History

Who was Fibonacci?

 

Fibonacci

Almost everyone has heard of the famous Fibonacci numbers, an extremely special set of numbers that can be applied to virtually every aspect of life. But little known is the source of genius behind these numbers, Fibonacci. The only sources of information on Fibonacci are his own autobiographical notes that were part of his books. His name was Leonardo of Pisa, known as the “greatest European mathematician of the middle ages.” Though he was born in 13th century Italy, Fibonacci obtained his education in North Africa. Most people are unaware that it was Fibonacci who started using the decimal number system. In his book, Liber Abaci, he demonstrated the superiority of the decimal number system compared to the Roman Numeral System. The decimal number system also mentioned a problem about rabbit breeding in this book which ultimately led to the introduction of the Fibonacci numbers and sequence.

The famous problem was:

A certain man put a pair of rabbits in a place surrounded on all sides by a wall. How many pairs of rabbits can be produced from that pair in a year if it is assumed that every month each pair begets a new pair, which is productive from the second month onwards

The number of pairs of rabbits for each month is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 …. But, what makes it so special? Each number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it. Even though it was derived for a simple question about bunnies, the Fibonacci sequence can also be applied to many aspects of life. In nature, the sequence defines the curvature of spirals such as snail shells, patterns of seeds in plants that are flowering, and arrangements of leaves on a plant’s stem. The consistency of how the sequence pops in nature is no coincidence. In the rabbit-breeding problem, Fibonacci’s sequence simply represents most productive way the rabbits could reproduce. This can also be applied to the order of seeds in flowers. Each row that grows from the center will try to grow the most number of seeds in the smallest space. The famous sequence just simply represents the most efficient manner of packing.