I’m doing a series with my family where we learn about an important figure every month and learn about their life and theories. I got stuck with the short end of the straw, which obviously means I got stuck with Math. While all my moaning and groaning and whining fell on deaf ears, I actually found that I was enjoying myself. I thought I’d document little short stories here just in case some of you find it interesting as well.
This month’s mathematician is a handsome young Italian man called Leonardo de Pisa (the same place the famous Leaning Tower is from) who was born to a rich merchant who would take the young boy along during his travels to one of his posts in Algeria. Leonardo, who went by his nickname of Fibonacci by then, started showing a fascination towards the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. Not having to work, owing to his riches, Fibonacci decided to travel around the world to discover math in different cultures. His travels took him to many Arabic and Mediterranean countries where he found that the Hindu-Arabic numerals were simpler and more efficient than the Roman numerals he was taught.
All of his learning and travel led him to write the famous Liber Abaci, spreading word on the new numeral system he had picked up. The book was first published 800 years ago and was full of mathematical puzzles. One of the most famous puzzles was –
‘If you put a male and a female rabbit in an enclosed space, how many rabbits will you have at the end of a year?’
The answer can be found using a mathematical model – a pattern that has now come to be called the Fibonacci sequence.
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …
What’s fascinating about the sequence is that the numbers appear everywhere in nature. If you could the bumps on pineapples and pine-cones, the family tree of cows etc. It can also be found in renaissance paintings, in the Pyramids of Giza and many other architectural wonders