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Indiana Legislators Once Considered Changing Pi To 3.2

Waldo

Photo: Purdue University Yearbook, 1899

Purdue University math professor Clarence Abiathar Waldo is credited with convincing legislators not to pass the bill.

March 14 is known as National Pi Day in celebration of the mathematical constant’s common representation of 3.14. But, an Indiana doctor tried to pass a bill changing the value of Pi in the 1890s.

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is commonly shortened to 3.14, although its decimal representation goes on infinitely.

According to Purdue University, Indiana doctor Edwin Goodwin thought he found a new way to calculate Pi in1896 and proposed a bill that would legislate the value as 3.2.

A Feb. 6, 1897 issue of the Indianapolis Journal says Goodwin had a copyright on his discovery and offered the bill so it might be free to schools in Indiana.

“This is the strangest bill that has ever passed an Indiana Assembly,” the article says.

But Purdue Math Professor Clarence Abiathar Waldo pointed out problems with Goodwin’s calculations and convinced legislators to kill the bill.

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