Dr. Eves discussed some of the flaws in Euclid’s Elements such as rational coordinates in the geometry used Euclid’s equation and a misunderstanding of Euclid’s meaning behind straight lines (some scholars claimed Euclid said they were “infinite,” while others like Dr. Eves argue Euclid meant they were “boundless”).
As the day came to a class, I was informed of a celebration on the second floor that I could grab some food from. So, after returning all the materials and bid farewell. As I did, I realized there were only ten discs left in the collection to review before coding the finding aid. With my new work schedule, this task should not take long.
Well, this concludes this post as well as the last day as a volunteer. The next time I post on the blog will be as an employee. Please look forward to Friday’s post, though I am not sure how everything will come together but I will do my best to make sense of it in detail. Until then, enjoy the evening. Bye!