The ancient Greeks are still rightly regarded as one of the most cultured and intelligent societies to have ever existed.  Most would agree that intellectual philosophical thinking that prevails today in western culture began in ancient Greece.  One area that was of particular interest to these deep thinkers was that of mathematics and how the use of it could help them understand that natural world about them without the influences of mythology.  As Greek mathematicians began to understand principles and form theories we saw the emergence of the maths tutor.


Born circa 624BC, Thales was seen by many, including Aristotle, as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition.  His rejection of mythological beliefs saw him look to science as a way of explaining the existence of the universe, which was a key focus of the scientific revolution.  In terms of mathematics, Thales impacted heavily on geometry, using his ideas to calculate things such as the distance of a ship from the shore, or the height of a building.  It is also believed that Thales spent some time acting as a maths tutor and advisor to Pythagoras, who would too go on to great things.


Born not longer after Thales in 570BC, Pythagoras was a mathematician and philosopher who also founded a religious movement called Pythagoreanism.  The sect’s beliefs were heavily influenced by mathematics and as such Pythagoras acted as a maths tutor by teaching his followers his beliefs.  His most enduring influence is the Pythagoras theorem, which explains how in any right angled triangle the squared length of the longest side is equal to the sum total of the squared lengths of the two shorter sides.


Of the four Greek mathematicians considered in this article, Euclid is perhaps the one who has had the greatest impact as a maths tutor.  Although his birth date is not known, he was active circa 300BC and is credited as the author of a maths textbook titled Elements.  The text is one of the most influential in the history of mathematics and was the main source of teaching the subject right up to the early 20th Century, meaning his teachings have reached an audience of millions.


Last by but no means least of our ancient maths tutors is Archimedes, seen as the greatest mathematician in antiquity and one of the greatest of all time.  Much of Archimedes’ work was based on the lever and he used the theories surrounding it to help invent machines such as siege engines.  Whilst his inventions were well known during his own life, his mathematics was not; it was not until 530AD that a compilation of his works were made and studied thoroughly.  Once rediscovered his teachings have proven extremely influential and were a source of inspiration to scientists during the Renaissance.


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