January 28, 2010

Our Nerdiest President

Huh, I had no idea that James A. Garfield was credited with discovering a novel proof for the Pythagorean Theorem (a clever one, too, involving trapezoids). He did this back in 1876, before he became our second assassinated president and while he was still serving in the House—as he tells it, the proof came up in the course of "some mathematical amusements and discussions with other [members of Congress]."

I'm not sure if the country today is better off or worse off for the fact that House members no longer sit around pondering geometry in their spare time. In any case, it seems Garfield was also working on a pretty expansive math-education agenda before he got shot. Oh, and bonus Garfield trivia: He took a nasty swipe at the Mormon Church in his inaugural address (not that it mattered much—the speech was sort of a low-turnout affair).
-- Brad Plumer 6:34 PM || ||