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2559569 the Pythagorean Theorem Crown Jewel of Mathematics|Views: 278|Likes: 23

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Euclid,along with Archimedes and Apollonius, is

considered one of the three great mathematicians of

antiquity. All three men were Greeks, and Euclid was the

earliest, having lived from approximately 330BCE to

275BCE. Euclid was the first master mathematics teacher

and pedagogist. He wrote down in logical systematic fashion

all that was known about plane geometry, solid geometry,

and number theory during his time. The result is a treatise

known as The Elements, a work that consists of 13 books

and 465 propositions. Euclid’s The Elements is one of most

widely read books of all times. Great minds throughout

twentythree centuries (e.g. Bertrand Russell in the 20th

century) have been initiated into the power of critical

thinking by its wondrous pages.

*Figure 2.8: Euclid’s Windmill without Annotation
*

**37
**

Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean Theorem (Book 1,

Proposition 47) is commonly known as the Windmill Proof

due to the stylized windmill appearance of the associated

intricate geometric diagram, ** Figure 2.8**.

*Note: I think of it as more Art Deco.
*

There is some uncertainty whether or not Euclid was

the actual originator of the Windmill Proof, but that is really

of secondary importance. The important thing is that Euclid

captured it in all of elegant stepbystep logical elegance via

The Elements. The Windmill Proof is best characterized as a

construction proof as apposed to a dissection proof. In

** Figure 2.8**, the six ‘extra’ lines—five dashed and one solid—

are inserted to generate additional

within the diagram needed to prove the result.

geometric objects generated by the intersecting lines are

needed to actualize the proof

associated proof as a

this last statement) is a bit unfair.

How and when the Windmill Proof first came into

being is a topic for historical speculation. ** Figure 2.9**reflects my personal view on how this might have happened.

*Figure 2.9: Pondering Squares and Rectangles
*

**38
**

First, three squares were constructed, perhaps by

the old compass and straightedge, from the three sides of

our standard right triangle as shown in ** Figure 2.9**.The

resulting structure was then leveled on the hypotenuse

square in a horizontal position. The stroke of intuitive

genius was the creation of the additional line emanating

from the vertex angle and parallel to the vertical sides of the

square. So, with this in view, what exactly was the beholder

suppose to behold?

My own intuition tells me that two complimentary

observations were made: 1) the area of the lightlyshaded

square and rectangle are identical and 2) the area of the

nonshaded square and rectangle are identical. Perhaps

both observations started out as nothing more than a

curious conjecture. However, subsequent measurements for

specific cases turned conjecture into conviction and

initiated the quest for a general proof. Ancient Greek genius

finally inserted (period of time unknown) two additional

dashed lines and annotated the resulting diagram as shown

in ** Figure 2.10**. Euclid’s proof follows on the next page.

*Figure 2.10: Annotated Windmill
*

*I
*

*H
*

*F
*

*E
*

*D
*

*C
*

*B
*

*A
*

*G
*

*J
*

*K
*

**39
**

First we establish that the two triangles ** IJD** and

congruent.

)

(

2

)

(

2

)

(

)

(

:

,&

,

:

2

1

*GJA
*

*Area
*

*IJD
*

*Area
*

*GJA
*

*Area
*

*IJD
Area GJA
*

*IJD
*

*GJA
*

*IJD
*

*GJA
*

*IJD
*

*JA
*

*JD
*

*JG
*

*IJ
*

1

!

1

&

1

!

1

&

1

2

1

1

2

1

&

3

!

3

!

!

!

!

The next step is to establish that the area of the square

** IJGH** is double the area of

1

. This is done by carefully

observing the length of the base and associated altitude for

each. Equivalently, we do a similar procedure for rectangle

** JABK** and

1

.

Thus:

)

(

)

(

:

)

(

2

)

(

:

)

(

2

)

(

:

5

4

3

*JABK
*

*Area
*

*IJGH
*

*Area
*

*GJA
*

*Area
*

*JABK
*

*Area
*

*IJD
*

*Area
*

*IJGH
*

*Area
*

!

1

!

1

!

!

!

!

.

The equivalency of the two areas associated with the square

** GDEF** and rectangle

(necessitating the drawing of two more dashed lines as

previously shown in

have enough information to bring to completion Euclid’s

magnificent proof.

(

!

"

&

"

!

"

)

(

)

(

)

(

)

(

)

(

)

(

)

(

:

6

*ACDJ
*

*Area
*

*GDEF
*

*Area
*

*IJGH
*

*Area
*

*BCDK
*

*Area
*

*JABK
*

*Area
*

*GDEF
*

*Area
*

*IJGH
*

*Area
*

!

Modern analytic geometry greatly facilitates Euclid’s

central argument. ** Figure 2.11** is a muchsimplified

windmill with only key dimensional lengths annotated.

**40
**

*Figure 2.11: Windmill Light
*

The analyticgeometry proof below rests on the

central fact that the two right triangles created by the

insertion of the perpendicular bisector are both similar to

the original right triangle. First, we establish the equality of

the two areas associated with the lightly shaded square and

rectangle via the following logic sequence:

4 5

*shadedrect
*

*re
*

*shadedsqua
*

*shadedrect
*

*re
*

*shadedsqua
*

*A
*

*A
*

*a
*

*c
*

*ca
*

*A
*

*a
*

*A
*

*ca
*

*x
*

*ca
*

*ax
*

!

