Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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171 views

Why was 'ordinate' adopted to signify y-coordinate?

The OED doesn't expound what semantic notions underlie y-coordinate and the Latin etymon. Etymology: < classical Latin ōrdinātus orderly, regular, regulated, (in geometry) in alignment, ...
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35 views

Why is Einstein-Hilbert action called Einstein-Hilbert action?

I understand that Einstein was the first one who came up with Einstein's equations, but did Einstein do anything to deserve his share of name in the action Hilbert found? Who first called the action ...
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582 views

Who wrote down minus times minus is equal to plus? [duplicate]

I am not here to ask why "minus times minus is plus", this is a basic arithmetic fact. The related question most people ask is: why does $-\times-=+$. Of, course there may be several explanations for ...
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78 views

Origin of the “law of quadratic reciprocity”

Today, "reciprocity" is the standard mathematical word used for quadratic reciprocity and its generalizations. I found that the name dates back to no later than 1832, when a paper of Dirichlet (...
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113 views

Dimension of the candela unit: What does J stand for?

The J symbol can represent the unit of energy but it's also the symbol for the dimension of the candela (or luminous intensity). For the energy unit, it clearly comes from the family name of the ...
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93 views

Conventional orientation of axes in scientific plots

In an answer to a programming question, I included the following: The default behavior of [library function in question that displays an image] is to put the origin of the coordinate system in the ...
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Who first defined the “equal-delta” or “delta over equal” ($\triangleq$) symbol?

The symbol $\triangleq$ is sometimes used in mathematics (and physics) for a definition. It is instantiated for instance in the Unicode Character 'DELTA EQUAL TO' (U+225C). The notation $t \...
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1answer
68 views

Why was Indicial equations named so?

In ODE, in Frobenius method, there's an equation called "Indicial Equation." Is there any particular contextual/historical reason that it is named so?
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6k views

Was the word 'gravity' an invention of Newton?

Before Newton many phycisists try to understand nature and the rotations of planets. But Newton founded his laws of gravity. But was he the first who used the word gravity or when was it first used? ...
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101 views

Who came up with R for the universal gas constant?

I never did find an answer from professors, or even see an acknowledgement in textbooks, on why capital-letter-r is invariably used to represent the constant 0.08206 L-atm/mol-K seen in chemistry ...
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117 views

Why are “join” and “meet” named as they are?

In the context of partially ordered sets, why are the words for supremum and infimum "join" and "meet"? I find the nomenclature puzzling, especially since the English words "join" and "meet" are ...
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105 views

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 ...
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122 views

Why is the meaning of “linear” different in school and college use?

Is the map $y=2x+3$ linear? "Of course it is." -- a high school teacher will answer. "Nope; it's affine, but not linear." -- a college student will contradict. This difference terminology that ...
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What is the status of the three crises in the history of mathematics?

I have seen a claim in some literature that there are three crises in the history of mathematics. The first is the discovery of $\sqrt2$ being irrational in Greek time which shook the belief that ...
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161 views

What animals or plants were used to illustrate ideas of physics?

This crossed my mind today... There is Schrödinger's cat and Newton's apple. Are there any other famous animals/plants featured in physics in a similar way?
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When did the term “order” come into use as the highest exponent in an expansion?

Answer(s) to the question What is a 3rd-order Fresnel lens? are disappointing to me, in that the term 3rd order does not refer to anything like a third-order series expansion. But this leads me to a ...
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955 views

History of the term innovation and its difference with invention?

Today, research and science is often associated to innovation (particularly by governments and funding agencies). I would like to understand how we got here and when the use of innovation as a ...
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126 views

How is the word kernel associated with distributions?

I am trying to rationalize the meaning of the term kernel, especially when it is associated with distributions. The English and German etymology all show that the literal meaning is corn (English) and ...
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2k views

Why is magnetic flux named after Nikola Tesla?

I have my respect for Mr. Tesla, but it seems weird that "he" was chosen to be the units of magnetic flux. I mean, he didn't contribute much to magnetic fields theory, nor did he work with them a lot. ...
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100 views

Origin and use of the adjective “improper” in mathematics

Anybody with elementary mathematical education will have seen improper fractions to refer to fractions where the numerator is greater than or equal to the denominator. At a certain point in calculus ...
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Origin of the expression “Fundamental theorem of Algebra”

Who was the first person to use the expression “Fundamental theorem of Algebra”? It is well-known that Gauss called it “Fundamental theorem of algebraic equations”. Grattan-Guiness, in his The Rainbow ...
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159 views

Who are credited for angle transformation formulae and law of sines in trignometry

I'd like to who are credited for discovering angle transformation formulae $$ \sin(A\pm B)=\sin(A)\cos( B)\pm\cos(A)\sin(B) $$ $$ \cos(A\pm B)=\cos(A)\cos( B)\mp\sin(A)\sin(B) $$ $$ \tan(A\pm B)=\...
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Old geometry terminology

I was reading Ramsey's 1927 paper "A Contribution to the Theory of Taxation" and came across the following paragraph: "We have $\lambda_1 = \mu_1,\ldots,\lambda_m = \mu_m$, $m$ hyperplanes ($n-1$ ...
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Why was the 'differential entropy' from information theory so named?

The entropy of a distribution $p$ on a discrete set $\mathcal{X}$ is defined as $$H(p) = -\sum_{x \in \mathcal{X}} p_x \log p_x.$$ Shannon in his classic paper [1] defines the analogue for continuous ...
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Who coined the term ''Born's rule''?

Who assigned the term ''Born's rule'' to the statement that the measurement of a quantum observable is one of its eigenvalues, with a probability given by the square of the coefficient in the spectral ...
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110 views

How did early physicists experimentally assign electronic transitions in atoms?

