Apollonius of Perga

Born: about 262 BC in Perga, Greek Ionia (now Turkey)
Died: about 190 BC in Alexandria, Egypt

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Apollonius was known as 'The Great Geometer'. His famous book Conics introduced the terms parabola, ellipse and hyperbola.
Apollonius of Perga studied in Alexandria and he then visited Pergamum where a university and library similar to Alexandria had been built.

While Apollonius, 'The Great Geometer', was at Pergamum he wrote the first edition of his famous book Conics . In Conics Apollonius introduced for the first time the terms parabola, ellipse and hyperbola which we use so frequently today.

Conics consists of 8 books. Books 1 to 4 do not contain original material but introduce basic properties of conics that were known to Euclid, Aristaeus and others. Books 5 to 7 are highly original. In these he discusses normals to conics and shows how many can be drawn from a point. He gives propositions determining the centre of curvature which lead immediately to the Cartesian equation of the evolute.

Most of his other work is lost. In fact Book 8 of Conics is lost while 5 to 7 only exist in Arabic translation. However we know something of his other work from the writings of others. We know that he obtained an approximation for pi better than the 22/7 < pi < 223/71 known to Archimedes. In On the Burning Mirror he showed that parallel rays of light are not brought to a focus by a spherical mirror (as had been previously thought) and discussed the focal properties of a parabolic mirror.

He was also an important founder of Greek mathematical astronomy, which used geometrical models to explain planetary theory.

References (17 books/articles)

Some pages from works by Apollonius:

The frontispiece from Conics (1710 translation)
Another page

References elsewhere in this archive:

Show me the circles of Apollonius

Tell me about the evolute

There is a Crater Apollonius on the moon. There is also a Rimae Apollonius. You can see a list of lunar features named after mathematicians.

Other Web sites:

Clarke University, USA

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JOC/EFR December 1996