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Funding for this project generously provided by Overdeck Family Foundation

around 1610

π Tombstone of Ludolph van Ceulen

Approximations on the memorial of a π calculator

The restored tombstone of π calculator Ludolph van Ceulen features engravings of digits of π placed in a circle with bounds to π (3.14159265358979323846264338327950288 < π < 3.14159265358979323846264338327950289) appearing in the middle.

π Tombstone of Ludolph van Ceulen

Ludolph van Ceulen spent a major part of his life calculating the numerical value of the mathematical constant π. After his death in 1610, digits of π were engraved on his tombstone in Leiden, together with upper and lower limits given as fractions. The tombstone was eventually lost, but later restored in 2000. The text on the tombstone reads, "Buried here lies Ludolph van Ceulen, Dutch professor of mathematical sciences in the vocational school [Engineering School in the Faliedenbegijnkerk] of this city. [He was] born in Hildesheim in the year 1540 on the 28th of January [and] died the 31st of December 1610. In his life, with great effort, he found the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle as here follows."

Artifact origin

Leiden, Netherlands

Current artifact location

Pieterskerk, Leiden


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

Additional Reading

  • Anonymous. "5 juli 2000: Pi in de Pieterskerk." Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde 5/1, pp. 114–115, 2000.
  • Beckmann, P. A History of Pi. New York: Barnes & Noble, p. 102, 1993.
  • Cipra, B. Digits of Pi. In What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 6. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society, pp. 28–38, 2006.
  • Vajta, M. "Pi, Fourier Transform and Ludolph van Ceulen." In 3rd TEMPUS-INTCOM Symposium, September 9-14, 2000, Veszprém, Hungary. pp. 1–6, 2000.
  • Vajta, M. "Fourier Transform and Ludolph van Ceulen." 9th IEEE Mediterranean Conference on Control and Automation, MED 2001 - Hotel Excelsior, Dubrovnik, Croatia. 2001.
  • Van Ceulen, L. Vanden Circkel. Tot Delft : Gedruckt by Jan Andriesz, 1596.
  • Van Ceulen, L. De Arithmetischen en Ggeometrische fondamenten. 1615.

Image Credits

Wikimedia (padded, background adjusted, contrast enhanced)