Ohio, Pythagoras, and the Elusive Calculus Proof
The rich history of the Pythagorean Theorem is traceable to at least 2000 BCE. Ohio hascontributed to that history since the mid 1800s. The Ohioan James A. Garfield (1831-1881) wasthe 20
president of the United States, whose first term was tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet. While still serving in the U.S. Congress, Garfield fabricated one of the most simplistic proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem ever devised.
depicts his trapezoidal dissection proof, a stroke of genius that simply bisects the original diagram attributed to Pythagoras, therebyreducing the number of geometric pieces from five to three.
Figure 1: President Garfield’s Trapezoid
Elisha Loomis (1852-1940), was a Professor of Mathematics, active Mason, andcontemporary of President Garfield. Loomis taught at a number of Ohio colleges and highschools, finally retiring as mathematics department head for Cleveland West High School in1923. In 1927, Loomis published a still-actively-cited book entitled The Pythagorean Proposition,a compendium of over 250 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem—increased to 365 proofs in later editions. The Pythagorean Proposition was reissued in 1940 and finally reprinted by the NationalCouncil of Teachers of Mathematics in 1968, 2
printing 1972, as part of its “Classics inMathematics Education” Series.