Heron of Alexandria

Another worker in applied mathematics belonging to the period under consideration was Heron of Alexandria. His much disputed date, with possibilities ranging from 150 BC to 250 AD, has recently been plausibly placed in the second half of the first century AD. His works on mathematical and physical subjects are so numerous and varied that it is customary to describe him as an encyclopedic writer in these fields. There are reasons to suppose he was an Egyptian with Greek training. At any rate his writings, which so often aim at practical utility rather than theoretical completeness, show a curious blend of the Greek and the Oriental. He did much to furnish a scientific foundation for engineering and land surveying. Fourteen or so treatises by Heron, some evidently considerably edited, have come down to us, and there are references to additional last works. Herons works may be divided into two classes, the geometrical and the mechanical. The geometrical works deal largely with problems on mensuration and the mechanical ones with descriptions of ingenious mechanical devices. The most important of Herons geometrical works in his Metrica, written in three books and discovered in Constantinople by R. Schne as recently as 1896. Book 1 deals with the area mensuration of squares, rectangles, triangles, triangles, trapezoids, various other specialized quadrilaterals, the regular polygons from the equilateral triangle to the regular dodecagon, circles and their segments, ellipses, parabolic segments, and the surfaces of cylinders, cones, spheres, and spherical zones. (Eves, 146.) He is best remembered for having discovered how to find the area of a triangle in terms of the lengths of its sides and for having invented an early steam-powered machine. In fact he created many interesting mechanical devices besides the steam engine and wrote a treatise on surveying (Dioptrica). In his Mechanica, part of which is quoted by Pa…

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