!

!

!

!

&

!

4

2

2

3

2

2

2

1

:

:

:

:

!

!

!

!

.

Likewise, for the nonshaded square and rectangle:

*b
*

*a
*

*cy
*

*x
*

**41
**

*cb
*

*y
*

*cb
*

*by
*

2

1

:

!

&

!

!

4 5

*ct
*

*unshadedre
*

*uare
*

*unshadedsq
*

*ct
*

*unshadedre
*

*uare
*

*unshadedsq
*

*A
*

*A
*

*b
*

*c
*

*cb
*

*A
*

*b
*

*A
*

!

!

!

!

4

2

2

3

2

2

:

:

:

!

!

!

Putting the two pieces together (quite literally), we have:

(

!

"

&

"

!

&

!

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

1

:

*c
*

*b
*

*a
*

*b
*

*a
*

*c
*

*c
*

*Abigsquare
*

!

.

The reader probably has discerned by now that

similarity arguments play a key role in many proofs of the

Pythagorean Theorem. This is indeed true. In fact, proof by

*similarity* can be thought of a major subcategory just like

proof by *dissection* or proof by *construction*. Proof by

*visualization* is also a major subcategory requiring crystal

clear, additive dissections in order to make the Pythagorean

Theorem visually obvious without the help of analytic

geometry. Similarity proofs were first exploited in wholesale

fashion by Legendre, a Frenchman that had the full power

of analytic geometry at his disposal. In Section 2.7, we will

further reduce Euclid’s Windmill to its primal barebones

form via similarity as first exploited by Legendre.

*Note: More complicated proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem usually
are a hybrid of several approaches. The proof just given can be
thought of as a combination of construction, dissection, and
similarity. Since similarity was the driving element in forming the
argument, I would primarily characterize it as a similarity proof.
Others may characteristic it as a construction proof since no
argument is possible without the insertion of the perpendicular
bisector. Nonetheless, creation of a perpendicular bisection creates a
dissection essential to the final addition of squares and rectangles!
Bottom line: all things act together in concert.
*

**42
**

We close this section with a complete restatement of the

Pythagorean Theorem as found in Chapter 2, but now with

the

inclusion

of

the

converse

relationship

0

2

2

2

90

!

&

!

"

$

*C
*

*B
*

*A
*

. Euclid’s subtle proof of the

Pythagorean Converse follows (Book 1 of The Elements,

Proposition 48).

*The Pythagorean Theorem and
Pythagorean Converse
*

Suppose we have a triangle with side lengths

and angles labeled as shown below.

Then:

2

2

2

*C
*

*B
A* !

"

6

!

" $

#

"

** Figure 2.12**on the next page shows Euclid’s original

construction used to prove the Pythagorean Converse. The

shaded

triangle

conforms

to

the

hypothesis

where

2

2

2

*C
*

*B
A* !

"

by design.From the intentional design,

one is to show or deduce that

$

"

#

$

!

"

&

! 0

90

in order

to prove the converse.

*Note: the ancients and even some of my former public-school
teachers would have said ‘by construction’ instead of ‘by design.’
However, the year is 2008, not 1958, and the word design seems to
be a superior conveyor of the intended meaning.
*

*A
*

*B
*

*C
*

"

#

$

**43
**

*Figure 2.12: Euclid’s Converse Diagram
*

Euclid’s first step was to construct a line segment of

length '

*B* where* B
*

*B* !'. Then, this line segment was joined

as shown to the shaded triangle in such a fashion that the

corner angle that mirrors $ was indeed a right angle of 0

90

measure—again by design! Euclid then added a second line

of unknown length* X*in order to complete a companion

triangle with common vertical side as shown in ** Figure**. Euclid finally used a formal verballydescriptive logic

2.12

streamquite similar to the annotated algebraic logic stream

below in order to complete his proof.

Algebraic Logic

Verbal Annotation

2

2

2

1

:

*C
*

*B
A* !

"

!

1] By hypothesis

'

:

2

*B
*

*B* !

!

2] By design

0

3

90

'

: !

3* A
B
*

!

3] By design

2

2

2

4

)'

(

:

*X
*

*B
*

*A
*

!

"

!

4] Pythagorean Theorem

*C
X C
*

*X
*

*B
*

*A
*

*X
*

*B
*

*A
*

*X
*

! &

!

&

"

!

&

"

!

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

5

)'

(

:

!

5] Properties of algebraic

equality

*A
*

*B* "

$

'

*B
*

0

90

*C
*

#

*X
*

**44
**

*X
*

*AB
*

*ABC
*

'

:

6

1

2

1

!

6] The three corresponding

sides are equal in length (** SSS**)

0

7

90

: !

$

!

7] The triangles *ABC
*

1

and

*X
*

*AB*'

1

are congruent

(

!

"

&

!

"

&

!

"

"

&

!

"

"

$

#

" #

" #

" $

#

"

0

0

0

0

8

90 180

90 180

:

!

8] Properties of algebraic

equality

We close this section by simply admiring the simple and

profound algebraic symmetry of the Pythagorean Theorem

and its converse as ‘chiseled’ below

2

2

2

*C
*

*B
A* !

"

6

!

" $

#

"

*B
*

*C
*

" #

$* A
*

**45
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