Questions tagged [terminology]

For questions about terms, definitions and related concepts used in science and mathematics.

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How did the concept of pH originate and develop?

Background & My research To begin I did some research to find a few articles on the history of pH namely "The Symbol for pH" - William B. Jensen, "One-Hundred Years of pH" - ...
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Was "potency set" used for power set?

Cross posted at Math Overflow For historical reasons, the English term "power set" in set theory is a translation of the German "Potenzmenge", which is still in use in German ...
Frode Alfson Bjørdal's user avatar
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Why Serre need to develop the concept of "sheaf theory" in algebraic geometry? [duplicate]

I read Edward Frenkel's Love and Math. But reanding this book made me wonder about origin of the concept of the sheaf used in algebraic geometry. I think the conclusion that I came to in the process ...
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Who came up with the Darwinian demon?

I know of Maxwell's, Descartes' and Laplace's demons but I recently found out that there is Darwinian one. I do not think that this demon appears in the works of Charles Darwin. Do you know who may ...
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The origin of $∂^2=0$ and $d^2=0$

I know that formula $∂^2=0$ and $d^2=0$ very important in the homology and cohomology theory. And I understand that this formula was generated from the process of finding a solution to the partial ...
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Etymology of "discrete" in mathematics

People sometimes make a distinction between continuous mathematics and discrete mathematics. Continuous mathematics study objects that abstract the notion of a continuum and typical examples are the ...
Weier's user avatar
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Why energy rate did not replace power = Force times velocity?

After reading the history of horse power (and power), the physical definitions for them and after testing the theory in rally races, I'm curious what were the reasons for selecting this word (power) ...
marius-ciclistu's user avatar
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Who introduced the terminology “nondecreasing” for weakly increasing (i.e. x≤y ⇒ f(x)≤f(y)), and when/why?

Arguably one of the most hated parts of English mathematical terminology is the word “nondecreasing”, referring to a function such that $x\leq y \;\Rightarrow\; f(x)\leq f(y)$ (what other conventions ...
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Who first introduced the term "necessary condition" in mathematical language?

I recently delved into a discussion about a statement attributed to the renowned mathematician and philosopher, Benjamin Peirce. In this statement, he refers to mathematics as "the science that ...
Humberto José Bortolossi's user avatar
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Who was the first to use bijections?

I know that Bourbaki were the first who used the word 'bijection', but one-to one functions were for sure used before them. So do you aware of the earliest examples of one-to-one correspondences?
kerzol's user avatar
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How did the concept of local field emerge and develop in mathematics?

When I was studying class field theory, I saw local class field theory. However, I suddenly became curious about local fields, not local class field theory. As far as I know, the local field is the ...
pokssin's user avatar
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Dissemination of Calculus in China

Much has already been written about the dissemination of Euclidean geometry into China: https://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/mathematical-treasure-euclid-in-china, https://academic.oup....
D.R's user avatar
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Origin of $V_a$ (median) notation

My question about median of a triangle. The English equivalent of the Turkish word "kenarortay" is "median". In English-language geometry sources (like books or web pages), the ...
scarface's user avatar
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What is the origin of the "red, green, yellow" quark color convention?

In physics, quarks come in one of three color states, usually chosen to be called, "red", "green", and "blue". However, because these are just labels, there are other ...
jack101yello's user avatar
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Who first called $\mathrm e$ "Euler's number"?

Euler is usually credited with denoting this number with the letter $\mathrm e$. But It seems unlikely that Euler chose the letter because it is the initial of his own name, as occasionally been ...
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Light propagated instantaneously rather than gradually

In the following paper from I. Bernard Cohen, "Roemer and the First Determination of the Velocity of Light (1676)" published on Isis (1940): Can be read: explaining that the delay would ...
Jon's user avatar
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In a survey of historical science has anyone studied the propensity of other departments to co-opt scientific terminology to further their own ideas?

For example, Albert Einstein complained that sociology departments across the quad were using his theory of relativity to advance the idea of "relativistic morality." The meaning of ...
ray grant's user avatar
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What is the etymology of the term space-time?

I'm looking for the earliest references to the word space-time (in the modern sense), in any language. The first references would likely be in German, as Raum-Zeit or Raumzeit. Of course, H. Minkowski ...
John's user avatar
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Who coined the term Orthonormal?

