natural philosopher (b. 546 BCE)

She was the wife of Pythagoras and ran his school after his death. She is credited with writing the treatise on the Golden Mean -- (described in basic algebra textbooks). Theano not only worked in the areas of physics, medicine and child psychology, but was a great astronomer/mathematician in her own right. Her work on the theorem of the Golden Mean and the corresponding Golden Rectangle are considered to be her most important contributions. Her Life of Pythagoras is lost.

In the Greek school of philosophy run by Pythagoras there were many women who joined in as teachers and scholars. Those in his school lived in a communal manner and published all their writings under the name of Pythagoras. Today, then, it is difficult to determine who actually did which work, although some information has survived, such as that on Theano.

Her principal works are:
"Life of Pythagoras": Lost.
"Theorem of the golden mean"
"Theory of numbers"
"Construction of the universe": The universe is constructed of numbers and simple proportions. It is made up of ten concentric spheres corresponding to the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Earth, Counter-Earth and the stars. The Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury move in a uniform circular motion around a "central fire". The fixed stars do not move. According to Theano the distances between the concentric spheres and the central fire are in the same arithmetic proportion as the intervals of the musical scale.
"On virtue": Dedicated to the great architect and city-planner Hippodamus.

Damo, Myria and Arignote were her daughters who worked with her. Mnesarchus and Telauges were two sons.

Return to Homepage