I have yet to read a math book that mentions ancient African mathematicians at any length or level of detail. There is scant coverage in academic settings in the United States, perhaps elsewhere too. Most books have side notes that mention only European and east Asian mathematicians.

Obviously, the ancient Egyptians had a lot of knowledge about trigonometry, given that they built the pyramids.

Well-regarded ancient Greek intellectuals acknowledged the achievements of African mathematicians throughout their historic writings. Modern academicians consider these ancient Greek and Roman authors to be credible, yet that credibility is selective regarding African mathematicians. For specific examples, please see this link.

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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it seems like a rant and not a specific question, requiring a specific answer (as per the Stack Exchange model). Should be rewritten to focus on the specific question. $\endgroup$
    – user22
    Nov 3, 2014 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe because without a specific person. people is hard to remember. So even if they write about it, the readers won't remember after all. $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Nov 3, 2014 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ Similarly, there is a very legitimate question within the rant-like question. $\endgroup$
    – user22
    Nov 3, 2014 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ This is more of a question (or rant, if you wish) about the content biases of historical education rather than one of the "History of Science and Math" itself. It's an interesting topic for practicing historians that might fit on our History SE — i.e. why those biases exist — but it isn't really on topic for this site. $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2014 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ This is much better - very good edit, @EllieKesselman, happy to vote to reopen. $\endgroup$
    – user22
    Nov 4, 2014 at 0:14

2 Answers 2


I do not think the following is true:

Why is it so hard for many white scholars and writers of today to acknowledge that Ancient African Mathematicians played a very important role in the development of mathematics.

Mathematicians of north Africa, what is present day Egypt, Tunisia (old Carthage), Algeria and Morocco are widely and readily acknowledged by scholars* of all races for their achievements in number theory, mathematical logic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. These mathematicians of antiquity had Arab, Jewish, Latin and Greek names, but they were all African, geographically. "African mathematicians" also include the mathematicians of ancient Syracuse, Alexandria and the land area just north of the Straits of Gibraltar (I am thinking too of the Moors, who were more contemporary than ancient... maybe).

As for the Great Pyramids at Giza, we still don't know how these structures were built, nor the names of those who built them. That makes any explicit acknowledgement difficult.

*Specific examples can be found in mathematics textbooks by Apostol specifically this textbook, Calculus I.

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    $\begingroup$ Would the downvoter care to elaborate on his/her problems with this answer? $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Nov 3, 2014 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ Syracuse is not in Africa. $\endgroup$
    – fdb
    May 22, 2016 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @fdb I know that Syracuse is not in Africa. The land area just north of the Straits of Gibraltar isn't either. However, what I think I meant when I wrote this answer was that there were plenty of people from north Africa who traveled and moved to Syracuse and southern Spain, and back again, back and forth across the Mediterranean, who were from north Africa. $\endgroup$ May 23, 2016 at 5:43

African mathematicians are acknowledged in history.

What is true is that most of the African mathematicians that are acknowledged are North Africans. That's because Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, etc. are on the "southern rim" of the Mediterranean, and was therefore part of the "classical" world of southern Europe and the Middle East.

It is also true that Sub Sahara mathematicians are not well recognized at least until modern times. Those places were remote, both by sheer distance, but especially by transportation from "centers" of civilization further north.


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