Does anyone know who coined the term orthonormal to refer to a basis that is orthogonal and normal? In such a poorly named mathematical world (looking at you, conditionally convergent series) I think ...
I love orthonormal's user avatar
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1 answer
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When did Macaulay rings become Cohen-Macaulay rings?

In his book on commutative rings (published 1970), Kaplansky talks about Macaulay rings. In the mid 1970's, I learned some commutative algebra from a student of his, who referred to these rings as ...
Chris Leary's user avatar
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Use of the verb "induct" in proofs by mathematical induction

Occasionally, in a proof by mathematical induction, the writer will say something like, "We induct on $n$" or "We induct on the number of vertices." This usage of the verb induct ...
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The etymology of "radio waves"

The word "radio" originates from "radius", which in turn came from "ray". That's why "radius" means any line from a central focal point to any directions. ...
Piinhuann Chew's user avatar
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Poisson's laws for adiabatic processes

I've been reading about Thermodynamics lately. The set of equations satisfied in an adiabatic process (and also more generally in polytropic ones) is: $$p_1V_1^\gamma = p_2V_2^\gamma$$ $$T_1V_1^{\...
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When did the error function get its modern definition?

I am currently writing an essay on the error function and after researching its historical origin, I found out who first defined it: J.W.L. Glaisher. But his definition is different from today's form. ...
Nogi Biggi's user avatar
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Terminology associated with mathematical induction

In "Number: The Language of Science" (1930), Tobias Dantzig refers to what we call the base case of mathematical induction as "the induction step" (and refers to what we call the ...
James Propp's user avatar
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Katz's symbol 兄 for Gauss-Manin connections

In his famous 1970 paper [1], Nicholas Katz used the character 兄 for the Gauss-Manin connection. I have always been curious about the history behind this symbol. Question: What motivated Katz to use ...
lzww's user avatar
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The origin and use of the term "equianharmonic" (elliptic function)

In Weierstrass notation, the principal elliptic function $\wp$ is a solution of the differential equation $$ (\wp')^2= 4\wp^3 -g_2\wp -g_3. $$ The case when $g_3=0$ is called lemniscatic (it ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
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Why is 'total angular momentum' denoted by the letter $J$ in quantum mechanics?

In quantum mechanics, we say $J$ ('total angular momentum') = $L$ ('orbital angular momentum') + $S$ ('spin angular momentum'). Apparently $S$ is from 'Spin', but why $J$ for the total angular ...
edpidufd's user avatar
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The symbol h for class numbers

We use $h_K$ conventionally to denote the class numbers of number fields $K$. But I have never thought why the letter $h$ was used for it. Why and who used $h$ for the class number?
P.-S. Park's user avatar
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Weyl's gauge theory and railroad tracks

There is a claim I occasionally read that the origin of the word "gauge" refers to a track gauge used in railroad tracks (the distance between two rails). It's a claim I have seen here, here,...
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Who coined the term "sulphuretted hydrogen"?

Hydrogen sulfide was previously named "sulphuretted hydrogen" but I can't find the person who named/coined it. Although Carl Wilhelm Scheele is credited to have discovered and isolated the ...
Nilay Ghosh's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
274 views

What's the difference between Galileo's "impeto" and "momento"?

In Galileo's Two New Sciences, he describes an experiment demonstrating pendulum motion and how the pendulum will rise to the same height from where it started its fall. This discussion can be found ...
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Definition and Name Change of the Oscillation Function

I have two related questions: Who first defined the oscillation function (perhaps under a different name)? When did the switch from the phrase "saltus function"(*) to "oscillation ...
Alp Uzman's user avatar
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Usage of "sphere" as ball's surface vs as ball itself

In everyday English, "sphere" means a round object. People will think of the insides as part of the sphere. In Mathematics it specifically means the surface of the ball. How did the ...
theonlygusti's user avatar
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0 answers
71 views

Who coined the name "cosmological constant"?

I am aware that Albert Einstein first added the $\Lambda$-term to his field equations in his 1917 paper "Cosmological considerations in the general theory of relativity" (german: "...
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When was Lipschitz equivalence first attributed to Lipschitz or did Lipschitz formulate it himself?

