Alexandria was a center of learning in the ancient world. It is situated at the top of the river Nile, in Lower Egypt.
Many famous mathematicians lived in Alexandria, such as
Alexandria was also famous for one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Here are three of the famous Seven:
Click on the two bottom images to see how they are related to the history of Maths.
It is believed that the Library was created when Demetrius, a ruler of Greece, suggested to Ptolemy (the most famous philosopher/scientist of the day) that he should start collecting books on the world's peoples and the ways they organised their countries and their lives. Most libraries at that time were collections of manuscripts owned by private individuals. Plato's own collection was, according to some scholars, passed on to the Alexandrian library.
The library consisted of two buildings - the main library and the smaller library. The main library contained about 400 000 rolls and the smaller library about 40 000. Most of the rolls contained more than one book, but there were some rolls that were only one book. These rolls were kept in clay jars and each jar contained a list of contents. Some rolls were kept in wooden chests which were called armaria.
The first recorded librarin was Zenodotus of Epesus; the second was a poet Calimachus of Cyrene, who was a teacher of Eratosthenes. Eratosthenes became the third librarian when his teacher died. It is here that he devised his famous 'sieve'.
Alexandria was the capital of learning and writing during the time that the library existed. Every roll was written by hand. Even the Old Testament came to us mainly from Greek translators who worked in the Alexandrian Library.
There are several stories about how the library was destroyed. One such story tells of Julius Caesar setting the ships in the harbour on fire, which then spread throughout the town and eventually to the library itself.
Second version tells how Orestes, the city Prefect, ordered Christians to be slaughtered - which eventually led to the mob killing Hypatia - the first famous female mathematician, and the library being burnt at the same time.
Yet another version tells how Caliph Omar in 640 AD took the city of Alexandria and destroyed what was left of the holdings of the library because he heard that some books in it did not agree with his own beliefs.
On an optimistic note, there has been a revival of interest in the Alexandrian library and a new library was built near the site of where it is believed the old one stood. See everything about the new library here.
See some other famous places from the history of mathematics here.
Learn about famous nations and their contribution to mathematics here.
Can you find out about all seven ancient wonders of the world? What would you say today's seven wonders of the world are? Send me an e-mail with suggestions - and I'll post them on the site.
Climb the mathematical tree and see what branches you end up exploring! Click on the picture below.