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

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Enlightening books giving a guided tour of mathematics, in a style that Gian-Carlo Rota would not mind?

I am currently reading Gian-Carlo Rota's Indiscrete Thoughts. What more can I say apart from "the man can write"? (In other words, you should really read it if you are interested in mathematics.) I ...
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610 views

How to evaluate trigonometric functions by pen and paper?

How did people determined the values of trigonometric functions before calculators, like e.g. $\sin 37^\circ$ up to five decimal places? Was that possible to find before series were invented?
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A problem V.I. Arnold solved as a primary school student

According to a 1995 interview that Vladimir I. Arnold gave to the Notices of the AMS, his primary school teacher I.V. Morozkin gave in 1949 (when Vladimir I. Arnold was 12 years old) to a Soviet ...
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The Historical Importance of Keynes' A Treatise on Probability

A visiting speaker in Economics recently happened to mention that John Maynard Keynes' A Treatise on Probability revolutionized probability theory. I have not heard any such claim before and it struck ...
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Who invented the Riemann Sphere?

I have seen suggested that someone other than Riemann first came up with the Riemann Sphere. Is this correct? And if so, who did invent it?
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What is the “Principle of permanence”?

While reading the book "The Number-System of Algebra (2nd edition)." term "Principle of permanence" occurred to me. I remember I had read this in the book "Beginning algebra for college students.". I ...
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Development of the Idea of the Determinant

While I basically understand what a determinant is, I wonder how this idea was developed? What was the principal idea behind its origination? I would like to know this so that I can have a better ...
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In Whitehead and Russell's PM, are overlapping ranges of significance necessarily identical?

In Principia Mathematica summary of ✳63 In virtue of ✳20.8, we have $\vdash : \phi a ∨ \sim\phi a . ⊃ . \hat{x}(\phi x \vee \sim \phi x ) =t‘a$ i.e. if "$\phi a$" is significant, then ...
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Exactly who popularized the modern definition of domain and codomain of functions?

In Whitehead and Russell's Principia, domain is the referents of relation; converse domain is the relata. Modern function in mathematics is just one special case of relation whose referent is unique ...
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Concept of a function and Idea of a formula as a function; History of

Enderton Elements of Set Theory, p. 43 (1977, Academic Press), writes: There was a reluctance to separate the concept of a function itself from the idea of a written formula defining the function. ...
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What is the definition of a positive integer?

I am reading the book "The Number-System of Algebra (2nd edition)". At the starting of page-4 the author writes: A positive integer is a symbol for the number of things in a group of distinct ...
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176 views

How to prove ❋4.86 in 1st ed of Whitehead and Russell's PM?

This one has a great degree of self-evidence. Paradoxically, I find it difficult to deduce it from primitive propositions. The book only hinted ❋4.21 and ❋4.22.
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What does “meaning” mean in Whitehead and Russell's PM?

In Principia Mathematica's Introduction, there is a definition for "incomplete" symbol: By an "incomplete" symbol we mean a symbol which is not supposed to have any meaning in isolation, but is ...
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1answer
57 views

Multiply (as a Babylonian): 141 times 17 1/5

How do we multiply 141 times 17 1/5 as a Babylonian? I wasn't sure the space between 17 and 1/5, now I see that 17 1/5 is 17.2 in our notation. Is there a formula that I can solve this? Any hint, ...
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1answer
60 views

History of five lemma

I am interested in the history of five lemma. Who was first to prove it and What was the purpose of proving it ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_lemma
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who invented division and why we do division in those steps told?

i know how to divide but i dont quit understand why we use those steps told in schools. like for example ...
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Why the name “umbilic”?

Umbilic points are points on a surface at which the principle curvatures of the surface are equal. "Umbilic(al)" refers to the navel/belly button. But why do we call these points so? What about the ...
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In the history of mathematics, has there ever been a mistake?

I was just wondering whether or not there have been mistakes in mathematics. Not a conjecture that ended up being false, but a theorem which had a proof that was accepted for a nontrivial amount of ...
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123 views

How did Newton and Leibniz actually do calculus?

How did Leibniz know to write derivatives as $$\frac{dy}{dx}$$ so that everything would work out? For example, the chain rule: $$\frac{dy}{dz}=\frac{dy}{dx}\frac{dx}{dz}$$ Integration by Parts: ...
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158 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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66 views

Works on Calculus by Newton and Leibniz (primary sources)

I'm trying to find PDFs or hard copies of the following works from the dawn of calculus. Does anyone know where I could find English translations of them? Newton - De analysi per aequationes numero ...
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359 views

Are infinitesimals dangerous?

Amir Alexander is a historian of mathematics. His new book is entitled "Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World". See here. Two questions: (1) In what sense are ...
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Reflections on math education

Why is there such a big difference in math education between The Americas and (Europe and Asia) ? except for a few privileged who have the opportunity to access to math much earlier than the ordinary ...
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1answer
70 views

Definition of the $\sec$ function

I am a postgraduate student of mathematics from Slovenia (central Europe) with quite some experience in mathematics. While answering questions on this site, I often encounter the function $\sec(x)$ ...
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4answers
128 views

Soft question: Examples where implications derived from mathematical models failed to describe reality

I have always been fascinated by how well conclusions drawn from mathematical models could fit reality, so I wondered if there are any counter examples. In "Gödel, Escher, Bach" I could already find ...
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Why the $\log$ is so special?

