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