Pythagoras

b. c. 580 BC,, Samos, Ionia d. c. 500,, Metapontum, Lucania

Greek philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the Pythagorean brotherhood that, although religious in nature, formulated principles that influenced the thought of Plato and Aristotle and contributed to the development of mathematics and Western rational philosophy (see Pythagoreanism).

Pythagoras migrated to southern Italy about 532 BC, apparently to escape Samos' tyrannical rule, and established his ethico-political academy at Croton (now Crotona).

It is difficult to distinguish Pythagoras' teachings from those of his disciples. None of his writings has survived, and Pythagoreans invariably supported their doctrines by indiscriminately citing their master's authority. Pythagoras, however, is generally credited with the theory of the functional significance of numbers in the objective world and in music. Other discoveries often attributed to him (e.g., the incommensurability of the side and diagonal of a square, and the Pythagorean theorem for right triangles) were probably developed only later by the Pythagorean school. More probably the bulk of the intellectual tradition originating with Pythagoras himself belongs to mystical wisdom rather than to scientific scholarship. -- Encyclopedia Brittanica

(580? BC-500? BC). The man who played a crucial role in formulating principles that influenced Plato and Aristotle was the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras. He founded the Pythagorean brotherhood, a group of his followers whose beliefs and ideas were rediscovered during the Renaissance and contributed to the development of mathematics and Western rational philosophy.

Pythagoras was born in about 580 BC on the island of Samos, in the Aegean Sea. It is said he spent his early years traveling widely in search of wisdom. He settled in Crotona, a Greek colony in southern Italy, about 530 BC. A brotherhood of disciples soon gathered around him, inspired by his teachings. The group was strongly religious and devoted to reformation of political, moral, and social life. The order was influential in the region, but eventually its involvement in politics resulted in suppression of the brotherhood. Pythagoras was forced to retire and leave the area. He went to Metapontum, a Greek city in southern Italy. He died there in about 500 BC.

Because none of the writings of Pythagoras have survived, it is difficult to distinguish his teachings from those of his disciples. Among the basic tenets of the Pythagoreans are the beliefs that reality, at its deepest level, is mathematical in nature; that philosophy can be used for spiritual purification; that the soul can rise to union with the divine; and that certain symbols have a mystical significance. Pythagoras is generally credited with the theory of the functional significance of numbers in the objective world and in music. His followers are credited with the development of the Pythagorean theorem in geometry and the application of number relationships to music theory, acoustics, and astronomy. -- Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia

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