Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Were the Founding Fathers Math Geniuses?


America’s Founding Fathers – notably George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander
Hamilton and James Madison – were mathematically literate people before math software was invented. They skillfully used their knowledge to solve difficult problems central to the well-being of our new government and our strength as a people.

Consider the debate about how to fairly apportion members of congress to each state.

The Hamilton/Vinton method of apportionment divides each state’s population by the total
population per elected seat, which inevitably results in fractional numbers of representatives. It took the Founding Fathers many pages of formulae and calculations to work out a solution that avoided that outcome – a complex challenge, but the Founding Fathers were up to it! Without having to call on a commission of experts, they worked their way through the thicket of mathematical issues and came up with an elegant solution that combined elements of direct and proportional democracy.

Our early Presidents were equipped to apply their scientific knowledge to the application of democratic ideas as they conceived them.

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