Euclid ca. 295 b.c. Greek Mathematician and Philosopher
ca. 295 b.c.
During the Renaissance, scholars rediscovered the writings of many ancient Greek and Roman thinkers. One of the most influential minds of the ancient world was the Greek mathematician and philosopher Euclid. His work became a major resource for scholars, who came to view mathematics as the foundation for science, technology, and many other fields.
Euclid's most influential work was Elements, a mathematical text. Its theory of proportion—that is, how to compare two objects that are the same shape but different in size—not only had many practical uses but also led to new advances in mathematics. The work also laid out strict rules for proving mathematical theories. Many Renaissance thinkers believed that Euclid's system of proof offered a sounder basis for knowledge than any other method.
Over the course of the Renaissance, versions of Euclid's writings appeared in Latin, Italian, German, French, and English. Many of these translations reached an audience of artisans* and other practical workers, as well as scholars. The prefaces of these texts often stressed the uses of mathematics in both practical and philosophical fields. One edition observed that Euclid's ideas could help sailors, architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and even theologians*.
Many of the Renaissance's greatest minds drew on Euclid's ideas. For example, the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus referred to Euclid's work on optics as evidence for his theory that the earth moves around the sun. Euclid's work also influenced Renaissance philosophers, who used his teachings to help them understand other ancient Greek thinkers, such as Plato and Aristotle.
- * artisan
skilled worker or craftsperson
- * theologian
person who studies religion and the nature of God