Use this tag for questions concerning history of mathematics, historical primacies of results, and evolution of terminology, symbols, and notations.

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Is the theory of dual numbers strong enough to develop real analysis, and does it resemble Newton's historical method for doing calculus?

I've been interested in non-standard analysis recently. I was reading up on it and noticed the following interesting comment on the Wikipedia page about hyperreal numbers, right after giving an ...
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1answer
387 views

Any branch of math can be expressed within set theory, is the reverse true?

Set theory seems to have the property of being "universal", in the sense that any branch of math can be expressed on its language. Is there any other branch of math with this property? I am asking ...
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1answer
226 views

Serge Lang and categories

I was told that (Serge) Lang has never fallen in love with categories, to use a polite euphemism. Other people claim that, in some occasion, he has even declared his lack of interest in the subject in ...
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2answers
460 views

Varieties as schemes

Some questions about schemes and varieties, one really basic. I follow the definitions as given in Hartshorne. Firstly, my main question. I understood that Grothendiecks introduction of schemes ...
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2answers
375 views

What's the history of the result that $p_{n+1} < p_n^2$, and how difficult is the proof?

In Edsger Dijkstra's monograph "Notes on Structured Programming", he describes a simple imperative program for generating an array of the first $n$ primes. For each prime $p_n$, it finds the next ...
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296 views

A quote from Arnold

Arnold said the following in a talk on teaching: Jacobi noted, as mathematics' most fascinating property, that in it one and the same function controls both the presentations of a whole number as ...
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1answer
480 views

Riemann's thinking on symmetrizing the zeta functional equation

In the translated version of Riemann's classic On the Number of Prime Numbers less than a Given Quantity, he quickly derives the zeta functional equation through contour integration essentially as ...
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2answers
413 views

What do Greek Mathematicians use when they use our equivalent Greek letters in formulas and equations?

Like for example, it's common to use the Greek letter $\theta$ to represent an angle right? So what would a Greek person doing math use to represent an angle? Would they also use $\theta$? Or is there ...
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1answer
327 views

Is Hilbert's second problem about the real numbers or the natural numbers?

In his famous "23 problems" speech, Hilbert gave his second problem as follows: The axioms of arithmetic are essentially nothing else than the known rules of calculation, with the addition of the ...
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2answers
242 views

What meaning did Riemann assign to $dx$?

Detlef Laugwitz wrote a monumental biography of Riemann. The book was translated into English by Shenitzer. Laugwitz discusses Riemann's fundamental essay Uber die Hypothesen, welche der Geometrie ...
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2answers
304 views

How was the first log table put together?

Henry Briggs compiled the first table of base-$10$ logarithms in 1617, with the help of John Napier. My question is: how did he calculate these logarithms? How were logarithms calculated back then? ...
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1answer
279 views

history of the contraction mapping technique

If $|f(x)-f(y)| \leq k|x-y|$ for all $x,y$ then $f$ is Lipschitz with constant $k$, if $k<1$ then $f$ is called a contraction mapping. The beautiful result that a fixed point is associated to a ...
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214 views

Articles on ideas in the history of mathematics notation?

I'm teaching a course this term on the history of scripts (writing systems) and rather than talking interminably about Semitic and Chinese and their spawn, I'd like to give students a more varied ...
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101 views

History of the point at infinity?

I'm curious to learn more about the history of the introduction of the concept of the point at infinity into mathematics. The sum of my knowledge of the historical aspect is from this paragraph (which ...
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1answer
335 views

Old versus New enunciation of Taylor's Theorem.

I am studying from Spivak' Calculus, and he states Taylor's Theorem as follows: THEOREM Let $f',\cdots,f^{(n+1)}$ be defined on $[a,x]$ and let $R_{n,a}(x)$ be defined by ...
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1answer
80 views

Cauchy gave 1st example of a Lie algebra in 1847 & exterior product in 1853‽

I read in PDF pg. 5 of this that Cauchy gave the first example of a Lie algebra in 1847: It also claims that he invented the exterior product in 1853. Does anyone have references for this?
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1answer
307 views

Hao Wang's $\mathfrak S$ system/$\Sigma$ system: a “transfinite type” theory that avoids the Goedel's theorems.

