Pappus of Alexandria

Pappus of Alexandria (c290-c350 AD) was one of the last great Greek mathematicians of antiquity. Pappus was the most important mathematical author writing in Greek during the later Roman Empire and is well known for his compendium of mathematics in eight volumes, the bulk of which survives. It covers a wide range of topics, including geometry, recreational mathematics, doubling the cube, areas and volumes of solids, projective geometry and polyhedra. This great voluminous collection is known as the synagogue (“collection” in Greek). 

Pappus deeply influenced both Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers and mathematicians of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, including Pacioli, Leonardo da Vinci, Descartes, Keplar, Bernoulli, Euler, Gauss, Newton and Fermat. Pappus greatly influenced the development of 3D geometry and analytical geometry including the introduction of three axes mutually at 90 degrees to describe three-dimensional space: the x, y and z axes that modern mathematicians use in advanced mathematics today. Pappus’ discoveries led Descartes to the application of the x, y and z coordinates in expressing functions in both 2D and 3D geometry.

Pappus was also instrumental in discovering methods for determining areas and volumes of geometrical curves and polyhedra. Amongst his many mathematical discoveries, he discovered major theorems that are now named after him, which involve the areas and volumes generated when mathematical planes are rotated about geometrical axes. Pappus’s outstanding achievements in mathematics, together with the great work of Archimedes, contributed to the development of calculus, including integration. Furthermore, Pappus’ centroid theorem that describes the surface areas and volumes of solids generated mathematically have contributed to the development of modern mathematics and mechanics, and his theorems are now taught in university degrees in pure and applied mathematics.


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