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

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21
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552 views

Definitive source about Dirichlet finally proving the Unit Theorem in the Sistine Chapel

There is a remark one can find in various books or survey articles (e.g., page 49 of Helmut Koch's "Number Theory: Algebraic Numbers and Algebraic Functions") saying Dirichlet figured out a proof of ...
17
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0answers
250 views

To what extent were mathematicians in previous centuries aware of the lack of rigour in their methods?

By modern standards, much of pre-modern mathematics isn't rigorous. Famous examples include Euler's solution to the Basel problem or literally anything involving sets before Cantor and Russel came ...
15
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1k views

What is magical about Cartan's magic formula?

Why is Cartan's magic formula $$\mathscr{L}_X\omega = i_Xd\omega + d(i_X\omega)$$ called "magic"? Should it be considered a highly surprising result? Does it "magically" prove several other ...
13
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0answers
100 views

Why would I define Alexander–Spanier cohomology?

I think I can motivate the definitions of simplicial, singular, de Rham, Čech, and sheaf (co)homology, more or less. I might want to understand bordism, and start by trying to understand ...
11
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0answers
204 views

Why is $J$ sometimes used to denote $\mathbb{Z}_{>0}$?

In older books, such as Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis and Herstein's Topics in Algebra, I've noticed that authors tended to use $J$ to denote $\mathbb{Z}_{>0}$. Does anyone have any ...
11
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125 views

$\sin$ vs. $sin$ - history and usage

One thing newcomers to TeX or MathJax often get wrong is that they write something like $sin(x)$ instead of $\sin(x)$ - the point being that common mathematical functions with names consisting of ...
10
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0answers
329 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 ...
9
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92 views

Did Landau prove that there is a prime on $(x,(1+1/5)x)?$

Was Landau the first to prove that there is a prime on $(x,\frac{6}{5}x )?$ In his Handbuch $^1$ discussing the limit $$\lim_{n\to\infty} (\pi((1+\epsilon)x)-\pi(x))=\infty $$ he seems to say that ...
9
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183 views

What is the most cited mathematical paper?

Just out of curiosity: What is the paper with the largest number of citations in all of mathematics? I think it is Shannon's A Mathematical Theory of ...
9
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0answers
155 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 ...
8
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136 views

Did Field's Medalist Klaus Roth suffer from test anxiety?

I remember hearing the story that Fields Medalist Klaus Roth was convinced that he could not pass a qualifying exam when he was a graduate student. He was then given a so called practice exam for him ...
8
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0answers
258 views

How did Cohen invent forcing?

A couple of popular maths book, I forget which stated that Cohen invented Forcing. Now, generally I've noticed that there is a history which allows one in hindsight to show that how certain ...
7
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0answers
95 views

History of the term “anodyne” in homotopy theory

There is a notion of an anodyne morphism (usually of simplicial sets). This type of morphisms is used, for instance, to establish basic properties of quasicategories. But the name is quite mysterious. ...
7
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249 views

Decoding Gauss' Easter Algorithm

In 1800, Gauss published this algorithm for computing the date of Easter in a given year $year$: $a = year \mod 19$ $b = year \mod 4$ $c = year \mod 7$ $k = \lfloor year/100 \rfloor$ $p ...
7
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0answers
191 views

How do mathematicians know what is known?

How do mathematicians know that what they are researching has not been already know for 200 years? Obviously if they are researching something that is cutting edge it is not a problem, but if one is ...
7
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0answers
116 views

To whom is the proof that $A_n$ is simple for $n\geqslant 5$ due, in Rotman's book?

