Some mathematical concepts, such as that of number and that of geometrical figure, presumably originate from pre-existing notions already used by at least some non-mathematicians.

Others seem to have a different origin, maybe the concept of trope for example.

What are the concepts, if any, which are currently the object of active research in mathematics, which do not have any obvious origin outside of mathematics?

Thank you for any scholarly reference.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What about prime number? $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko "prime number?" I would say that the notion of prime number obviously derives from that of number and multiplication (or division) of numbers, which probably has been in use before mathematics? What about tropes? $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 17:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Obviois?? Name me one culture, except the ancient Greeks which studied or discussed it! $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ What's a trope? $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ The origin is not obvious typically because the concept is introduced through several abstraction steps stretched over long historical periods, as with sheaves or motives currently prominent in algebraic geometry and topology. Tropes have a much more straightforward geometric origin, and all of them are traceable to outside origins in $n$ degrees of separation. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Mar 16 at 2:23


Your Answer

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