How did the Egyptians Use Math?
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The ancient Egyptians were possibly the first civilization to practice the scientific arts. Indeed, the word chemistry is derived from the word Alchemy which is the ancient name for Egypt. Where the Egyptians really excelled was in medicine and applied mathematics. But although there is a large body of papyrus literature describing their achievements in medicine, there is no records of how they reached their mathematical conclusions. Of course they must have had an advanced understanding of the subject because their exploits in engineering, astronomy and administration would not have been possible without it. The use of organized mathematics in Egypt has been dated back to the third millennium B.C. Egyptian mathematics was dominated by arithmetic, with an emphasis on measurement and calculation in geometry. With their vast knowledge of geometry, they were able to correctly calculate the areas of triangles, rectangles, and trapezoids and the volumes of figures such as bricks, cylinders, and pyramids.
They were also able to build the Great Pyramid with extreme accuracy. Early surveyors found that the maximum error in fixing the length of the sides was only 0.63 of an inch, or less than 1/14000 of the total length. They also found that the error of the angles at the corners to be only 12″, or about 1/27000 of a right angle. Three theories from mathematics were found to have been used in building the Great Pyramid. The first theory states that four equilateral triangles were placed together to build the pyramidal surface. The second theory states that the ratio of one of the sides to half of the height is the approximate value of P, or that the ratio of the perimeter to the height is 2P. It has been discovered that early pyramid builders may have conceived the idea that P equaled about 3.14. The third theory states that the angle of elevation of the passage leading to the principal chamber determines the latitude of the pyramid, about 30o N, or that the passage itself points to what was then known as the pole star.
Ancient Egyptian mathematics was based on two very elementary concepts. The first concept was that the Egyptians had a thorough knowledge of the twice-times table. The second concept was that they had the ability to find two-thirds of any number. This type of thinking led many people to believe that this civilizations was very advanced. Besides the use of geometry for the Great Pyramids, they used it for everyday uses like sewing, hunting, and fishing. Since their race lived off the Nile River this was exact calculations were very important to them.
Furthermore the Egyptians also invented the modern calendar we use today. Even getting the leap year right was nothing to these former mathematicians. It seems like nothing was out of reach for these kings of geometry.