Long ago, while I was reading a book ($*$) about the various way to build set theories (Zermelo-Freankel, Von Neumann–Bernays–Gödel, and type theories), I read about a variant of type theory with ...
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Good examples for mathemathical problems/statements that are easely solvable/provable in one theory and hard to solve/prove in another

Let $P$ be a mathematical statement or a mathematical problem. I am looking for a couple of nice examples for $P$ that satisfy the following criteria: Given two (or more) mathematical points of view ...
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5answers
3k views

Why do we consider prime numbers important, and what are their applications other than number theory in pure math?

Why do we consider prime numbers important, and what are their applications other than number theory in pure math? I know that Number theory is devoted to studying prime numbers, but there must be ...
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6answers
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Why do we need vectors and who invented it?

It is natural to understand the need for scalars (numbers), but why did we invent vectors? Who invented it and for what? EDIT: As George Lowther pointed out, the problem is too broad; I added the ...
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3answers
1k views

Provenance of Hilbert quote on table, chair, beer mug

All over the web one can find statements to the effect that: "One must be able to say at all times--instead of points, straight lines, and planes--tables, chairs, and beer mugs" There are many ...
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3answers
633 views

Who introduced the notation $x^2$?

In the book 'Problem Solving and Number Theory' I read The law of quadratic reciprocity was discovered for the first time, in a complex form, by L. Euler who published it in his paper ...
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2answers
466 views

Where, specifically, did Principia Mathematica fail?

I'm very fascinated by the book Principia Mathematica. From what I've learned so far, Principia Mathematica set out to be, essentially, the bible of mathematics and logic, from which all mathematical ...
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3answers
536 views

Fibonacci numbers modulo $p$

If $p$ is prime, then $F_{p-\left(\frac{p}{5}\right)}\equiv 0\bmod p$, where $F_j$ is the $j$th Fibonacci number, and $\left(\frac{p}{5}\right)$ is the Jacobi symbol. Who first proved this? Is there ...
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2answers
361 views

In what senses are archimedean places infinite?

According to Bjorn Poonen's notes here (§2.6), we should add the archimedean places of a number field $K$ to $\operatorname{Spec} \mathscr{O}_K$ in order to get a good analogy with smooth projective ...
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3answers
762 views

Where is the name “coset” in group theory from?

One of the most important application of "coset", I think, is to prove the Lagrange's theorem, which was not originally stated in the group theoretic terms. In some textbooks I have read about ...
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5answers
348 views

Purpose of the Peano Axioms

Wikipedia says the Peano Axioms are a set of axioms for the natural numbers. Is the purpose of the axioms to create a base on which we can build the rest of mathematicas formally? If this is true ...
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1answer
732 views

What is the name of the $\in$ symbol and where does it come from?

It looks like a lower-case epsilon, but the Wikipedia page on epsilon states that they are not the same. Does this symbol have a typographic identification outside of mathematics? Where did the ...
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2answers
876 views

Why are even/odd functions called even/odd?

Bit of a silly question, someone told me that the reason even functions are called 'even' and odd functions are called 'odd' is that all (single-variable) monomials with even powers are even functions ...
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2answers
357 views

The history of set-theoretic definitions of $\mathbb N$

What representations of the natural numbers have been used, historically, and who invented them? Are there any notable advantages or disadvantages? I read about Frege's definition not long ago, ...
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1answer
182 views

What was the planned topic of Gödel's second paper on incompleteness?

Gödel's incompleteness theorems first appeared together in a paper titled (translated to English) "On formally undecidable propositions of Principia Mathematica and related systems I," with the Roman ...
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603 views

Original source for a quote by Lobachevsky

Lobachevsky is quoted in many places to have once written (said?) "There is no branch of mathematics, no matter how abstract, which may not someday be applied to phenomena of the real world." (In the ...
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1answer
318 views

Origin of the name 'test functions'

This is a very simple question really: where did the name 'test functions', used nowadays when speaking of infinitely differentiable and compactly supported functions, come from? More to the point: is ...
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1answer
347 views

What is the “etymology” of the notation “:=”?

