History of the Golden Proportion

In the 6th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, best known for the Pythagorean Theorem, adapted the pentagram as a symbol representing health. Its proportions were derived from what is now known as the Golden Proportion. Pythagoras' world views were highly influenced by mathematics and mysticism.

During the European Renaissance, the Golden Proportion was revisited by the Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli, known as the father of accounting. Luca Pacioli taught in many universities in his lifetime and was a prolific writer. One of his textbooks, printed in Venice in 1494, was Summa de Artihmetica, Geometrica, proportioni et propotionalitá (Everything about Arithmetic, Geometry and Proportion).

Leonardo Da Vinci, the famous Renaissance artist, was one of Pacioli’s math students. In 1498, Pacioli wrote a three-volume treatise entitled De Divina Proportione. It was published in 1509, with illustrations by Leonardo Da Vinci. These works contain a detailed study of the Golden Proportion and polyhedral solids. Continued interest in the nature and impact of the mathematical constant Phi (1.618) is most likely due to Pacioli and his studies.

da Vinci is considered one of the most talented people of all time. His masterpieces include drawings, paintings and sculpture. He had a fascination with anatomy and many of his drawings and journals were made in his pursuit of scientific knowledge and inventions. His journals contained thousands of sketches from many observations of his world.

Most people know of paintings such as the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and The Vitruvian Man. The Vitruvian Man is one of the illustrations from the De Divina Proportione. Relationships between various parts of the body adhere to the Golden Proportion.