Person: Eudemus Of Rhodes
Eudemus was a Greek who was the first major historian of mathematics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Simplicius informs us that a biography of Eudemus was written by Damas, who is unknown but for this reference, but sadly no trace of this biography has been found.
- Aristotle spent time in Athens, Assos and other places and it would certainly be good to understand when Eudemus studied with him.
- Aristotle had two followers, Eudemus and Theophrastus of Lesbos, who were known as his "companions".
- We should make it clear, however, that there was another philosopher called Eudemus associated with Aristotle, namely Eudemus of Cyprus and it was this other Eudemus after whom Aristotle named his famous text Eudemus.
- When Aristotle realised that he had only a short time left to live he chose his successor between his two companions, Eudemus and Theophrastus.
- He chose Theophrastus and it appears that Eudemus, although not unhappy with the decision, left Athens and set up his own school, probably back on his native Rhodes.
- To say that Eudemus was not an original mathematician may be fair but just a little harsh, for we do know through Proclus that he wrote an original mathematical work called On the Angle.
- We know of three works on the history of mathematics by Eudemus, namely "History of Arithmetic" (two or more books), "History of Geometry" (two or more books), and "History of Astronomy" (two or more books).
- The History of Geometry is the most important of the three mathematical histories of Eudemus.
- We are fortunate therefore that much of the knowledge that Eudemus had of the history of Greek mathematics before Euclid (it had to be before Euclid given the dates when Eudemus was writing) has reached us despite the fact that he book has not.
- In many of the articles in this archive we have quoted from accounts based on Eudemus.
- To illustrate with one example, the work of Hippocrates on the quadrature of lunes is only known to us through Eudemus's History of Geometry.
- In particular Thales' eclipse prediction was described in Eudemus's work and we believe that Eudoxus's system of concentric spheres was first described there and later transmitted to us through the writing of Simplicius in the second century AD.
- We have described above the important contributions of Eudemus to mathematics.
- But for Eudemus we might not have had access to the works of Aristotle for he used his own lecture notes, Aristotle's lecture notes and recollections from memory to produce volumes of Aristotle's work fit for publication.
- One further work is definitely due to Eudemus, namely a work on Physics which was a treatise in four books following the work by Aristotle of the same title fairly closely.
- Simplicius had a copy of this work which he found very helpful in understanding Aristotle's Physics and perhaps this was precisely the role the Eudemus intended for the work.
- Another work by Eudemus was on logic, in fact he may well have written two logic books and he also wrote On Discourse.
- Some works by Eudemus are harder to identify with Eudemus of Rhodes and may have been written by others with the same name.
- Certainly there are many references to a work on animals written by a certain Eudemus and one of the references certainly does refer to Eudemus of Rhodes.
- Again there is a reference which seems to imply that Eudemus wrote a history of theology and again this seems highly probable.
- Many authors refer to Eudemus as the 'pious Eudemus' due to his belief in the 'contemplation of God'.
- This however may be due to editing by a later Christian who would have seen that clearly Eudemus meant 'contemplation of God' rather than what is much more likely what he wrote 'contemplation of Mind' and "corrected" the text accordingly!
Born about 350 BC, Rhodes, Greece. Died about 290 BC.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Ancient Greek, Astronomy, Geometry, Origin Greece
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive