The Splitting of a Hair into 40 Parts

“The splitting of a hair into forty parts was believed in the magically inclined early times to have been achieved by the six great physicians of antiquity–Plato, Hippocrates, Socrates, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Galen. The physicians then used it to make a ladder in which science could ascend to the heavens, but there they failed to find a cure for death and returned to earth. Sometimes their number is extended by allowing King Philip II of Macedon to join this band.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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