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53
THE GREEKS.

is accessible, or between two points which are visible but both inaccessible; from a given point to draw a perpendicular to a line which cannot be approached; to find the difference of level between two points; to measure the area of a field without entering it.

Heron was a practical surveyor. This may account for the fact that his writings bear so little resemblance to those of the Greek authors, who considered it degrading the science to apply geometry to surveying. The character of his geometry is not Grecian, but decidedly Egyptian. This fact is the more surprising when we consider that Heron demonstrated his familiarity with Euclid by writing a commentary on the Elements.[21] Some of Heron's formulas point to an old Egyptian origin. Thus, besides the above exact formula for the area of a triangle in terms of its sides, Heron gives the formula , which bears a striking likeness to the formula for finding the area of a quadrangle, found in the Edfu inscriptions. There are, moreover, points of resemblance between Heron's writings and the ancient Ahmes papyrus. Thus Ahmes used unit-fractions exclusively; Heron uses them oftener than other fractions. Like Ahmes and the priests at Edfu, Heron divides complicated figures into simpler ones by drawing auxiliary lines; like them, he shows, throughout, a special fondness for the isosceles trapezoid.

The writings of Heron satisfied a practical want, and for that reason were borrowed extensively by other peoples. We find traces of them in Rome, in the Occident during the Middle Ages, and even in India.

Geminus of Rhodes (about 70 B.C.) published an astronomical work still extant. He wrote also a book, now lost, on the Arrangement of Mathematics, which contained many valuable