“Such was the ugly face of the Middle Ages. It is not surprising that mathematics made little progress; toward the Renaissance, European mathematics reached a level that, roughly, the Babylonians had attained some 2,000 years earlier and much of the progress made was due to the knowledge that filtered in from the Arabs, the Moors and other Muslim peoples, who themselves were in contact with the Hindus, and they, in turn, with the Far East.

The history of Pi in the Middle Ages bears this out. No significant progress in the method of determining Pi was made until Viete discovered an infinite product of square roots in 1593, and what little progress there was in the calculation of its numerical value, by various modifications of the Archimedean method, was due to the decimal notation which began to infiltrate from the East through the Muslims in the 12th century.

Arab mathematicians came to Europe through the trade in the Mediterranean, mainly via Italy; ironically, the other stream of mathematics was the Church itself. Not only because the mediaeval priests had a near monopoly of learning, but also because they needed mathematics and astronomy as custodians of the calendar. Like the Soviet High Priests who publish Pravda for other but read summaries of the New York Times themselves, sot he mediaeval Church condemned mathematics as devilish for others, but dabbled quite a lot in it itself. Gerbert d'Aurillac, who ruled as Pope Sylvester II from 999 to 1003, was quite a mathematician; so was Cardinal Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464); and much of the work done on Pi was done behind thick cloister walls. And just like the Soviets did not hesitate to spy on the atomic secrets of bourgeois pseudo-science, so the mediaeval Church did not hesitate to spy on the mathematics of the Muslim infidels.”


Petr Beckman, A History of Pi
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A History of Pi A History of Pi by Petr Beckman
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