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date: 20 January 2021


  • G. J. Toomer
  •  and Reviel Netz


Mathematician (date uncertain, between 325 and 250bce). Nothing is known of Euclid's life: the biographical data linking him with *Alexandria (1) and *Ptolemy (1) I are worthless inferences by late authors ( *Pappus and *Proclus ) who seem to have had no more information about him than we do. His fame rests on the Στοιχεῖα or Elements which goes under his name. It is in thirteen books (bks. 1–4 on plane geometry, 5–6 on proportion theory, 7–9 on the theory of numbers, 10 on irrationals, 11–13 on solid geometry). The work as it stands is the classical textbook of elementary *Mathematics which remained the standard (in many languages and versions) through the Middle Ages to the 20th cent. Its reception itself is less clear and may have been less significant. It does appear that some version (perhaps an epitome) was sometimes used for elementary mathematical education. The work aims to consolidate the ‘tool-box’ available to practising geometers, undoubtedly widely shared even prior to Euclid's work. How much Euclid owed to previous works of the same kind is impossible to say. The work displays in places a remarkably tight, subtle axiomatic structure, showing an authorial control going far beyond mere compilation. The recension by *Theon (4) of Alexandria was the basis of all printed editions before Peyrard's of 1814–18.

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