Person: Philon Of Byzantium
Philon was a Greek who wrote about various aspects of Mechanics and worked on the problem of the duplication of the cube.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Vitruvius (1st century BC) was the author of the famous treatise De architectura (On Architecture) and in this work he gives a list of twelve inventors of machines which include Archytas (second in the list), Archimedes (third in the list), Ctesibius (fourth in the list), and Philon of Byzantium (sixth in the list).
- Heron of Alexandria mentions a work by Philon On automatic theatres which in fact forms part of his Mechanics treatise.
- Eutocius also mentions Philon and cites a work by him on the duplication of the cube and this material is again contained in his Mechanics treatise.
- Perhaps the most information about Philon's life, and this is very little indeed, comes from the only work of his which has survived (at least major parts have survived) Mechanics.
- In this treatise he writes about the catapult which was recently invented by Ctesibius, who we mentioned above as coming before Philon in the list of inventors given by Vitruvius.
- From this information we can date Philon fairly accurately and we know that he wrote his treatise Mechanics around 250 BC.
- Before describing the contents of Philon's masterpiece Mechanics let us give some small details of Philon's life which can be deduced from comments which he makes in this text.
- Certainly Philon describes journeys he had made to Rhodes and to Alexandria to study catapults.
- The tone here would suggest that Philon was a wealthy man of independent means able to travel in the pursuit of his studies.
- What exactly was in Philon's Mechanics treatise?
- However Philon has the habit of cross referencing fully in his work so we can learn quite a bit about what was contained in the lost sections by studying the surviving ones.
- Philon argues that those badly injured in attacks so that they cannot work again should be awarded pensions, and that the wives of those killed should be provided for.
- To capture a town through a siege one must, according to Philon, make proper use of machines such as catapults and other war engines.
- It would be interesting to have details of his proposed cryptography but unfortunately Philon's work on this topic has been lost.
- One important mathematical contribution by Philon was to the problem of duplicating the cube.
- However, this is not so for Philon examines the following problem.
Born about 280 BC, Byzantium (Turkey). Died about 220 BC.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Ancient Greek, Geometry, Origin Turkey
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive