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The Pythagorean Theorem

as proved by Euclid in 300 B.C. by Tyler Bodi and John Musselman

History

There are hundreds of proofs of this theorem Euclid's proof is significant for “the economy of its prerequisites.” Postulates Common notions First 46 propositions “a rather lean tool kit”

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Pythagorean Theorem had already been proven Intentionally proved it early in his works Climax of Book 1 of the Elements
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The Great Theorem
Proposition 1.47
In right angled triangles, the square on the side subtending the right angle is equal to the squares on the sides containing the right angle. The proof is not intuitive...

Draw right triangle ∆ABC, where BAC is a right angle.

Draw right triangle ∆ABC, where BAC is a right angle. Construct the three squares corresponding to the three sides of ∆ABC.

Draw right triangle ∆ABC, where BAC is a right angle. Construct the three squares corresponding to the three sides of ∆ABC. Construct the parallel to BD through A, intersecting BC at M and DE at L.

Draw right triangle ∆ABC, where BAC is a right angle. Construct the three squares corresponding to the three sides of ∆ABC. Construct the parallel to BD through A, intersecting BC at M and DE at L. Draw AD and FC.

This is the key step and the most nonintuitive!
Now we can begin the proof.

Step 1
GAB is a right angle by construction, and BAC is a right angle by our beginning assumption, so GAC is a straight line.

Step 2 AB  FB because they are sides of the same square and, similarly, BD  BC. ABD = ABC + CBD FBC = ABC + FBA CBD and FBA are both right angles, so ABD  FBC.

Step 2 AB  FB because they are sides of the same square and, similarly, BD  BC. ABD = ABC + CBD FBC = ABC + FBA CBD and FBA are both right angles, so ABD  FBC. And, by SAS, ∆ABD  ∆FBC.

Step 3 Now ∆ABD and rectangle BDLM share a base BD and fall between parallels BD and AL, so area BDLM = 2(area of ∆ABD). (Proposition 1.41)

Step 3 Now ∆ABD and rectangle BDLM share a base BD and fall between parallels BD and AL, so area BDLM = 2(area of ∆ABD). (Proposition 1.41) Similarly, ∆FBC and ABFG share a base BF and fall between parallels BF and GC, so area ABFG = 2(area of ∆FBC). (Proposition 1.41)

Step 3 Now ∆ABD and rectangle BDLM share a base BD and fall between parallels BD and AL, so area BDLM = 2(area of ∆ABD). (Proposition 1.41) Similarly, ∆FBC and ABFG share a base BF and fall between parallels BF and GC, so area ABFG = 2(area of ∆FBC). (Proposition 1.41) Area of BDLM = 2(area of ∆ABD) =2(area of ∆FBC) = area of ABFG.

Step 4 We can follow a similar procedure using BCK and ACE to show that area of ACKH = area of CELM.

Step 4 We can follow a similar procedure using BCK and ACE to show that area of ACKH = area of CELM. Finally we have area of BCED = area of BDLM + area of CELM = area of ABFG + area of ACKH. Q.E.D.

Homework
Prove Proposition 1.48 – the converse of the Pythagorean Theorem: If the lengths of the sides of a triangle satisfy the algebraic equation a2 + b2 = c2, then the triangle is a right triangle. (Hint: use Euclid 1.47)