Two thousand years ago, the ratio between the
circumference of a circle and its diameter was
taken to be "3". Although the value was close, as
time went on efforts were made to refine the ratio
to a more precise constant. Greek mathemetician,
Archimedes, correctly asserted that it fell between
3 10/70, and 3 10/71. In the computer age, the
number has been calculated to the one millionth
decimal place, and has been determined to be an
irrational number, without a finite definition.
Ludolph van Ceulen was born at Hildesheim, Germany,
28 January, 1540. Like many Germans during the
Catholic Inquisitions, he emmigrated to The
Netherlands. He taught Fencing and Mathematics in
Delft until 1594, when he moved to Leiden and
opened a Fencing School. In 1600 he was appointed
to the Engineering School at Leiden, where he spent
the remainder of his life teaching Mathematics,
Surveying, and Fortification. He wrote several
books, including one titled "On The Circle", in
which he published his geometric findings.
Ludolph's most famous student, Willebrord Snell,
translated his books into Latin, making them more
accessible to the literary world. Ludolph's most
notable accomplishment was the calculation of the
circumference/diameter ratio to the 35th decimal
place, which he accomplished by using polygons of 2
to the 62nd power sides.(number of sides equals 2
times 2, 62 times).
The number became known in mainland Europe as
the "Ludolphine" number. In 1706, the English
mathematician, William Jones, first referred to the
number as "pi", using the greek letter of the same
name as its symbol. Swiss Mathematician, Leonhard
Euler, popularized the use of "pi" as the official
symbol of the circle ratio, giving us the familiar
symbol we know today. Ludolph van Ceulen died 31
December, 1610, in Leiden, and the 35 places of "pi"
are carved into his tombstone as a tribute to the brilliant mind.
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