By Arturo Sangalli
Princeton University Press, 184 pages, $14.95

Math and Mystery

“Numbers alone might not rule the world of nature created by God, as Pythagoras believed—and in that sense he has been proven wrong—but they increasingly reign over the human-made world that is life in modern society.”

Pythagoras’ Revenge by Arturo Sangalli presents the “what if” premise that Pythagoras did leave a written record of his teachings in his own hand. Since the ancient scholar and mathematician was well known to not allow himself or his disciples to write down his teachings, this would make such a document quite rare and valuable. It also means that it would be difficult to locate if such a document exists at all. That is where the story starts and half the book is searching for this mysterious parchment. The second half of the book focuses on the recovery of the document and finding the possible reincarnation of Pythagoras.

There are references to ancient Greece and mathematical equations throughout the book. One interesting tidbit that came up was that a Pythagorean was at one point a term used for those who abstained from eating meat. The term vegetarian wasn’t coined until 1842. Another point of interest were some the Pythagorean precepts that are briefly mentioned. One such precept states, “Do not devour your heart (meaning, we ought to not to afflict ourselves with grief and sorrow).” For those with an interest in ancient history or mathematics, this might be a fun read.

Reviewed by Jon Sanetel