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Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 2351–2355 | Cite as

Alberto A. Martinez: The Cult of Pythagoras: Math and Myths

University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-8229-4418-8, 264 pp, price: $27.95
  • Andreas J. Stylianides
  • Leo F. Rogers
Book Review
  • 307 Downloads

In this book Martinez considers a number of ‘myths’ (or ‘apparent myths’) that are found in the history of mathematics, and asks the question: “[H]ow does history change when we subtract the many small exaggerations and interpolations that writers have added for over 2000 years?” (p. xvi) He criticizes many writers who, as he argues, have invented history, while he distinguishes invention of historical stories from invention in the growth of mathematics itself, which he commends.

Martinez uses the case of Pythagoras, and the findings of his analysis of different historical texts referring to Pythagoras, as a recurring theme in the book to exemplify his thesis that there is “common mismatch between speculations and evidence in history” (p. xvii) and that, “by being careful with sources, we can replace historical myths with accounts that are better and true” (p. 204). He notes that “Pythagoras was a religious leader who eventually became misinterpreted as a great mathematician and...

References

  1. Netz, R. (2003). The history of early mathematics—ways of re-writing. Science in Context, 16(3), 275–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Riedweg, C. (2005). Pythagoras: His life, teaching and influence (trans: Rendallm, S.). Cornell University Press. (Original work published 2002).Google Scholar
  3. Stone, E. (1726). A new mathematical dictionary. London.Google Scholar
  4. Zhmud, L. (1989). Pythagoras as a mathematician. Historia Mathematica, 16, 249–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Zhmud, L. (2012). Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of EducationUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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