The 3 Ancient Construction Problems

Problems about construction using compass and straightedge preoccupied mathematicians for 2000 years. The first three postulates of Euclid’s Elements (300 BC) involve constructions and the first proposition was about the construction of an equilateral triangle. Constructions of other regular polygons were solved, but the heptadecagon (17-gon) proved to be difficult. It was only solved by Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1796 when he was just 19 (see the following animation).

17-gon construction

Aside from the heptadecagon problem and other construction problems, numerous mathematicians attempted to solve the three most difficult ancient construction problems: trisection of any given angle, duplication of a cube, and squaring the circle. » Read more

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