Goodwin's model circle as described in section 2 of the bill. It has a diameter of 10 and a stated circumference of "32" (not 31.4159~); the chord of 90° has length stated as "7" (not 7.0710~). (via Wiki)

 

Edward J. Goodwin believed he successfully squared the circle and attempted to get it validated by turning it into an Indiana State law in 1897.

 

Indiana Pi bill, House Bill 246, reads as follows:

 

"The diameter employed as the linear unit according to the present rule in computing the circle's area is entirely wrong as it represents the circle's area one and one-fifth times the area of a square whose perimeter is equal to the circumference of the circle... the rule in present use fails to work both ways mathematically, it should be discarded as wholly wanting and misleading in its practical applications."

 

The bill went from the Indiana House of Representatives to the Committee on Swamplands, where it could “find a deserving grave.” Then it was transferred to the Committee on Education, where the bill passed.

 

As the bill was on its way to the Indiana Senate to become a law, it was intercepted by Purdue University Professor C. A. Waldo, who dissected it and proved it wrong. The problem was that Goodwin’s bill gave a few different values for Pi, 4 in the beginning and 3.2 in the end of the bill.

It was almost passed as a law. It was shot down fairly quickly in the Senate not because they could prove it mathematically, but after one senator observed that the General Assembly lacked the power to define mathematical truth.

 

That is when the fun began.

 

Indianapolis News article from February 13, 1897, showed that the Senators made fun of it for about a half hour before rejecting the bill altogether. The article states:

 

“...the bill was brought up and made fun of. The Senators made bad puns about it, ridiculed it and laughed over it. The fun lasted half an hour. Senator Hubbell said that it was not meet for the Senate, which was costing the State $250 a day, to waste its time in such frivolity. He said that in reading the leading newspapers of Chicago and the East, he found that the Indiana State Legislature had laid itself open to ridicule by the action already taken on the bill. He thought consideration of such a proposition was not dignified or worthy of the Senate. He moved the indefinite postponement of the bill, and the motion carried.”

Thus ending Goodwin’s attempt establishing his mathematical truth by legislative fiat.

 

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