Pythagoras, sixth century, B. C.

[Mentioned in Miscellaneous Writings, p. 344]

Pythagoras was born on the island of Samos, where his father, a Phoenician merchant, had settled and obtained the rights of citizenship. Here Pythagoras received his early education. According to legend he traveled far, even to India and Babylon; scholars agree that he visited Egypt and possibly other Mediterranean countries. When he left Samos, finally, to escape the tyranny of Polycrates, Pythagoras was revered as a philosopher, scholar, and teacher.

He settled at Croton, in southern Italy, and founded there a religious brotherhood or school of disciple, which had for its aim the moral reformation of society. The Pythagoreans hoped by rites and abstinences to purify the soul of man so that it might escape the "wheel of birth." The school may have been the earliest residential university in Europe. Women for the first time in Magna Graecia were allowed to seek higher education. Pythagoras taught the kinship of men and beasts, and he taught also the immortality as well as the transmigration of the soul. He advised noninterference with those who worshiped the popular gods. He is reputed to have said, "Do not poke the fire with a sword."

Pythagoras is credited with the creation of mathematical science and with the placing of geometry in a liberal education. He discovered that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.

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Signs of the Times
April 9, 1960

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