24th May 2024

Baudhayana: The man who discovered ‘pi’



Ancient Indian mathematician Baudhayana is perhaps the first person to calculate the value of ‘pi’. In his text Baudhayana Shulba Sutra, he mentions that the perimeter of the pit is thrice its diameter, so the approximate value of π is 3.

Since Baudhayana was essentially a priest, he used mathematical calculations for facilitating religious constructions such as altars. He used different approximations of the value of π for constructing circular shapes. Some of these values are 676/225 = 3.004, 900/289 = 3.114, and 1156/361 = 3.202. When constructing altars, these values would not have caused any noticeable errors. In 499 AD, Aryabhatta, another Indian mathematician, worked out the accurate value of π to 4 decimal places – 3 x (177/1250) = 3.1416.

It is believed that the Indian mathematician also expounded the Pythagoras theorem in his shlokas. In layman’s language, he explained that a rope stretched across the diagonal of a rectangle produces an area made by the vertical and horizontal sides together. His contemporary Apastamba also aided in providing mathematical proof for the theorem in the Shulba Sutras.

Despite such valuable contributions to mathematics as early as the Vedic age, Baudhayana has not been credited appropriately for his genius.

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