Mathematician:Mathematicians/Sorted By Nation/Greece

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For more comprehensive information on the lives and works of mathematicians through the ages, see the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, created by John J. O'Connor and Edmund F. Robertson.

The army of those who have made at least one definite contribution to mathematics as we know it soon becomes a mob as we look back over history; 6,000 or 8,000 names press forward for some word from us to preserve them from oblivion, and once the bolder leaders have been recognised it becomes largely a matter of arbitrary, illogical legislation to judge who of the clamouring multitude shall be permitted to survive and who be condemned to be forgotten.'
-- Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics, 1937, Victor Gollancz, London

Contents

Greece

Thales of Miletus (c. 625 – 547 BCE)

Thales of Miletus was a Greek mathematician, scientist, philosopher and astronomer, who (amongst other things) predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BCE.
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Anaximander of Miletus (611 – 546 BCE)

Anaximander of Miletus was a Greek philosopher who learned the teachings of his master Thales of Miletus.

He succeeded Thales as master, and may have taught Pythagoras.
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Pythagoras of Samos (between 580 and 572 BCE – between 500 and 490 BCE)

Greek philosopher whose contributions to mathematics were perhaps more limited than is generally believed.

Best known for being said to have provided the first known proof of Pythagoras's Theorem (or one of his students did) which had probably been known to the ancient Egyptians.
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Hippasus of Metapontum (5th century BCE )

Greek: Ἵππασος.

Philosopher of the Pythagorean school.

Credited with the construction of the dodecahedron within the sphere.

Also sometimes credited with the discovery of irrational numbers.

Supposed to have drowned at sea, as a punishment for having revealed the existence of either irrational numbers, or the construction of the dodecahedron.

Supposedly founded the branch of the Pythagorean school known as the Mathematici.
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Zeno of Elea (c. 490 – c. 430 BCE)

Greek: Ζήνων ὁ Ἐλεάτης.

Pre-Socratic philosopher of southern Italy.

Member of the Eleatic School founded by Parmenides. Aristotle called him the "inventor of the dialectic".

Best known for his paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell described as "immeasurably subtle and profound".
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Oenopides of Chios (c. 490 – c. 420 BCE)

Mathematician, geometer and astronomer.

Little is known about him except that he came from the island of Chios, and is generally believed to have lived and worked in Athens in his youth.

Estimated the tilt of the Earth's axis with respect to the ecliptic as $24^\circ$.

May have introduced the rule that all geometric constructions must be done with a straightedge and compass.
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Hippocrates of Chios (c. 470 – 410 BCE)

Mathematician, geometer and astronomer.

The first to write a systematic textbook on geometry, Elements of Geometry, only a fragment of which survives.

Invented the technique of reduction, that is, transforming a mathematical problem into a more general, easily solvable one.

Demonstrated that the problem of Doubling the Cube is equivalent to finding the Cube Root of 2.

May have been a pupil of Oenopides of Chios.
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Socrates (c. 469 – 399 BCE)

Socrates (Greek: Σωκράτης, Sōkrátēs) was a Greek philosopher, a teacher of Plato.

Although no writings of his survive (if there ever were any), much of his philosophy has been documented in the works of Plato.

Executed by hemlock in $399$ BCE supposedly for the crime of corrupting the young.
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Theodorus of Cyrene (465 – 398 BCE)

Ancient Libyan Greek mathematician best known for the mathematical theorem now known as the Spiral of Theodorus.

Taught mathematics to Plato.

Proved that the square roots of the natural numbers from $3$ to $17$, except for $4$, $9$ and $16$, are irrational.
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Democritus (c. 460 – 370 BCE)

Democritus (Greek: Δημόκριτος, Dēmokritos, chosen of the people) was a Greek mathematician and philosopher, most famous for his atomic theory of the universe.

Also cited by Archimedes as having discovered the formula for the volume of a cone as being one third the volume of a cylinder of the same base and height, and the similar formula for the volume of a pyramid.
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Hippias of Elis (c. 460 – c. 390 BCE)

Greek sophist who lectured on poetry, grammar, history, politics, mathematics, and much else.
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Archytas of Tarentum (c. 428 – c. 350 BCE)

Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and strategist.

He was a scientist of the Pythagorean school.

Reputedly the founder of mathematical mechanics.
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Plato (428/427 – 348/347 BCE)

Plato (Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn, "broad") was a Greek philosopher, a student and friend of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle.

Importantly documents the philosophy of Socrates.

Of particular importance was his insistence on the idea of proof.
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Eudoxus of Cnidus (410 or 408 BCE – 355 or 347 BCE)

Greek astronomer and mathematician.

Pioneered work on proportion.

Introduced the astronomical globe.

Developed the method of exhaustion, this being an early precursor to integral calculus. This was later exploited by Archimedes.

Studied and practised medicine, and was also a practising legislator.
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Dinostratus (c. 390 BCE – c. 320 BCE)

Dinostratus (Greek: Δεινόστρατος) was a Greek mathematician and geometer

Known for using a quadratrix, specifically the Trisectrix of Hippias, to solve the problem of Squaring the Circle.
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Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE)

Aristotle (Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης, Aristotélēs) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.

Frequently cited as having been the inventor of the field of study known as (classical) logic.

Phenomenally influential philosopher whose works (for better or for worse) shaped the entirety of the intellectual development of the Western world for over a millennium.

