Pythagoros and the Bean
Williams, Kate Garnons, Contemporary Review
IF you ever wondered what Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician, had to do with Vicia Fava, the humble broad bean, the answer, is absolutely nothing -- on principle. His apparent aversion to the harmless legume was not, however, simply a matter of personal preference -- for all we know he may have been quite partial to the bean; it was a question, believe it or not, of profound philosophical conviction.
Pythagoras is chiefly remembered, with varying degrees of pleasure or pain, for his theorem concerning the right-angled triangle -- 'with', as W. S. Gilbert put it, 'many cheerful facts about the square on the hypotenuse'. But in the sixth century B.C. he attracted more attention as an eccentric, even cranky, philosopher. Driven as a trouble-maker from his native island of Samos, he eventually found his way to Crotona, a Greek colony in southern Italy, but not before he stopped off for a brief stay in Egypt. And it was here, almost certainly, that he picked up many of those decidedly un-Greek ideas on which he based his philosophy and lifestyle.
The Egyptians were an endless source of fascination to the Greeks who felt something of an inferiority complex towards the older and more sophisticated civilisation on the Nile. Herodotus, that much-travelled Greek historian of the fifth century B.C., further stimulated interest …
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Publication information: Article title: Pythagoros and the Bean. Contributors: Williams, Kate Garnons - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 263. Issue: 1533 Publication date: October 1993. Page number: 209+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
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