Questions tagged [mathematics]

For questions about the quantitative study of topics such as numbers, structure, space, and change, carried out by investigating patterns.

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11
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4answers
305 views

Concept of a function and Idea of a formula as a function

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. ...
18
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1answer
490 views

What is the modern significance of Theaetetus's classification of quadratic irrationals?

Before Eudoxus's theory of proportion there was a theory of irrationals based on continued fraction expansions, which Fowler calls anthyphairesis. Theaetetus is said to develop a classification of ...
13
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2answers
618 views

Why is Leibniz less well regarded?

A well-known and specific example is that Leibniz is less well regarded than Newton for his calculus, the reason being notation, Leibniz notation lets you incorrectly work with derivatives as ...
40
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3answers
2k views

What led to the fall of Göttingen?

Göttingen was the place in which many important mathematicians such as Riemann worked. It was also one of the main locations for the development of quantum theory in the twenties (e.g. Heisenberg, ...
41
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3answers
3k views

When exactly (and why) did matrices become a part of the undergraduate curriculum?

Let me tell what I know about this. It is well-known that Heisenberg invented matrix multiplication himself, in his great paper that is considered part of the foundation of quantum mechanics. This was ...
17
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1answer
386 views

What specific problems motivated Poincaré's work on topology?

The McTutor biography on Poincaré says: Poincaré's Analysis situs, published in 1895, is an early systematic treatment of topology. He can be said to have been the originator of algebraic topology ...
11
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3answers
974 views

When did architects learn how to calculate load on building members accurately?

For many years, large buildings with impressive spans between the building columns were erected without precisely calculating what loads the columns, walls, and buttresses would have to support. Load ...
13
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2answers
188 views

What group theoretic results were known for several special cases before the general definition of a group was established?

Many results in group theory were proven for permutation groups before the general definition of a group was established (for example: Lagrange's theorem, Sylow's theorems). However, permutation ...
27
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1answer
3k views

Why is American and French notation different for open intervals (x, y) vs. ]x, y[?

The Americans and the French use a different notation for open intervals: The Americans use (x, y) while the French use ]x, y[. How did this notational divergence appear?
14
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6answers
2k views

Have numbering systems other than base ten ever been used or popular?

Base ten makes a lot of sense as a numbering system, given the number of digits humans typically have on their hands. That said, some older money systems weren't based on the number of fingers we ...
11
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1answer
606 views

How and when was Bolzano's proof of the Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem rediscovered?

I've always been curious about how great forgotten ideas are rediscovered. This question: Are there written (19th century) sources expressing the belief that the intermediate value property is ...
12
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2answers
388 views

What examples led to the modern definition of a topological space?

Today the language of topological spaces via open sets is fundamental in many different areas of mathematics, and it is a bit mysterious that the same formalism successfully captures such a wide ...
10
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3answers
650 views

How come we attribute the general theory of relativity to Einstein?

How come do we attribute general theory of relativity to Einstein when David Hilbert published first?
29
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3answers
697 views

Are there written (19th century) sources expressing the belief that the intermediate value property is equivalent to continuity?

As asked in the title: Are there any written sources (from the 19th century) explicitly stating the belief that any function satisfying the intermediate value property is continuous? (I do not ...
35
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3answers
2k views

What motivated Cantor to invent set theory?

I can't imagine mathematics without sets, but the question "what was mathematics like before there were sets" is not answerable, I think. Instead, a good answer to the title question should cover a ...
16
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1answer
886 views

When was the method of getting square roots (invented by Viète in 1610 and developed by Harriot in 1631) first taught to school children?

François Viète's On the Numerical Resolution of Powers by Exegetics published in 1610 (Viete, 2006, pp. 311-370) introduced one way of numerically solving polynomial equations, a special case of which ...
36
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5answers
10k views

What is the difference between Calculus of Newton and that of Leibniz?

