Is the following an anecdote?

Mathematicians describe Pi as an irrational number, that is, a number that cannot be expressed as the ratio of any two integers. This was an irksome fact to the State of Indiana in 1897; so much so that legislation was drafted setting Pi alternative values of 3.2, 3.23 and 4.

I read the above fact on a book of quizzical nature, but it seem strange, if not absurd. Can anybody clarify if the State of Indiana has ever approved that legislation?

  • Not a bad question although possibly better suited for the Politics site.
    – Tom Au
    May 8, 2013 at 20:28
  • @Tom, sorry, but I still don't understand what kind of questions one can ask on this site, in fact I'm under the impression that silly questions, like this, are upvoted, while that very historical, like the Odette question, are closed. Others really interesting, like the Tallboy bomb, are downvoted. I'm confused. "Peccavi!"
    – user2237
    May 8, 2013 at 20:38
  • 1
    This is considered a "good" question for the site because it lends itself well to "book" answers like the one below. Other questions may be more "interesting," but the site discourages questions that tend to generate debate. In general, ask yourself, "Is this the kind of question that a computer, or a person working with a computer, would be good at answering?"
    – Tom Au
    May 8, 2013 at 20:45
  • 1
    To elucidate further, most people on the site work with computers. A question about "Pi" would be interesting to many people on the site. Some of your other questions (indirectly) link back to the most controversial topic on the site. meta.history.stackexchange.com/questions/504/…
    – Tom Au
    May 9, 2013 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


Yes, there was such a bill, known as Indiana Pi Bill, but it was never approved by the State.

You can find a very interesting article on the matter, written by Arthur E. Hallerburg, in the text of Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science. Search for the phrase House Bill No. 246 Revisited.

The whole affair started in 1894, when American Mathematical Monthly released an article "Quadrature of the circle" by Edward J. Goodwin in number 1(7): 246–248.

Then it was introduced to the Indiana House of Representatives by Representative Taylor I. Record, under the following title:

A Bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature of 1897

It was at first accepted by the Committee on Education, but thanks to Purdue University Professor C. A. Waldo, who came to Indianapolis especially in order to teach politicians about the matter of Pi, became postponed forever by Indiana Senate.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.