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Aziz Inan is a professor teaching in the electrical engineering program of the Donald P. Shiley School of Engineering at University of Portland.

Aziz InanJan. 17, 2020, marks Benjamin Franklin's 314th birthday and note that 314 are the first three digits of number Pi since Pi=3.14159265358979… So, Franklin will turn approximately 100 x Pi years old on this day.

It is a milestone in one's life to become 314 years old since many of us think of number Pi as being 3.14 since this number is coded in our brains.

This special birthday number popped up two questions in my mind regarding the connection between Franklin and the number Pi.

First question, did Franklin know about the number Pi? Franklin was a scientist and an engineer but not a mathematician. According to his Autobiography, when he was nine years old, he failed arithmetic in school.

However, while he was serving his apprenticeship in his brother's printing shop starting at age 12, he read a book on arithmetic and two books on navigational geometry with great ease.

At age 29, Franklin published an article in his Pennsylvania Gazette titled, "On the Usefulness of the Mathematics," in which he stressed the practical aspect of mathematics. Arithmetic is said to be for merchants, shopkeepers, and traders; geometry is for architects, astronomers, geographers, mariners, and surveyors. The article concluded with a sketch of mathematics in ancient history.

Franklin also used his intellect to create very sophisticated and elegant magic squares and even magic circles and he conveyed them in his letters to his friend Peter Collinson.

Describing his work on magic squares and circles, Franklin stated, "I was at length tired with sitting there to hear debates, in which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which were often so unentertaining that I was induced to amuse myself with making magic squares or circles."

According to Franklin, one use of these magic squares and circles was to provide a means of perfecting one's skill in arithmetic.

Although Franklin created magic circles involving sophisticated number patterns, it is unknown whether he had any acquaintance with the number Pi.

Second, since Pi is an irrational number, I wondered about what date of the calendar this year will Franklin turn exactly 100 x Pi years old? To determine this date, I multiplied Pi with 100 yielding 314.159265358979… and then, taking into account the fact that 2020 is a leap year, I multiplied 0.159265358979 with 366 which lead to 58.2911213863 days. So, by adding approximately 58 days to January 17, I found out that Franklin will turn exactly 100xPi years old on March 15, the day after Pi Day.

Interestingly enough, March 15 expressed as 3/15 or simply as 315 coincides with Franklin's next birthday number. Indeed, if Franklin was alive, Jan. 17, 2020, would have marked the beginning of the 315th year in his life.

Furthermore, March 15 expressed in day/month date format as 15/3 or simply 153 coincides with The Franklin Number, that is, 153 equals the sum of the letter numbers of Benjamin Franklin.

Happy 314th birthday, Benjamin Franklin.

Aziz Inan is a professor teaching in the electrical engineering program of the Donald P. Shiley School of Engineering at University of Portland. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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