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Hacking History: Euclid's Equality

April 13, 2013 - 1:15pm -- Toby
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Euclid's Elements of Geometry in English, 1570 photograph by Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, The Ohio State University
Euclid's Elements of Geometry in English, 1570 photograph by Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, The Ohio State University

 

Ever wonder if studying geometry is worth your time? How does Euclidean geometry and postulates of equality like A=C and B=C then A=B help with everyday life?

As a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln routinely applied mathematical logic to his legal cases. As President, he did not waiver in applying these same principles to human rights. When Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay for the film Lincoln, he depicts Lincoln applying Euclidian logic during the turning point of the film.

*SPOILER ALERT*

Lincoln must decide whether to engage the Confederate Army in a possible cease fire or delay negotiations just long enough to pass the 13th amendment abolishing slavery. Lincoln thoughtfully weighs his choices in the presence of two young soldiers ready to telegraph his decision. Lincoln shares with the soldiers his appreciation of Euclid and in particular; "Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another."  In other words, A=C and B=C then A=B. Applying Euclid's Transitive Property of Equality to the human rights issue of slavery, Lincoln decides to stay the course and push for the passage of the 13th amendment.

Euclid was a Greek mathematician who wrote and taught primarily in Alexandria, Egypt during 323-283 BCE (before common era). Centuries later, The Elements of Geometrie is still being read. Take home volume 1 (of 3) or request an appointment with Western History & Genealogy to see the English edition published in 1570 complete with pop-out shapes.

 

Comments

Submitted by Carlyn on
really cool blog - i had no idea about any of this. they should have told us about Lincoln & Geometry when i was in school - i might of study harder!

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