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1897

Indiana Pi Bill

Thwarting circle-squaring legislation

A bill initiated by a Hoosier circle squarer that implied various incorrect values for π was proposed in the 1897 sitting of the Indiana General Assembly. Thanks to the intervention of a Purdue University mathematics professor, it never passed into law.

Indiana Pi Bill

Bill #246 of the 1897 sitting of the Indiana General Assembly was initiated by physician and amateur mathematician Edward J. Goodwin and proposed a method to square the circle. Since it implied various incorrect values of π, such as 3.2, the bill has come to be known as the "Indiana Pi Bill." While it passed five readings, the bill never became law thanks to the intervention of Professor C. A. Waldo of Purdue University.

Artifact dimensions

8.5 in. × 13 in (9 pages, each in a wrapper slightly larger than the legal sized paper on which they are written)

Artifact origin

Indiana, United States

Current artifact location

Indiana State Archives, Indianapolis, Indiana

Catalog number

HB-246-1897

Timeline

Pi timeline Susa Mathematical Tablets Babylonian Circle Tablet Liu Hui's Exhaustion Method π Tombstone of Ludolph van Ceulen Jones's Use of the Symbol π Indiana Pi Bill

Interactive Content

Computational Explanation

Other Resources

Wolfram MathWorld
Pi

Additional Reading

  • Anonymous. "The Mathematical Bill. Fun–Making In the Senate Yester-Day Afternoon—Other Action." Indianapolis News, 13 February, p. 11, 1897.
  • Beckmann, P. A History of Pi. New York: Barnes & Noble, pp. 174–177, 1993.
  • Berggren, L.; Borwein, J.; and Borwein, P. Pi: A Source Book, 3rd ed. New York: Springer-Verlag, pp. 230–235, 2004.
  • Edington, W. E. House Bill No. 246, Indiana State Legislature, 1897. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, Vol. 45, pp. 206–210, 1935.
  • Goodwin, E. J. "Quadrature of the Circle." American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 7, pp. 246–248, 1894.
  • Hallenberg, A. E. House Bill No. 246 Revisited. Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, Vol. 84, pp. 376–399, 1974.
  • Waldo, C. A. "What Might Have Been." Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, pp. 445–446, 1916.
  • Walsh, J. E. The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816–1978. Indianapolis: The Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, pp. 428–429, 1987.

Image Credits

Indiana State Archives and Records Administration, Indiana General Assembly Collection (Cropped)