The proof in Rotman's book, Introduction to the Theory of Groups, that $A_n$ is simple consists of the observation that $A_n$ is generated by the $3$-cycles, and hence that if a normal subgroup $H\lhd ...
7
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162 views

Origin of $\mapsto$ notation

Who invented the brilliant $\mapsto$ notation for describing a function's action on a point, as in $x \mapsto x^2$? This is in some sense a counterpart to Who came up with the arrow notation $x ...
7
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0answers
194 views

Citation for subset complement result

Let $S = \{s_1, \ldots, s_n\} \subset \{1, \ldots, 2n\}$. Consider two operations on $S$, unfortunately both called complement in different setting: let $A(S) = \{1, \ldots, 2n\} \setminus S$ (set ...
7
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384 views

notation for ramification index and inertial degree

For a prime $Q$ lying over a prime $P$, I have seen the ramification index of $Q$ over $P$ denoted by $e(Q|P)$ and the inertial degree of $Q$ over $P$ by $f(Q|P)$. What is the origin of the ...
6
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0answers
458 views

2015-related question: why are Lucas-Carmichael numbers named after Lucas?

Summary 2015 is a so called Lucas-Carmichael number. I believe (for reasons that I will explain below) that the 'Carmichael' in the name is a reference to ordinary Carmichael numbers and not to the ...
6
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0answers
211 views

History of a combinatoric problem: exchanging numbers by throwing stones

Another user recently asked a question on the Puzzling stack: Two spies throwing stones into a river. Suitably generalised, it becomes: Two spies (Alice and Bob) need to exchange a message. Each ...
6
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0answers
241 views

Historical Question about Schur-Zassenhaus Theorem

I couldn't find any historical information about Schur-Zassenhaus theorem in many books or even papers which mention this theorem. I think, Schur proved that if $G$ is a finite group and if $N$ is ...
6
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180 views

Priority of the content of a note by Lebesgue from 1905

I refer to a note by Lebesgue Remarques sur la définition de l'intégrale, Bull.Sci.Math. 29 (1905) 272-275 not very known (see pdf for an exposition in English). It is a pedagogical note containing a ...
5
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0answers
330 views

Mathematics felt by Srinivasa Ramanujan

At the moment I am reading the book Ramanujan's Papers by B.J. Venkatachala, V. Vinay and C.S. Yogananda; when clarifying some doubt with a professor, he told me that Srinivasa Ramanujan used Galois ...
5
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57 views

Reference? filler: IRS, Rhind Papyrus, High-school algebra

I believe something like this was included as a filler in one of the MAA journals many years ago. I am searching for the exact reference (for the filler, or an earlier source). Someone dies, and ...
5
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215 views

How Ramanujan find this formula

I have seen this formula from Ramanujan $\sum_n \frac{a^{n+1}-b^{n+1}}{a-b}\frac{c^{n+1}-d^{n+1}}{c-d}T^n=\frac{1-abcdT^2}{(1-abT)(1-acT)(1-bcT)(1-bdT)}$. I know how to prove it via geometric ...
5
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0answers
269 views

Ramanujan and sum of four cubes

This is more a question on History than proof itself. About a decade ago, a college professor and a Math coach told us about this beautiful theorem: Every multiple of 6 can be written as a sum of ...
5
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0answers
124 views

The mathematical heritage of Lewis Carroll

Which mathematical results has Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, produced? Wikipedia is very vague with regard to this topic and gives us little more than a matrix ...
5
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0answers
295 views

History of line integral.

I'm looking for some information about how the line integral was discovered, since I've been looking for a long time for this. I found that Riemann could integer discontinuity functions, then Poisson ...
5
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0answers
263 views

Bloom of Thymaridas

I'm interested in learning more about the Bloom of Thymaridas, a description of which can be found here. Obviously the mathematics behind the identity is not particularly deep from a modern ...
5
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0answers
518 views

Mac Lane and Eilenberg's motivations for category theory

I'm looking to understand the conceptual process that brought Eilenberg and Mac Lane in developing the basic concepts of category theory. I quote Mac Lane's book "Category theory for working ...
5
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0answers
163 views

History Question - Branch Cut

My professor began discussing branch cuts in class today and mentioned that he did not know the origin of the term. Does anyone know the origin of the term and perhaps a source that talks about it?
4
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0answers
74 views

In the mean value theorem, we are guaranteed $c$ such that $f'(c) = (f(b)-f(a))/(b-a)$. Does $c$ have a name?

