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The Elements of Euclid It is a tragedy of mathematics that what we know of Euclids life is so meager It is because of Euclids work that mathematics was able progress so rapidly in classical times Euclids masterpiece The Elements was so popular that it became the most widely read book until the twentieth century with the exception of The Bible However our tragedy lies in what we actually know about Euclid The sources of Euclids life are but a few passages from commentators who claim they knew who Euclid was To this day there have been only five commentators of Euclid which are Proclus Heron Porphyry Pappus and Simplicius Proclus being the most prominent1 Pre-twentieth century The Elements was considered the authoritative standard of basic concepts in geometry number theory and logic It is speculated that Euclid flourished around 300BCE This has been estimated by one of the passages that Proclus wrote in his Commentary on the First Book of Euclids Elements The passage is as follows Not much younger than thesesc Hermotimus of Colophon and Philippus of Medma is Euclid who put together the Elements Collecting many of Eudoxus theorems perfecting many of Theaetetus and also bringing to irrefragable demonstration the things which were only somewhat loosely proved by his predecessors This man lived in the time of the first Ptolemy For Archimedes who came immediately after the first Ptolemy makes mention of EuclidKHe is then younger than the pupils of Plato but older than Eratosthenes and Archimedes for the latter were contemporary with one another as Eratosthenes somewhere says2 Here Proclus mentions people of which we are more clear of their life span such as Plato d 3476BCE Archimedes d 212BCE Eratosthenes d 204BCE and Ptolemy Soter d 283BCE So here we are able to say that Euclid flourished in 300BCE but the exact date of Euclids birth and death cannot be measured with certainty until a new
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