Questions tagged [geometry]

Branch of Mathematics about the properties of the shapes, their similarities and transformations in the space.

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What is Ptolemy holding in this picture?

I would like to know the name of the device Ptolemy is holding in the following picture. [Image Source]
9k views

What is the etymology behind sine, cosine, tangent, etc.?

I heard somewhere that it was actually a mistake in translation. What's the correct story?
3k views

Who was the first to calculate $\pi$?

I am very interested in the history of $\pi$. I am first trying to find out who calculated it. Many sources have different answers, from the ancient Egyptians, to Archimedes, to the Babylonians. I ...
3k views

Did ancient Greek mathematicians consider numbers independently of geometry?

I am currently reading Oliver Bryne's edition of Euclid's Elements, and in The Elements many arithmetic propositions are proved geometrically, and it feels to me that numbers are always treated as ...
354 views

Why did Newton want lines to be generated by continued motion of points rather than by apposition of parts?

The following passage has been extracted from the Newton's (John Stewart's English translated version) "Sir Issac Newton's two Treatises: Of the Quadrature of Curves, and Analysis by equations of an ...
297 views

A knot cannot be tied in 4-dimensions, but when was this conjectured and proven?

Today it has been shown that a 1-dimensional object in 4-dimensional space cannot be tied into a knot. But I would like to know who first conjectured this and when? And when was it proven? (P.S., is ...
957 views

Where was the word "pencil" first used in (projective) geometry and what is the reason behind this curious name?

The title is pretty self-explanatory: A pencil in projective (or algebraic) geometry is the family of all lines through a point. The above-linked website tells me that Cremona, on page x of Elements ...
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First proof that circumference/diameter $=\pi$

I am interested in this question: Who was the first to show that for every circle the fraction $$\frac{\text{circumference}}{\text{diameter}}$$ is always constant? I am not interested in $\pi$ ...
291 views

On the notion of a chain (as for example in chain complex)

The thing with mathematics is that on one if you define something, you are completely free in choosing any name you want, and on the other hand you should find a meaningful name that evokes some ...
249 views

What theorem of Sophus Lie on the number of geometries is H. Poincaré referring to?

In this quotation from Henri Poincaré's essay "Non-Euclidean Geometry" published in Nature in 1892 (No. 1165, Vol 45, p. 406), he refers to a theorem of Sophus Lie. Does anyone know a source for this ...
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What was the best approximation of π known to ancient Babylonians?

Wikipedia's Babylonian mathematics says that the ancient Babylonians usually used a round value for $\pi$ (3). But they knew a more precise value: Babylonian texts usually approximated π≈3, ...
436 views

Indiana Pi Bill: Other attempts to establish mathematical truth by legislative fiat?

Wiki: The Indiana Pi Bill is the popular name for bill #246 of the 1897 sitting of the Indiana General Assembly, one of the most notorious attempts to establish mathematical truth by legislative ...
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What is the history of the meanings behind the word "Geometric"?

I am trying to understand the uses of the word "Geometric" throughout mathematics. I suspect that there may be some historical reasons which would tie things together and help my understanding. ...
203 views

What is Poincare's "Fourth Geometry"?

In Science and Hypothesis, Poincare cryptically describes a "Fourth Geometry." Can anyone clarify what he is talking about? Is there a standard name for this geometry? The Fourth Geometry.—Among ...
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How did Eratosthenes determine that Alexandria and Syene were on the same meridian?

As discussed over here, Eratosthenes measured the earth’s circumference by comparing shadows cast at apparent noon at two locations separated by a known distance. Although accounts of the event (like ...
274 views

What does "organic" mean in old texts when describing plane curves and their construction?

I've been reading about 17th and 18th century geometers and their research into plane curves, especially algebraic curves. A term that comes up frequently is "organic". By context it seems ...
287 views

Was a regular heptagon ever constructed by ancient Greeks?

Today it is well known that a regular heptagon cannot be constructed with straightedge and compass, since it would require to solve an equation of third degree which is not possible with the standard ...
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How was Newton's classification of cubic curves completed?

According to what I have read, using Newton’s methods there are 78 different families of cubic curves. Newton discovered 72 of them while “subsequent research identified another 6”. This paper ...
356 views

What were Riemann's other two submissions for his habilitation?

In Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis, Rockmore discusses how Bernhard Riemann, as per custom, submitted three potential areas of research for his habilitation. Gauss was the chairman of the committee ...
391 views

How did Eratosthenes know the distance between Aswan and Alexandria?

In his well-known measurement of the Earth, and according to Cleomedes, Eratosthenes estimated in 5000 stades the distance between Aswan and Alexandria. Modern accounts state that he calculated the ...
181 views

Definitions of continuity pre-Dedekind

In his article on "Kant's Theory of Geometry", Michael Friedman claims that: (...) before Dedekind mathematicians would commonly give what we call the definition of denseness when explaining what ...
143 views

Origin of the latitude 36 of Eratosthenes

How did Eratosthenes come up with the latitude 36 line, also called 36th parallel north, in the Mediterranean world? Rhodes was one of the navel points in his calculations and even today N36.00 goes ...
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What does "given in species" mean in old geometry textbooks?

I recently came across the term "triangle given in species" in Hatton's Projective Geometry. Searching in archive.org turned up other examples (such as this) of 19th century texts, and it ...
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What is the history of staircase or 𝜋=4 paradox?