When I first learn about the logarithm function $\log$ or $\ln$. My professor said that $\log x$ is a function that when we derive we get the inverse function $1/x$. This $\log$ becomes very popular ...
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Reason behind standard names of coefficients in long Weierstrass equation

A long Weierstrass equation is an equation of the form $$y^2+a_1xy+a_3y=x^3+a_2x^2+a_4x+a_6$$ Why are the coefficients named $a_1, a_2, a_3, a_4$ and $a_6$ in this manner, corresponding to $xy, x^2, ...
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417 views

The most active fields of mathematics?

Which fields of mathematics are the most active at this time -- by number of papers published, grant money, people working in them or by any other measure? Any trends in this regard?
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180 views

“important” math concepts to pass on to next generation of creatures at some cataclysm [closed]

This may be somewhat silly to ask, but I couldn't resist the temptation. The idiosyncratic physicist Richard Feynman was once asked If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be ...
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History of Morse theory.

How can I get good references which give many information about history of Morse theory? Now I am interested in how and who found that Hessian have a lot of data. Thank you for your helping!!
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1answer
53 views

History of the Enneper Surface

I was just wondering whether anyone could tell me more about the Enneper surface and its history (why it is important historically in the development of mathematics), or where to go in order to learn ...
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Lebesgue - differentiation of monotone functions

I was wondering how Lebesgue himself proved the continuous case. Since my French is not good enough to read his own book, I was wondering if someone knows if there exists a translation ? (at least of ...
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1answer
189 views

Origin of the Notion of a Well-Formed Formula

When was the idea of a well-formed formula first stated or can get inferred as such under another name?
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Soft Question: Algorithms: Will We (One Day) No Longer Need to Study Algorithms? [closed]

I'm just now getting into the study of algorithms and it seems like as computers get faster and faster the need to study algorithms may begin to diminish. How likely is it that in 50 years there ...
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Questions on Fraenkel models

Halbeisen on page 172 contains a section entitled "The Second Fraenkel Model". The original paper by Fraenkel containing this model can be found here. I have several questions regarding this model and ...
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1answer
159 views

Who discovered this number-guessing paradox?

In this math.se post I described in some detail a certain paradox, which I will summarize: $A$ writes two distinct numbers on slips of paper. $B$ selects one of the slips at random (equiprobably), ...
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How do mathematicians think about the existence of numbers?

Question: How do mathematicians think about the existence of numbers? And how did Newton, Euler, and other famous mathematicians thought about this concept? I know that existence of numbers is a ...
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Need help locating a paper

One of the references of the paper Paulo Régis C. Ruffino, A Criticism on "A Mathematician's Apology" by G. H. Hardy (arXiv:1112.4499 [math.HO]) is: Vershik, A. M. – A Dangerous Joke, The ...
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How to interprete ✳43.3 and ✳43.31 in Whitehead and Russell's PM?

Take ✳43.3 for example, I presume $ P = R |Q $ where R is fixed. $ R| $ is the relation between $R|Q$ and $Q$, ie. $ R| = \hat{P} \hat{Q} \{ P = R|Q \} $ $Ɑ‘R|= \hat{Q}\{ E! R|‘Q \}$ Given that ...
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Can mathematics be traced back to a fundamental system of truths?

I'm not sure exactly how to state this question, or even if it belongs here. Still, I hope you will consider it, as I find it very interesting: Most of the results I've seen in mathematics come from ...
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Examples of mathematical results discovered “late”

What are examples of mathematical results that were discovered surprisingly late in history? Maybe the result is a straightforward corollary of an established theorem, or maybe it's just so simple ...
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Did the world experience a “mathematical drought” at any time in history?

Mathematics history goes back pretty far: the Greeks were studying it in 600BC, the Babylonians and Egyptians all the way back beyond 2000BC, and there's even some evidence of prehistoric mathematics. ...
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Are there still undiscovered simple/fundamental theorems? [closed]

Well, if it is undiscovered, then actually we cannot know whether it exists or not. But i am wondering if theorems/equalities like $Pythagorean$ $Theorem$ or maybe $Fermat's$ $Last$ $Theorem$ have ...
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Historical study of dynamical system

I am currently doing a historical study on my school project 'study of ODE' which slowly shift to the study of dynamical system as I am interested in pursuing my study of ode from linear system, phase ...
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C. Neumann passage in Latin from *Annali di Matematica Pura ed Applicata*

Neumann, Carl. “Theoria nova phaenomenis electricis applicanda.” Annali di Matematica Pura ed Applicata 2, no. 1 (August 1868): 120–128. doi:10.1007/BF02419606. p. 121: Nova introducitur ...
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Borel's result on transcendence measure

In "Sur la nature arithmétique du nombre e" (Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences 128 (1899), 596-9) Borel presented his result on transcendence measure for e. This can be restated as follows: ...
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A Concept Which Has Been 'Specialized' In the Course of History

There are so many concepts which have been generalized during history of mathematics - the concept of "number" may be the best examples. On the other hand, a concept may have been specialized ; the ...
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How did the Symmetric group and Alternating group come to be named as such?

The Dihedral group makes sense, "Di" means two, and "hedral" means.. shape I think (I've just realised how much of what I think words mean are guesses based on experience) like a "polygon" is a 2d ...
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Grothendieck's manuscript on differential manifolds

I have a Japanese book on Grothendieck's life and his mathematical works. The author writes that Grothendieck wrote manuscripts(over 250 pages) on "the category of manifolds" and "differential ...
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History Of Algebra

Did the Indians invent algebra which was taken by Arabs and introduced by them to Europe as their own invention? Or did the Arabs invent algebra?