Most important from the point of view of mathematics for formulating the Principle of Non-Contradiction and the Law of the Excluded Middle.
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Menaechmus (c. 380 BCE – c. 320 BCE)

Menaechmus (Greek: Μέναιχμος) was a Greek mathematician and geometer.

Known for his friendship with Plato.

Apparently discovered conic sections, and used them to provide a solution to the problem of Doubling the Cube using the parabola and hyperbola.
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Aristaeus the Elder (c. 370 BCE – c. 300 BCE)

Differentiated by Pappus of Alexandria from another later Aristaeus whose existence is no longer recorded.

Did considerable work on conic sections, but this was rendered obsolete by subsequent work by Apollonius.

Proved that "the same circle circumscribes both the pentagon of the dodecahedron and the triangle of the icosahedron inscribed in the same sphere."
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Eudemus of Rhodes (c. 370 BCE – c. 300 BCE)

In Greek: Εὔδημος. Ancient Greek philosopher, considered the first historian of science.

A pupil of Aristotle, who edited and interpreted his teacher's work so as to make it more easily accessible.
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Diodorus Cronus (c. 350 – c. 284 BCE)

Greek philosopher who propagated the interpretation of the conditional statement as a formal implication, as opposed to the more inclusive Rule of Material Implication.
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Aristarchus of Samos (310 – 230 BCE)

Greek astronomer and mathematician who used parallax to determine the relative distances of the moon and the sun.

His result was inaccurate, based as it was on faulty input data, but the method was sound.

One of the first to suggest a heliocentric universe.
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Euclid (c. 300 BCE )

In Greek: Εὐκλείδης (Eukleídēs), also known as Euclid of Alexandria.

Little is known about him, apart from:

  • He taught in Alexandria (then a Macedonian colony);
  • He assembled the geometry text The Elements, possibly the most famous mathematics text book of all time.


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Philo of Megara (c. 300 BCE )

Greek philosopher who worked on establishing the Rule of Material Implication, differentiating it from formal implication.

A pupil of Diodorus Cronus, who favoured the interpretation of formal implication.
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Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 – 212 BCE)

Greek mathematician, physicist, astronomer, engineer and general all-round inventor.

Perfected the method of exhaustion.
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Conon of Samos (c. 280 – c. 220 BCE)

Greek astronomer and mathematician.

Noted for naming the constellation Coma Berenices.

According to Pappus, the discoverer of the spiral of Archimedes.

According to Apollonius of Perga, Conon worked on conic sections, and his work became the basis for Apollonius' fourth volume of the Conics.
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Nicomedes (c. 280 – c. 210 BCE)

Ancient Greek mathematician about whom almost nothing is known.

Creator of the curve now known as the Conchoid of Nicomedes, which he used for Doubling the Cube.
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Eratosthenes of Cyrene (c. 276 – c. 195 BCE)

Ancient Greek: Ἐρατοσθένης.

Greek geometer and astronomer best known for his estimate of the size of the Earth.

Also famous for his Sieve of Eratosthenes.
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Apollonius of Perga (c. 262 – c. 190 BCE)

Ancient Greek: Ἀπολλώνιος, also known (in the Latin form) as Pergaeus.

Greek geometer and astronomer best known for his work on conic sections, in which he uses techniques in analytic geometry which anticipated the work of Descartes.

Greatly influential, he provided the names of the ellipse, parabola and hyperbola.
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Dositheus of Pelusium (c. 250 BCE )

Greek astromnomer and mathematician who was a friend or pupil of Conon of Samos.

On the death of Conon, Archimedes of Syracuse chose Dositheus to be the recipient of several treatises, including On the Quadrature of the Parabola, On Spirals, On the Sphere and Cylinder (two books), and On Conoids and Spheroids.
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Diocles of Carystus (c. 240 – c. 180 BCE)

Greek mathematician and geometer, thought to be the first person to prove the focal property of the parabola.

Also associated with the Cissoid of Diocles, which was used by Diocles to solve the problem of Doubling the Cube.
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Theodosius of Bithynia (c. 160 – c. 100 BCE)

Greek astronomer and mathematician best known for writing Sphaerics, a book on spherical geometry.

According to Vitruvius, he is supposed to have invented a sundial which would work anywhere in the world.

Sometimes confused with various other writers called Theodosius. On this basis, often erroneously believed to have been born in Tripolis.
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Proclus Lycaeus (412 – 485)

Greek philosopher (usually known as Proclus, also as Proclus Diadochus) who among other things produced a commentary on Book $\text I$ of Euclid's The Elements.
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Constantin Carathéodory (1873 – 1950)

Otherwise known as Constantine Karatheodori (in Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή).

Greek mathematician who contributed to the theory of functions of a real variable, the calculus of variations and measure theory.

Also worked on rationalisation of the theory of thermodynamics.
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Yiannis Nicholas Moschovakis (b. 1938 )

In Greek: Γιάννης Μοσχοβάκης.

Greek mathematician known for his work in the fields of set theory, descriptive set theory and recursion theory.
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Charalambos Dionisios Aliprantis (b. 1946 )

In Greek: Χαράλαμπος Διονύσιος Αλιπράντης. Known informally as Roko Aliprantis.

Greek-American economist and mathematician who introduced Banach space and Riesz space methods in economic theory.
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