I've noticed that sometimes people use ":=" to set variables, like "With $f(x):=x^{2}$, we have $f(1) = 1$." This is also the variable definition operation in Mathematica. My question is, did ...
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2answers
209 views

History of the matrix representation of complex numbers

It is well-known to many that $\mathbb{C}$ can be represented by matrices of the form $\left[ \begin{array}{cc} a & b \\ -b & a \end{array} \right]$. For example, see this question or this ...
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181 views

Newton's “Famous Blunder”?

On page $225$ of Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method by Niccolo Guicciardini (see here for a link), I read In the following demonstration... Newton made a famous blunder... He wrote, ...
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1answer
178 views

Ramanujan's personification of small positive integers

I dimly recall reading somewhere (perhaps in "The Man Who Knew Infinity"?) that Ramanujan associated personalities (perhaps it was mystical personalities, e.g. specific gods and goddesses?) with small ...
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1answer
553 views

Did Albert Einstein contribute to math?

Many great scientists have made important contributations to many related fields. Gauss, Euler and Newton each made many contributions to both math and physic. One of the great scientists of last ...
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175 views

Who first explicitly noted that second-order logic is unaxiomatizable?

As every student now knows, second-order logical consequence is unaxiomatizable. (At least when we read the second-order quantifiers in the natural way, as running over all possible properties on the ...
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752 views

ancient concepts and modern concepts

Is there an extant published expository account, comprehensible to all mathematicians, of the conceptual differences between ancient Greek mathematical concepts and modern ones? I have in mind things ...
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1answer
295 views

Where can I find the 1960s New Math syllabus?

I've been looking everywhere for even a short summary of the content of the 1960s New Mathematics Math education reform in the US but I cannot ;-; Does anyone know?
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1answer
351 views

Origin of Littlewood's idea about sign changes of $Li(x) - \pi(x)$

Background (skip if you like). Skewes and Littlewood are closely identified with the idea that $Li(x)- \pi(x)$ changes sign infinitely often, but Littlewood closed a gap in the work of Schmidt, who ...
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4answers
1k views

Angle brackets for tuples

I've recently noticed that use of angle brackets for writing tuples, e.g. $\langle x, y \rangle$ instead of the usual round brackets in a few books I've been reading — Lawvere's Sets for Mathematics, ...
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1answer
83 views

Any book on major (recent) math discovery (results) in an easy understanding way?

All: Can anyone recommend a book which illustrate major (recent) math discoveries (results) in an easy understanding way ? For "recent discoveries", I meaning something discovered in last 50 years. ...
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0answers
161 views

How does a Lehmer Sieve work?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehmer_sieve Apparently a Lehmer Sieve was a mechanical device that used chains and pulleys to factor numbers and solve diophantine equations. It once was able to factor ...
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120 views

Why is the Mazur swindle named so?

Often results or techniques in mathematics are called 'theorems'. Sometimes they are called 'tricks'. In no other context have I seen a result called a 'swindle'. Is there a historical reason for this ...
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1answer
120 views

The average of the roots of a polynomial equals the average of the roots of its derivative

Background: It's straightforward to check that the average (i.e. the mean) of the roots of a nonlinear polynomial equals the average of the roots of its derivative: if $$f(x) = x^n + a_{n-1} x^{n-1} ...
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Why are derivatives specified as d/dx?

Is the purpose of the derivative notation d/dx strictly for symbolic manipulation purposes? I remember being confused when I first saw the notation for derivatives - it looks vaguely like there's ...
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4answers
3k views

Math story: Ten marriage candidates and 'greatest of all time'

I remember a story about a famous mathematician who was offered ten marriage candidates and had to pick one of them, with the condition he had to meet them in turn and propose during that meeting, ...
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527 views

Connections between number theory and abstract algebra.

I haven't taken abstract algebra yet, but I am curious about connections between number theory and abstract algebra. Do the proofs of things like Fermat's little theorem, the law of quadratic ...