In his book Introduction to Metric and Topological Spaces, author Wilson A Sutherland in explaining the equivalence of metrics invoked the definition: Two metrics $d_1, d_2$ on a set $X$ will be ...
User1865345's user avatar
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When was the term "Sparingly soluble" first introduced in chemistry?

This question is inspired from: Why do we call salts such as AgCl sparingly soluble? The extent of solubility can be expressed as descriptive terms. U.S. Pharmacopoeia has made the following ...
Nilay Ghosh's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
2k views

What is the origin of the negation ( ¬ ) operator from logic?

I'm curious as to what the rationale was, and who the idea occurred to, for the ¬ symbol. I'll grant that more common mathematical symbols like +, −, × and ÷ are also likely unknown, but they seem to ...
Michael Macha's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
170 views

Did Kronecker's "ganzen Zahlen" refer to whole numbers as natural numbers or integers?

Maybe this is a question better for German language Stack Exchange, but in the quote attributed to Kronecker: Die ganzen Zahlen hat der liebe Gott gemacht, alles andere ist Menschenwerk. So "...
qwr's user avatar
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1 answer
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Origin of the term "affixe"/"affix" in the geometric treatment of complex numbers

In current French mathematical tradition, when introducing complex numbers, it is common to hear about "complex plane of Argand-Cauchy". What is particular in French treatment, it is the ...
Alexey's user avatar
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0 answers
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At what point did "Archean" go from meaning the entire Precambrian to just the middle part?

I can't find the exact date when the Archean began to mean "the middle of the Precambrian", as opposed to the beginning or the whole thing. It is some time after 1925 and before 1972. ...
Spencer's user avatar
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1 answer
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Why is $T_{\mu\nu}$ the Standard Notation for the Stress-Energy-Momentum Tensor

My question is simple: why do we use $T_{\mu\nu}$ to denote the stress energy momentum tensor, and when was the concept of the stress energy tensor first (or roughly the first) introduced (and by whom)...
spicy_potatoes's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
359 views

First use of "Spur" (trace) for linear maps / matrices

Every student of linear algebra learns about the trace of a linear map. Its easiest (albeit not most conceptual) definition is: write the map as matrix, then the trace is the sum of the diagonal ...
Torsten Schoeneberg's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why is the letter $b$ used to represent the y-intercept in the equation of straight line?

The slope-intercept form of a non-vertical line is $y=mx+b$. I have been told that the slope is called $m$ because it is the first letter of the French word for mountain. But why is there the letter $...
user107952's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
257 views

Why is thermodynamics called thermodynamics?

Thermodynamics is derived from two Greek words Therme, which means heat Dynamis, which means power We know that 'thermodynamics' encapsulates many concepts like energy, temperature, entropy, exergy, ...
Harshit Rajput's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
177 views

Who proclaimed separation of science from philosophy?

Historically (since 2500 years ago), philosophy - "love of wisdom" in Greek - encompassed all intellectual endeavors, and natural philosophy was seen as its part. However, these days the ...
sds's user avatar
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1 answer
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What is the earliest use of the $\perp\!\!\!\!\perp$ symbol in statistics to denote statistical independence?

The symbol $\perp\!\!\!\!\perp$ in statistics is a way to denote statistical independence of a collection of random variables. I have seen two forms of it. The first is highly suitable in writing ...
Galen's user avatar
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First example of regularization

Background: I like to think of L'Hospital as one of the earliest authors of least-squares regression. L'Hospital, G. (1696). L'analyse des infiniment petits pour l'intelligence des lignes courbes. I'm ...
EngrStudent's user avatar
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Formal logic as a synonym to syllogistic logic, or as a name for the study of logic?

On page 443, section 1.1 Expanding to Contradiction, in José Ferreirós' A Road To Modern Logic - An Interpretation, the following is written: Philosophical conceptions of logic have been complex and ...
user110391's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
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Context of the discovery of ultraproducts

Łoś's theorem is a fundamental theorem in model theory (a branch of mathematical logic). Historical question: What was Łoś's original motivation to define ultraproducts and prove Łoś's theorem? Which ...
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