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Images: The World's Most Beautiful Equations

The Euler line

The Euler Line

(Image credit: Patrick Ion/Mathematical Reviews/AMS)

Glen Whitney, founder of the Museum of Math in New York, chose another geometrical theorem, this one having to do with the Euler line, named after 18th-century Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler.

"Start with any triangle," Whitney explained. "Draw the smallest circle that contains the triangle and find its center. Find the center of mass of the triangle — the point where the triangle, if cut out of a piece of paper, would balance on a pin. Draw the three altitudes of the triangle (the lines from each corner perpendicular to the opposite side), and find the point where they all meet. The theorem is that all three of the points you just found always lie on a single straight line, called the 'Euler line' of the triangle."

Whitney said the theorem encapsulates the beauty and power of mathematics, which often reveals surprising patterns in simple, familiar shapes.