|Born: about 600 BC in India
600 BC in India
To write a biography of Apastamba
is essentially impossible since nothing is known of him except that
he was the author of a Sulbasutra which is certainly later than the
Sulbasutra of Baudhayana. It would also be fair to say that
Apastamba's Sulbasutra is the most interesting from a mathematical
point of view. We do not know Apastamba's dates accurately enough to
even guess at a life span for him, which is why we have given the
same approximate birth year as death year.
Apastamba was neither a mathematician in the sense that we would
understand it today, nor a scribe who simply copied manuscripts like
Ahmes. He would certainly have been a man of very considerable
learning but probably not interested in mathematics for its own sake,
merely interested in using it for religious purposes. Undoubtedly he
wrote the Sulbasutra to provide rules for religious rites and to
improve and expand on the rules which had been given by his
predecessors. Apastamba would have been a Vedic priest instructing
the people in the ways of conducting the religious rites he
The mathematics given in the
Sulbasutras is there to enable the accurate construction of altars
needed for sacrifices. It is clear from the writing that Apastamba,
as well as being a priest and a teacher of religious practices, would
have been a skilled craftsman. He must have been himself skilled in
the practical use of the mathematics he described as a craftsman who
himself constructed sacrificial altars of the highest quality.
The Sulbasutras are discussed in detail in the article
Indian Sulbasutras. Below we give one or two details of Apastamba's
Sulbasutra. This work is an expanded version of that of Baudhayana.
Apastamba's work consisted of six chapters while the earlier work by
Baudhayana contained only three.
linear equation was solved in the Apastamba's Sulbasutra. He also
gives a remarkably accurate value for v2 namely
+ 1/3 + 1/(34) - 1/(3434).
which gives an answer
correct to five decimal places. A possible way that Apastamba might
have reached this remarkable result is described in the article
As well as the problem of
squaring the circle, Apastamba considers the problem of dividing a
segment into 7 equal parts. The article  looks in detail at a
reconstruction of Apastamba's version of these two problems.
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson