Meet the farm boy from Wales who gave the world ‘pi’

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By Gareth Ffowc Roberts For The Conversation
March 14, 2017 at 09:30 AM EDT

 

Math pi-oneer, William Jones. Photo by William Hogarth/National Portrait Gallery

 

One of the most important numbers in maths might today be named after the Greek letter π or “pi”, but the convention of representing it this way actually doesn’t come from Greece at all. It comes from the pen of an 18th century farmer’s son and largely self-taught mathematician from the small island of Anglesey in Wales. The Welsh Government has even renamed Pi Day(on March 14 or 3/14, which matches the first three digits of pi, 3.14) as “Pi Day Cymru“.

The importance of the number we now call pi has been known about since ancient Egyptian times. It allows you to calculate the circumference and area of a circle from its diameter (and vice versa). But it’s also a number that crops up across all scientific disciplines from cosmology to thermodynamics. Yet even after mathematicians worked out how to calculate pi accurately to over 100 decimal places at the start of the 18th century, we didn’t have an agreed symbol for the number.

Editor’s Note: This was sent to me through our website as a referrer, and we felt it was important to share it with you. The rest of the story can be found in its entirety on the PBS Website at the PBS Newshour “The Showdown” titled “Meet the farm boy from Wales who gave the world ‘PI’

Please click on the link to take you to the PBS website for the complete story.

About the Authror:
Gareth Ffowc Roberts is emeritus professor of Education at Bangor University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article on “the conversation website..

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