Diophantus of Alexandria


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Diophantus was born around 200 AD and died around 284AD. He lived in Alexandria, being one of the quite a few famous mathematicians to work in this ancient center of learning. He is often known as the 'father of algebra' although al-Khwarizmi is given the same 'title' by some mathematicians. He is best known for his Arithmetica, his, 'Diophantine' equations, and, more recently, for the note that was written by Fermat in one of the reprints of his Arithmetica.

Almost nothing is known about Diophantus' life. Michael Psellus, an 11 th century Byzantine scholar/politician/scientist mentioned Diophantus and someone who dealt with Egyptian arithmetic, which later led to other people working and developing the same branch of mathematics. A very famous historian of mathematics, Paul Tannery, brother of a famous mathematician, Jules Tannery (who both lived at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century), thought that Hypatia was the first person to describe and comment on Diophantus' mathematics, and that Michael Pseullus quote from her.

Nevertheless, one thing that we know about Diophantus is the riddle which survived from around 500AD to our days:

Diophantus' boyhood lasted 1/6 of his life; he married after 1/7 th more; his beard grew after 1/12 th more, and his son was born 5 years later; the son lived to half his father's age, and the father died 4 years after the son.

So some questions you may ask yourself are:

  1. How old was Diophantus when he died?
  2. When did he marry?
  3. When did he grew his beard?
  4. When was his son born, and when did he die?

Diophanti's Arithmetica is famous for several reasons. See here why!

See some other famous mathematicians here, or even a page where some of them appear when they were kids.


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