Was Pythagorean Theorem Discovered in India Centuries Before a Greek Got Credit for It?

I’ve just read a fascinating book entitled The Science of the Sacred: Ancient Perspectives for Modern Science. It’s a free PDF you can download by clicking the title in the previous sentence. Lushly illustrated and painstakingly researched, this book has absolutely fascinated me from the beginning.

I was startled to learn a number of historically explosive facts from my reading of this book, and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about them in coming weeks and months. But perhaps the most intriguing update to the history of science that I encountered in this 2010 work compiled by David Osborn is the origin of the Pythagorean theorem.

You may remember this theorem from high school geometry. It is an equation that describes the relationships of the lengths of the sides of a right triangle. In its basic form, if you know the length of any two sides, you can easily compute the length of the third side from a relatively simple quadratic equation:


Pythagoras, who lived in the 6th century BCE, has been credited with the discovery of this important relationship. But the theorem appears in two separate ancient works from India. One of those works, the Sulba Sutra, dates to the 8th century BCE, and clearly lays out the theorem, which was important in the construction of altars and other religious objects.

Interestingly, the Euclidean proofs for the theorem are considerably more complex than those set forth in the Vedic mathematics texts. As the article in the cited book says:

The proof of this fundamentally important theorem is well known from Euclid’s time until the present for its excessively tedious and cumbersome nature; yet the Vedas present five different extremely simple proofs for this theorem.

Stay tuned for more observations on this subject because I find it deeply intriguing!


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