Solutions of Pythagorean Equation

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Theorem

Primitive Solutions of Pythagorean Equation

The set of all primitive Pythagorean triples is generated by:

$\left({2 m n, m^2 - n^2, m^2 + n^2}\right)$

where:

$m, n \in \Z_{>0}$ are (strictly) positive integers
$m \perp n$, that is, $m$ and $n$ are coprime
$m$ and $n$ are of opposite parity
$m > n$.


General Solutions of Pythagorean Equation

Let $x, y, z$ be a solution to the Pythagorean equation.

Then $x = k x', y = k y', z = k z'$, where:

$\left({x', y', z'}\right)$ is a primitive Pythagorean triple
$k \in \Z: k \ge 1$


Sequence

The sequence of solutions of the Pythagorean equation can be tabulated as follows:

$\begin{array} {r r | r r | r r r | c} m & n & m^2 & n^2 & 2 m n & m^2 - n^2 & m^2 + n^2 \\ \hline 2 & 1 & 4 & 1 & 4 & 3 & 5 & \text{Primitive} \\ \hline 3 & 1 & 9 & 1 & 6 & 8 & 10 \\ 3 & 2 & 9 & 4 & 12 & 5 & 13 & \text{Primitive} \\ \hline 4 & 1 & 16 & 1 & 8 & 15 & 17 & \text{Primitive} \\ 4 & 2 & 16 & 4 & 16 & 12 & 20 \\ 4 & 3 & 16 & 9 & 24 & 7 & 25 & \text{Primitive} \\ \hline 5 & 1 & 25 & 1 & 10 & 24 & 26 \\ 5 & 2 & 25 & 4 & 20 & 21 & 29 & \text{Primitive} \\ 5 & 3 & 25 & 9 & 30 & 16 & 34 \\ 5 & 4 & 25 & 16 & 40 & 9 & 41 & \text{Primitive} \\ \hline 6 & 1 & 36 & 1 & 12 & 35 & 37 & \text{Primitive} \\ 6 & 2 & 36 & 4 & 24 & 32 & 40 \\ 6 & 3 & 36 & 9 & 36 & 27 & 45 \\ 6 & 4 & 36 & 16 & 48 & 20 & 52 \\ 6 & 5 & 36 & 25 & 60 & 11 & 61 & \text{Primitive} \\ \hline 7 & 1 & 49 & 1 & 14 & 48 & 50 \\ 7 & 2 & 49 & 4 & 28 & 45 & 53 & \text{Primitive} \\ 7 & 3 & 49 & 9 & 42 & 40 & 58 \\ 7 & 4 & 49 & 16 & 56 & 33 & 65 & \text{Primitive} \\ 7 & 5 & 49 & 25 & 70 & 24 & 74 \\ 7 & 6 & 49 & 36 & 84 & 13 & 85 & \text{Primitive} \\ \hline \end{array}$


Historical Note

It is clear from the cuneiform tablet Plimpton $\mathit { 322 }$ that the ancient Babylonians of $2000$ BCE were familiar with this result.

The complete solution of the Pythagorean equation was known to Diophantus of Alexandria.

It forms problem $8$ of the second book of his Arithmetica.

It was in the margin of his copy of Bachet's translation of this where Pierre de Fermat made his famous marginal note that led to the hunt for the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.


Sources