Inscribed on a 3700 years old stone tablet is the world’s first ever trigonometry table, which belongs to Babylon and the table is actually more accurate than any of our modern trigonometry tables available even today!
Remember how we all struggled and racked our brains trying to solve those complex trigonometry problems back in school days? Yeah, well, turns out that a Babylonian genius cracket the depths of mathematics 3700 years ago – which is a millennium before Greek mathematician Pythagoras came up with his theory of right angle! The Babylonians beat up ancient Greeks in mathematics, and even us because the clay tablet found is more advanced and accurate than our so-called modern version!
The stone tablet is known as Plimpton 322 and since it is almost a 1000 years older than Pythagoras’ theorem, it proves that Babylonians knew the famous right angled triangles long before Greek geeks found out and gave a name to it. And not just the Pythagoras theorem, but the tablet consists of a series of trigonometric tables – the advance ones. A Babylonian genius probably grabbed a stone tablet and a reed pen to inscribe the invaluable derivation, 3700 years before we even existed. They probably used these calculations to construct buildings and roads.
So what we all get tangled into those sine, cosine and tangent systems of math that ‘torture’ our generations – they were learnt by men as ancient as 3700 years! The city of Babylon is home to those famed Hanging Gardens and is a cradle of ancient human civilisation, which is now a part of Iraq. The Plimpton 322 tablet was found by local scavengers of Iraq, who then sold it to antiques dealer and it was then passed on to an American antiquities enthusiast named Edgar Banks. Interestingly, Banks is said to be the guy who was possibly the inspiration of fictional character Indiana Jones. Banks then passed it to New York publisher George Arthur Plimpton and upon his death, the tablet was donated to Columbia University in 1936.
Ever since then, researchers have been trying to decipher the meaning of that table and was never fully deciphered – until now! It took us almost a century to just decipher and understand what the markings on that ancient trigonometric table meant. Two researcher of University of New South Wales School of Mathematics and Statistics – Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger have finally concluded in their journal named Historia Mathematica, that Plimpton 322 is the world’s oldest trigonometric table! Isn’t history just amazing!