Another proof of the high level of knowledge of the ancients has been discovered. In this case, the level of development of mathematics in the Babylonian kingdom, which replaced Sumer and Akkad, inheriting science and culture from them.
Babylonian mathematics has long amazed historians. It was much more developed than Egyptian mathematics. The Babylonians solved quadratic equations, compiled multiplication tables, and understood geometric progressions, proportions, and percentages.
This advanced mathematical knowledge probably helped them construct precisely calibrated multi-story ziggurats, which were much more architecturally complex than pyramids.
Suffice it to say that in the Middle Ages, European scientists still used the Babylonian hexadecimal system for fractional parts. Additionally, the tradition of dividing an hour into 60 minutes and a minute into 60 seconds originated in Babylon.
Subsequent civilizations, especially ancient Greece, widely employed the achievements of Babylonian mathematicians and astronomers to advance their own sciences. Some of the discoveries traditionally attributed to the Greeks were, in fact, originally Babylonian discoveries.
This is precisely the case with the famous Pythagorean theorem, considered one of the fundamental theorems of Euclidean geometry. Recently, it was discovered that this theorem is actually a thousand years older than Pythagoras himself, as it was inscribed on an ancient Babylonian tablet.
The Pythagorean theorem establishes the relationship between the sides of a right triangle, which is represented as follows: a² + b² = c², and states that in any right triangle, the sum of the squares of the lengths of the two legs is equal to the square of the length of the hypotenuse.
The Pythagorean theorem is most frequently applied in architecture, construction, and astronomy, as it allows for the rapid calculation of segment lengths.
Pythagoras lived between 570-490 BC, while the dating of the Babylonian mathematical tablet, numbered YBC 7289, places it between 1800-1600 BC. This clay tablet displays a square divided into triangles on one side and several numbers, and a right triangle on the other side.
“The conclusion is inescapable. The Babylonians knew the relationship between the length of the diagonal of a square and its sides,” writes mathematician Bruce Ratner of Rutgers University College in his paper.
Ratner actually published this discovery in 2009, in the journal “Focusing on Measurement and Evaluation for Advertising.” However, it was only recently that journalists learned about it when the article became publicly accessible.
Some media outlets are already suggesting that this might be one of the oldest instances of scientific plagiarism.
According to historical legend, Pythagoras formulated his theorem while examining square tiles on the floor and walls of a palace. However, experts now suggest that he most likely encountered this theorem as he delved into mathematics, and subsequently “popularized it and made it his own.”
Furthermore, Pythagoras’ students may have sought to honor their teacher, leading to the continued attribution of the theorem to Pythagoras himself.
“Out of respect for their leader, many of the discoveries made by the Pythagoreans were also attributed to Pythagoras himself,” Ratner writes.