# How to Find the Height of Heaven

## How the Chinese discovered the Pythagorean Theorem hundreds of years before Pythagoras

Discoveries are often made by multiple people, but we tend to only celebrate one of those folks.

This is just as true for the theory of evolution (Wallace, but also Darwin), as it is for lightning rods (Diviš, but also Franklin), as it is for the electrical telegraph — invented by Wheatstone but also Morse, whose first message is a favorite of trivianauts and bibliophiles alike (“what hath god wrought”, Numbers 23:23).

The concept of multiple discovery also happens to apply to a favorite hobbyhorse of mine, the Pythagorean Theorem — i.e., that natty formula that allows you to deduce the area of a square alongside a triangle’s hypotenuse, which in turn allows you to develop trigonometry, which in turn allows you to (eventually) navigate the ocean using a sextant and (even further eventually) calculate things like the height of Mount Everest without climbing it and the fastest route via Google Maps.

Now any Tom, Dick, or Platonist can tell you that the Pythagorean Theorem was first set down as an…