Pythagoras of Samos
Pythagoras of Samos is often described as the first pure mathematician. He is an extremely important figure in the development of mathematics yet we know relatively little about his mathematical achievements. Unlike many later Greek mathematicians, where at least we have some of the books, which they wrote, we have nothing of Pythagoras's writings. The society, which he led, half-religious and half-scientific, followed a code of secrecy, which certainly means that today Pythagoras is a mysterious figure.
Pythagoras was born around 596 BC in Samos, Ionia and died around 475 BC. Pythagoras's father was Mnesarchus, while his mother was Pythais and she was a native of Samos. Mnesarchus was a merchant who came from Tyre, and there is a story that he brought corn to Samos at a time of famine and was granted citizenship of Samos as a mark of gratitude. As a child Pythagoras spent his early years in Samos but traveled widely with his father.
Certainly he was well educated, learning to play the lyre, learning poetry and to recite Homer. There were, among his teachers, three philosophers who were to influence Pythagoras while he was a young man. One of the most important was Pherekydes who many describe as the teacher of Pythagoras.
Pythagoras founded a philosophical and religious school in Croton that had many followers. Pythagoras was the head of the society with an inner circle of followers known as mathematikoi. The mathematikoi lived permanently with the Society, had no personal possessions and were vegetarians. They were taught by Pythagoras himself and obeyed strict rules. The beliefs that Pythagoras held were:
(1) that at its deepest level, reality is mathematical in nature,
(2) that philosophy can be used for spiritual purification,
(3) that the soul can rise to union with the...