The staircase 'paradox' has been discussed here and elsewhere a few times (search for staircase + paradox). My question is whether this puzzle has been discussed in the academic literature or ...
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What are the modern connections of the Pentagramma Mirificum studied by Gauss?

In the last years, i read a lot about a mathematical object that was discovered by John Napier in 1620 and explored much more deeply by Gauss, who called this "Pentagramma Mirificum" (latin for "the ...
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How did Eratosthenes knew the exact time of the day?

Eratosthenes measured the radius of the Earth with an incredibly accuracy. To do it, you need to measure the length of the shadows from 2 different cities at the same time of the day. Then knowing ...
335 views

What did Lobachevsky do?

It is often said that he discovered non-Euclidean geometry. But in which sense? I am reading the book 'geometry' by Brannan et al. They use the disk model as an example of hyperbolic geometry. Did ...
136 views

When did Dehn start to work on Hilbert's third problem?

According to this wiki article, Dehn solved Hilbert's third problem within a year. Did Dehn start to work on the third problem after Hilbert's talk? Since Dehn is Hilbert's student, they were likely ...
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How was the focus/directrix property of conic sections discovered?

I've always thought that defining conic sections by a locus of points w.r.t the ratio of the distance to the focus and directrix was always "too artificial" - how does one actually discover this ...
648 views

What did Farcas Bolyai write to his son?

There are famous quotes about what Farcas Bolyai wrote to his son Janos to persuade him not to study the "theory of parallels " or what is now known as hyperbolic geometry But not all translation of ...
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What exactly did Poincaré mean by 'simply connected'?

I've been reading John Stillwell's translation of the famous Analysis Situs and have become confused about the exact meaning of 'simply connected' in Poincaré's language. On page 7 (in the ...
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When did the use of Sine and Cosine as functions become mainstream?

In the work of early physicists like Newton, everything is explained in terms of cumbersome (in today's standards) geometry. They don't talk about "cosines" of certain angle, but about proportions ...
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Were epicycloids from astronomy acceptable curves in Greek geometry?

My simplified historical understanding is as follows. Euclidean geometry accepted a limited number of geometrical objects (straight-edge and compass constructions, conics). Descartes' Géométrie ...
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What are the origins of the study of symmetry as a subject in itself?

Symmetry has become a central concept in mathematics. The Euclidean concept of similarity is an example of symmetry, but similarity was not a subject of study in itself. Q: How did symmetry come to ...
284 views

How did polar coordinates come into existence?

So, I came here from Mathematics StackExchange where I posted this question. So, I want to know why polar coordinates came into existence. Why exactly did the mathematician who introduced them......
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What did Delaunay invent Delaunay triangulations for before computers were developed?

I was teaching my students about Delaunay Triangulation which is a method for dividing a surface into triangles. This triangulation method is the basis of most computer calculations that require a ...
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How did Aristotle influence Euclid?

In other words, how is Aristotle's logic represented in Euclid's Elements? I have read many articles where Euclid's Elements is linked to Aristotle's logic, but I do not understand, and I can't find ...
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Did physicists correct an error of mathematicians in counting twisted cubics in the quintic?

One problem in enumerative geometry consists in counting the number of rational curves of degree $d$ in the plane going through $n$ general points. If $n = 3d-1$, this number, denoted $N_d$, is finite ...
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How did the use of the word "origin" become commonplace in geometry?

My understanding is that in Cartesian geometry, all coordinate axes of an n-dimensional space may intersect at one point. I would like to know how that point--whether (0, 0), (0,0,0), ... -- came to ...
247 views

When did mathematicians transition from peg and rope to straightedege and compass?

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the student of classical Greek geometry used "straight edge and compass". A. Seidenberg uses the terminology "peg and cord" in proposing that altar construction ...
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When Indian mathematicians learn of Euclid's Elements?

Transfer of mathematical knowledge from India to Europe (such as a positional number system with zero) allowed Europeans to develop arithmetic. But was there also a reverse direction (probably via ...
370 views

When and why was inversive geometry created/studied?

I have been revisiting math from my highschool through undergrad. I picked Courant’s excellent What is Mathematics? The flow is well so far. However, in one of the chapters he introduces inversion - ...
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Has Euclid stated Cauchy's theorem?

Cauchy's Rigidity theorem says that if the corresponding faces of two convex polytopes are isometric (congruent) then the polytopes are related by a (proper or improper) motion. Cauchy's biography (...
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Meaning of a cryptic sentence by Gauss on "the mobility of figures in the hyperbolic plane"

G. Waldo Dunnington writes in pages 189-190 of his biography of Gauss: Among the axioms of geometry which do not depend on the parallel postulate are those which secure the free mobility of a ...
287 views

How did Ramanujan empirically obtain these errors?

In one of Srinivasa Ramanujan's writings, he discusses the perimeter of an ellipse, $p$. He finds two approximations (page 39): 16. The following approximations for $p$ were obtained empirically: ...
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What is the origin of French/Burmester's curves?

French curves are a set of curvilinear rulers used in industrial design, before the advent of CAD, when everything still had to be drawn by hands. The most popular set of such rulers is made up of 3 ...
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What are the earliest known proofs that planimeters 'work'?

The dates of various physical implementations of planimeters are pretty well known. I'm interested in discovering when formal mathematical proofs were published that any given design does calculate ...
355 views

What topological ideas did Gauss introduce to his student Möbius?

Recently I found a website with good historical information about the contributions of Gauss to Analysis situs (the old term for topology). The site is in German so I made a Google translate to ...