Are there any differences between the study of Calculus done by Newton as compared to that done by Leibniz? If yes, please mention point by point.
35
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5answers
2k views

When did Mathematics stop being one of “the Sciences”?

If you ask a mathematician today, many will tell you that mathematics is not a science. Many physicists, chemists, and scientists in other disciplines would say something similar. Mathematicians will ...
22
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6answers
2k views

Why were so many pre-18th century Mathematicians polymaths?

It is well known that famous names such as Gauss, Euler and Newton were polymaths as well as their main fields of study and contributed from optics to ship building. Why was this the case in the past? ...
47
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3answers
3k views

Which came first, the natural logarithm or the base of the natural logarithm?

The natural logarithm function ($\ln x$) and the base of the natural logarithm function ($e$) are both extremely useful. They're also both closely related: $\ln (e^x)=x$, and $e^{\ln x}=x$. But which ...
21
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2answers
486 views

In what form does the field of metamathematics exist today?

I was rewriting the Wikipedia article for metamathematics, and it was very difficult to find any references after the 1930s. The most important works seem to have been Gödel's completeness and ...
19
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3answers
1k views

What mathematical developments/discoveries caused imaginary numbers to gain acceptance at the time (18th century) they did?

In a Wiki article on imaginary numbers it was asserted that "the use of imaginary numbers was not widely accepted until the work of Leonhard Euler (1707–1783) and Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855)." ...
17
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1answer
769 views

The Abacus vs. the Electric Calculator (Nov 12, 1946): Why did the latter lose?

On Nov 12, 1946 the Americans organized a contest in Japan to compare the Japanese Abacus with the American Electric Calculator. The Abacus won: "Civilization, on the threshold of the atomic age, ...
20
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2answers
2k views

Hilbert's reaction to Gödel's incompleteness theorems

Is it known how Hilbert initially reacted to Gödel's incompleteness theorems upon their announcement at the Königsberg conference in 1930, or their publication in 1931?
13
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3answers
1k views

Why isn't there a Nobel prize in Mathematics?

While I have heard speculative answers to this question, I do not know one which can be supported. Is there any information explaining why Nobel did not chose to include this topic? Has there even ...
18
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1answer
2k views

Why did Rene Descartes go to Sweden?

The year before he died, mathematician Rene Descartes accepted an invitation to tutor the brilliant 19-year old Queen Christina of Sweden (some thirty years younger). He apparently died from the ...
18
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2answers
422 views

What was the connection between David Hilbert and Stephan Banach?

The so-called "Hilbert space" is named after mathematician David Hilbert. Later, this was generalized into "Banach spaces" by Stephan Banach. My understanding is that Hilbert was German and Banach ...
27
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2answers
1k views

When and how was the geometric understanding of gauge theories developed?

In theoretical physics, the modern perspective on gauge theory is that it is most elegantly described in the 'language' of differential geometry. I am interested in the history behind these ideas. ...
61
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5answers
9k views

Why was Évariste Galois killed?

It is well known that Évariste Galois died a young man. I have heard that he died in a duel. What was the duel about? More rather what is the back story behind his death and did he really write down ...
23
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4answers
8k views

Ancient Chinese numbering system

It has been said that the invention of zero was a great leap forward, not only in abstract understanding, but in the ability to introduce place value notation and do computations; computing using ...
64
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3answers
8k views

What evidence is there that Fermat had a proof for his Last Theorem?

Aside from the fact that Fermat was a genius, is it probable that he actually did have a proof? Some specifics that I think would point one way or another: Would the mathematics of his day allow him ...
23
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4answers
3k views

Irrationality of the square root of 2

We know that Pythagoreans in Ancient Greece discovered that the square root of two is an irrational number. Why was that discovery historically significant? What value was that knowledge to the ...
15
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1answer
398 views

Cauchy's undead theory

A well known urban legend states that Cauchy's last words to the Academy where: C'est ce que j'expliquerai plus au long dans un prochain mémoire. ("I will explain it in greater detail in my next ...

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