The spectrum of hydrogen was very well studied by the mid-19th century. However, if one were doing experimental spectroscopy for more complex atoms, one would see plenty of spectral lines in the ...
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164 views

Origin of “bootstrapping” in mathematical logic

"Bootstrapping" is a term which in general refers to a self-starting process. It is very heavily used in the field of computer science, but it also has uses elsewhere. For example, in mathematical ...
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29 views

When did the research field of Astrophysics begin?

I have this vague idea that Astrophysics morphed out of Astronomy as a field of study and research. I am curious if this is true and when did Astrophysics become separate from Astronomy as a field of ...
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How did the early chemists make a connection between gram formula weight with 1 mole and Avogadro's number?

According to one historian Mustafa Sarikaya's article in Foundations of Chemistry DOI 10.1007/s10698-011-9128-7, the mole concept was introduced to chemistry earlier than Avogadro’s number. The mole ...
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Is it a historical coincidence that relative atomic weights by chemical methods and mass spectrometry are very close?

The concept of relative atomic weight originated from measuring the combining weight of hydrogen with a certain element. In the simplification process H was taken as unity (18th, 19th and 20th century)...
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Why is differentiation under the integral sign named the Leibniz rule?

The question here asked why differentiation under the integral sign is named "Feynman's trick". That is a comparatively recent name for the method. Aside from the name "differentiation under the ...
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1answer
159 views

Who associated the sharp, principal, diffuse, fundamental spectral terms with electron's momentum?

It is well documented that the notation for the electronic configuration (s,p,d,f) of atoms as used today originates from the words sharp, principal, diffuse, fundamental from alkali metal spectra (...
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Where is the first reference to the “Z combinator”, a call-by-value fix-point combinator?

I'd like to know the earliest reference to the Z-combinator. This could be either where the name was first coined, or even the first discussion of a need for an applicative-order Y combinator. I didn'...
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176 views

How did the early chemists determine the atomic weight of hydrogen?

In early history, the relative atomic weight of hydrogen was assigned as 1 (exactly) and all other elements were compared against hydrogen. What is difficult to find who determined the absolute atomic ...
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187 views

When was the term “corollary” first used in proofs?

A dictionary search of the word "corollary" immediately yields the usual definition that all people involved with mathematics are used to dealing with. However, this surely comes from the Latin "...
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35 views

Science about population interaction with ecosystems?

I am curious in the lack of scientific field/perceived research of ecosystems and their developments, or maybe I never encountered it. Is there any such field, investigating ecosystems "start" to end ...
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1answer
114 views

Was the value of the mole invented or discovered in chemistry?

For example, $\pi$ is not an invention, it is a discovery which was natural, that is ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. But when we define a meter it is not a natural value it is ...
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130 views

Why is the H theorem called the big Eta theorem?

In France, they refer to the H-theorem of Boltzmann (Théorème H) as 'eta'-theorem (théorème 'eta'). The connection obviously comes from the uppercase version of the Greek letter $\eta$, which looks ...
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Why are permutations ($_nP_r$) called differently in non-English languages (“variations” in German)?

First of all, you should be at least a little familiar with combinatorics to understand that question. Some often used calculator keys in stochastic are the nCr and nPr ones. Edit: I've first asked ...
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Who came up with a number of the theoretical plates equation?

In chromatography, the signal is shaped like a Gaussian peak, and it is plotted against time vs. instrument's signal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatography#/media/File:Rt_5_12.png (a) One of ...
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159 views

Why do mathematicians call ~ 'twiddle'?

Every one of my lecturers have always called it this, as do I, despite the fact that I know its properly called 'tilde'. Does anyone have any clue where this convention comes from and why it might ...
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source of “logistic growth”?

I've been trying to find the source of the name of the DE modelling population growth known as logistic growth, for some time: why "Logistic" ? So far all my attempts to research it have hit dead ends ...
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109 views

Origin of Gauss-Newton method

The Gauss-Newton method can be derived from Newton's method, but I am unable to see how Gauss was linked with this method. It seems unlikely that he himself worked on the method, but I am at a loss.
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Who used the symbol $S_n$ for “rotation reflection” as a symmetry operation?

I am looking for the origin of the symbol $S_n$ used by chemists to denote the symmetry operation consisting of a $\smash{\frac{2\pi}n}$ rotation ($C_n$) about an axis and a reflection in a plane ...
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77 views

What motivated the choice of the word “model” in model theory?

Who chose the term "model" in model theory? What was their reason for choosing the word "model" to mean what it means now in model theory? The current meaning: "[interpretation] I is a model of [...
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Why did Euclid define “a unit” instead of “the unit”?

I know Euclid's Definition VII.1 of a unit only from English and German translations: A unit is (that) according to which each existing (thing) is said (to be) one. [translation by Fitzpatrick] ...
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Degenerate States in Quantum Mechanics

In his book on quantum mechanics in the chapter on perturbation theory Dirac says in a footnote: A system with only one stationary state belonging to each energy-level is often called non-...
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217 views

History of group theory character tables (as used in physics and chemistry)

Does anyone know who started using the symbols A, B, E, T (First column, left) for showing irreducible representations of symmetry groups? In older maths books I see capital gamma. Herein A= totally ...
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45 views

How was the term speed treated in the 16 and 17 century?

What do the the people in 16 an 17 century meant by the term speed? Were they having the relation speed=distance/time back then or were they having some other notion for it and this relation came into ...
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Why did “cold fusion” come to mean Fleischmann-Pons fusion instead of μCF?

Muon-catalysed fusion is obtained at low temperatures, although as of 2018 its energy yield is less than the muon production requirements. The term "cold fusion" was first used in the 1950s, to refer ...