In my head, and probably in yours too, there is a jumble of memories of ancient Greeks — old men, bald and with beards, who did stupid but essential things. There is one who overflowed his bath and ran naked down the street. One drank hemlock, and another lived in a barrel; one married his mother. They fought a lot, invented gods and wrote unreadable books. And they were good at geometry.
I resurrected one of these weirdos from my memory; they all look the same, dressed in chitons or togas and sandals. I first made the acquaintance of this one when I was 12 years old, Pythagoras by name. He died about 500 years BCE, but he was clever with triangles.
‘Pythagoras, please help me. I need a length of rope to hang from a high branch on a tree to make a swing. How long should it be? I can’t get up there to measure the height.’