Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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Sparse matrix ("matrice creuse") etymology in French

I am looking for the etymology of matrice creuse. According to Wikipedia, it seems James Joseph Sylvester used the term "matrix" in 1850, and Harry Markowitz used the term "sparse ...
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Where is Fock on Klein-Gordon equation?

I was researching a bit about the history of the famous Klein-Gordon equation and I found out that Fock also independently discovered it in the same year as Klein and Gordon, 1926. However, ...
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Origin of "Sierpinski space"?

Nowadays the unique 2 point, nondiscrete, nontrivial topological space goes by the name of the Sierpinski space. How did that space come to be named after Sierpinski? The comments to this MathOverflow ...
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A brief history of "delocalization" of electrons

I have been studying the concepts of "resonance" and "mesomerism" recently and a common principle of these concepts is the "delocalization" (of electrons, molecular ...
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Were molecules called atoms in the 19th century?

E.g. a quote from Justus von Liebig, 17th Chemical Letter, 1858, in German: Wir können ein Stück Zucker, auch wenn wir es noch so fein reiben, nicht flüssig machen, noch viel weniger können wir durch ...
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History and origin of the Iso-, Sec-, Tert- and Neo- prefixes?

I have studied the prefixes "Iso-", "Sec-", "Tert-" and "Neo-" for a long time in chemistry but wonder where they originate from i.e. where is the place (the ...
Bhavya Jain's user avatar
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Instances in which a term initially coined to reject a theory later became the widely accepted term for that very theory after it became the consensus

I'm looking for an instance other than that of the 'big bang' — a term coined by Fred Hoyle to reject the theory being referred to. The theory also later went on to become the consensus with the very ...
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Origin of the concepts of Stress and Strain

Background & My research So, I recently studied about the concepts of Stress and Strain in my high school physics classes and wanted to know about the history behind the origin and emergence of ...
Bhavya Jain's user avatar
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The reason why sheaf theory emerged

Motivation: In any history, there is a cause-and-effect relationship. So I became curious about the situation in which the sheaf theory came to appear. In other words, I'm curious about what problem ...
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Usage of the word "autonomous" to refer to time-invariant differential equations

At what point in time did the term "autonomous" begin to signify time-invariance within the context of dynamical systems, and what prompted this association?
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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" - ...
Bhavya Jain's user avatar
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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 ...
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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 ...
pokssin's user avatar
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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 ...
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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) ...
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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?
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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 ...
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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....
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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On early US patriotism to choose quark color charge labels

Sean Carroll has a video about gauge theory (2020) in his series about Greatest Ideas of the Universe, where he claims that early in the development of quantum chromodynamics, some physicists tried to ...
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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
2 votes
1 answer
215 views

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. ...
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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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2 votes
1 answer
473 views

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. ...
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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 ...
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1 answer
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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
1 vote
1 answer
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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
2 votes
1 answer
134 views

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
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2 answers
308 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 ...
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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 ...
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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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453 views

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
181 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 "...
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