What is Pi?
Pi is a name given to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter. That means, for any circle, you can divide the circumference (the distance around the circle) by the diameter and always get exactly the same number. It doesn't matter how big or small the circle is, Pi remains the same. Pi is often written using the symbol "π" and is pronounced "pie", just like the dessert.
A Brief History of Pi
Ancient civilizations knew that there was a fixed ratio of circumference to diameter that was approximately equal to three. The Greeks refined the process and Archimedes is credited with the first theoretical calculation of Pi.
In 1761 Lambert proved that Pi was irrational, that is, that it can't be written as a ratio of integer numbers.
In 1882 Lindeman proved that Pi was transcendental, that is, that Pi is not the root of any algebraic equation with rational coefficients. This discovery proved that you can't "square a circle", which was a problem that occupied many mathematicians up to that time. (More information on squaring the circle.)
How many digits are there? Does it ever end?
Because Pi is known to be an irrational number it means that the digits never end or repeat in any known way. But calculating the digits of Pi has proven to be an fascination for mathematicians throughout history. Some spent their lives calculating the digits of Pi, but until computers, less than 1,000 digits had been calculated. In 1949, a computer calculated 2,000 digits and the race was on. Millions of digits have been calculated, with the record held (as of September 1999) by a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo that calculated 206,158,430,000 digits. (first 1,000 digits).