
Eratosthenes
by Sara RullánGulf Coast Community College
Throughout the history of mankind there have only been a handful of people whose extraordinary contributions have been crucial to the development of our society. One such pillar of history is Eratosthenes, whose name is revered by even the most renowned scholarly minds of our time. Although Eratosthenes is most commonly known for his mathematical accomplishments, he is also celebrated for his achievements in geography, astronomy, history, philosophy, and even poetry. Eratosthenes was born around 276 B.C. in the Greek colony of Cyrene.
One of Eratosthenes chief accomplishments was the sieve of Eratosthenes, a method of finding prime numbers. The sieve works by listing a sequence of natural numbers. Then 1 is crossed off since 1 is not a prime. Then 2 is circled since it is the first prime, and every multiple of 2 is crossed off. Next 3 is circled since it is a prime, and then every multiple of 3 is crossed off. This process continues until the only numbers left are prime numbers (Gulberg 77). Illustrated is how the sieve works for the first 40 natural numbers.
The first 40 natural numbers.
Eratosthene’s sieve showing the primes in the first 40 numbers.
Another of Eratosthenes’
outstanding accomplishments lies in the field of geography.
He had created the most accurate map of his time by using mathematical
principles. He was also the first
person to use meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude.
His geographical data was regarded as the fundamental authority for
centuries (Burton177). He measured
the circumference
of the Earth with incredible accuracy by comparing the noon shadows of Syene and
Alexandria (Eratosthenes 3). He also accurately measured the tilt of the Earths
axis. It is believed that
Eratosthenes
He was also a historian who recorded the history of Greece based on factual documentation instead of legendary stories. Chronographiai and ailympionikai are two historical books he wrote by using Olympiad records (Young 161). Eratosthenes held the title of chief librarian at the distinguished library of Alexandria for forty years of his life. After losing his eyesight, he committed suicide by starving himself to death. It is believed that he did not wish to live without being able to read. Eratosthenes died in 194 B.C., yet he will be forever immortalized through his paramount works, discoveries, and achievements.
References
Biographical Dictionary of
Mathematicians. New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons,
1991. Burton, D.M. The History of
Mathematics An Introduction. Boston: WCB/McGrawHill,
1999. “Eratosthones” http://wwwhistory.mcs.stand.ac.uk/history/Mathematicians/
Eratosthenes.html. Feb.9, 2000. “Eratosthenes” http://www.math.bme.hu/mathhist/Mathematicians/Eretosthenes.html
February 9, 2000. Gulberg, J. Mathematics from
the Birth of Numbers. New York: W.W. Norton and
Company, 1997. Young, R. V. Notable
Mathematicians from Ancient Times to the Present. Detroit:
Gale, 1998.
