"Plimpton 322" is known throughout the world to those interested in the
history of mathematics as a result of the interest that Otto Neugebauer, chair
of Brown University's History of Mathematics Department, took in the tablet. In
the early 1940s, he and his assistant Abraham Sachs interpreted it as containing
what is known in mathematics as Pythagorean triples, integer solutions of the
equation a2 + b2 = c2, a thousand years before
the age of Pythagoras.
Recently, Dr. Eleanor Robson, an authority on Mesopotamian mathematics at
the University of Cambridge, has made the case for a more mundane solution,
arguing that the tablet was created as a teacher's aid, designed for generating
problems involving right triangles and reciprocal pairs. Mr. Plimpton, who
collected "our tools of learning" on a broad scale, would have been delighted
with this interpretation, showing the work of an excellent teacher, not a lone
genius a thousand years ahead of his time.