The Mean Value Theorem says approximately that for differentiable $f$, there is a $c \in (a,b)$ such that $$ f'(c) = \frac{f(b)-f(a)}{b - a}. $$ I presume that the number $f'(c)$ is the mean value. My ...
4
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0answers
42 views

Why row vectors in stochastic processes?

It seems reasonable to state that column vectors $\mathbf{x}$ are the most frequently seen standard notation, often using $\mathbf{x}^\intercal$ to denote a row vector (transposed column vector). ...
4
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0answers
70 views

Cambridge Maths Tripos Papers

Does anyone know where I can find Cambridge Maths Tripos Papers for the 1980s?
4
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0answers
72 views

math historian who don't belong to academia

Is there examples of math historian who don't belong to academia? Is it possible for professionally non-academician to perform good work in the field of the history of mathematics and publish? Does ...
4
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0answers
1k views

What is the origin of “how the Japanese multiply” / line multiplication?

A few months ago I made a video about a way to multiply numbers using lines (here) and it got really popular. I had heard about this trick before and I wanted to trace its origins. It seems to me to ...
4
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0answers
46 views

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 ...
4
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90 views

Was the Weierstrass function constructed or discovered?

Reading Halmos' I want to be a mathematician, he mentions a continuous function without a tangent. Naturally, I was curious to see how such a function could possibly exist, and I imagined it to be ...
4
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0answers
114 views

Earliest precursor to category theory

In the Historical notes section of the Wikipedia article on category theory, it is mentioned that in 1942-1945, Samuel Eilenberg and Saunders Mac Lane, in the course of their work in algebraic ...
4
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0answers
132 views

Why do Mathematicians use $u$ and $v$ as variables?

I'm sure this has happened to you as well: you are reading some hand-written work, the variables used are $u$ and $v$, and at some point the handwriting becomes unclear and you cannot distinguish the ...
4
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0answers
54 views

Original proof of the Invariance of Domain Theorem (in English)?

Does anyone know where I can find a translation of the original proof of the Invariance of Domain Theorem in English? Wikipedia cites the original proof to be in: Beweis der Invarianz des ...
4
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0answers
897 views

Is there any English version of Récoltes et Semailles?

I felt like my question isn't appropriate for MO, so I though maybe I should post it here. I want to read Alexander Grothendieck's "Récoltes et Semailles", but I don't know any French. I can easily ...
4
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0answers
71 views

Mathematical journals (maybe in the past) with regular competitions?

I just finished reading Yōko Ogawa's "The Housekeeper and the Professor". One of the main characters - "the professor" - is a retired mathematician who regularly takes part in contests published in a ...
4
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0answers
84 views

The Leibniz rule in Euler's works

Does anyone know if the Leibniz rule (the method of differentiation under the integral sign), or a variation thereof, has ever appeared in any of Euler's papers? Any references would be appreciated. ...
4
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0answers
118 views

Generic Points to the Italians

When I first learned algebraic geometry, I naturally wiki-ed the subject and there was a line there that said the old school Italians used the notion "generic points without any precise definition." ...
4
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115 views

Why are 'Groups' and 'Rings' in Algebra called so ? and other nomenclature questions

I have always wondered why are the following concepts/objects in Mathematics named so : 1.) Group 2.) Ring 3.) Exterior derivative (in differential geometry) 4.) Interior multiplication (in ...
4
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0answers
243 views

How much are mathematics driven by applications?

At some point this provocative question came to my mind: Are mathematics mostly driven by applications? I am taking into account some of the comments made to my original question so I want to ...
4
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0answers
81 views

The number of solutions of $ax^4 - by^4 \equiv 1$ (mod $p$) for a prime of the form $p = 4n + 1$

Weil writes in his paper "The number of solutions of equations in finite fields" that Gauss finds the number of solutions of $ax^4 - by^4 \equiv 1$ (mod $p$) for a prime of the form $p = 4n + 1$ in ...
4
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0answers
124 views

Using other fields of math to simplify a proof.

One of the first non-trivial results given in most courses on algebraic topology is the proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra using topological methods. This is on page 11 of J.P. May's A ...