Thursday, February 05, 2015

You can't legislate math

Today in 1897

* The Indiana Pi Bill, 1897
"A Bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature of 1897"

On February 5, 1897, the House of the Indiana General Assembly unanimously passed (67 to 0) House Bill 246, which effectively set π=3.2 for the state of Indiana (anyone else would have to pay to use the copyrighted discovery).*

The bill was introduced by Taylor I. Record, the representative from Posey County. The information and the bill's wording were given to him by Dr. Edwin J. Goodwin, a physician of the same county. Goodwin thought he had succeeded in squaring the circle and offered the use of his discovery to the state of Indiana. Record himself admitted he understood nothing of the discovery, but had introduced the bill at the request of his constituent Dr. Goodwin.

After passing the House, the bill reached the Senate floor -- but a Senator Hubbell moved for the indefinite postponement of the bill. Hubbell's the motion carried and the bill was never heard from again.

* π=3.2 is not in the text of the bill, but is an implication of the math of Goodwin, i.e. 4 ÷ 5/4 = 3.2. (Though the bill seems to imply different values in other places of the text.)

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