Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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4
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2answers
227 views

Introduction of $\imath$ and $\jmath$ notations for the imaginary unit

The imaginary unit is generally denoted $i$ or $\imath$. I have learned that the term imaginary ("imaginaires") was coined by R. Descartes in 1637, and the "i" notation was introduced by L. Euler (cf. ...
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197 views

First mention of Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic

Without a Disquisitiones Arithmeticae at hand, I may ask... When the unique factorization theorem was first called the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic?
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Why are microwaves called “microwaves”, when they are much longer than a micrometer?

If "millimeter waves" have a wavelength of about 1 mm, one might linguistically expect microwaves to have a wavelength of about three orders of magnitude less, not the same or greater. How did ...
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1answer
114 views

Origins and history of branched covering

During my research on branched coverings of the projective plane, I am interested to know the origins and history of branched coverings of the projective plane and the projective line, together with ...
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2answers
580 views

History of the definition of Injective & Surjective Function

I'm a college student, just beginning to study Elementary Set Theory. In studying about the definition of injective and surjective function, out of curiosity, it came to my mind a question about the ...
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1answer
92 views

on the classification of singular points

After reading this question and the answers to it, I am interested o know who were the first mathematicians who started classifying singular points of curves: i.e. different kind of nodes, of cusps ...
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1answer
1k views

What is the origin of the term “ordinary differential equations”?

Who has first used the term "ordinary differential equation"? Is it known, why the term "ordinary" is used here? What makes an ODE "ordinary"?
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81 views

Which is the first reference using the terminology “Chinese Remainder Theorem” for this theorem?

The Chinese Remainder Theorem is one of the fundamental theorems in modular arithmetic. As far as I know, this terminology for the theorem is due to the fact that the Chinese mathematicians were the ...
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1answer
95 views

Why were nature, natural science, physics, medicine all considered the same subject and so defined with the same noun?

This question pursues the history of this noun and its etymons; compare with ELU and FSE. physic (n.) [1.] c. 1300, fysike, "art of healing, medical science," also "natural science" (c. 1300), ...
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199 views

Who coined kernel in mathematics?

I'm convinced that there is no such a mathematician whose name is "kernel". The wiki article about kernel doesn't include history in its content. So I wonder, who is the first mathematician to use ...
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389 views

Who was first to differentiate between prime and irreducible elements?

I recently learned about irreducible and prime elements in a commutative ring. However, my professor was not quite sure who was the first to make this distinction, or give an example of an irreducible ...
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7k views

Who first used the word “calculus”, and what did it describe?

This comment cites Wikipedia in stating that, before the development of the modern-day subject of calculus (i.e. analysis), the term "calculus" referred to general mathematics. Who first used the ...
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1answer
347 views

What caused the name change from “analysis situs” to “topology”?

J. Alexander's 1926 paper, Combinatorial Analysis Situs, doesn't refer to the field as combinatorial topology. He mentions that combinatorial analysis situs is concerned with topological invariants ...
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301 views

What is the origin of the “virtual particle pair” metaphor for vacuum fluctuations?

In any layman level description of vacuum fluctuations in quantum field theory the fluctuations are described as a pair of virtual particles spontaneously appearing then disappearing within some short ...
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141 views

How did “one-to-one” come to be used to refer to injective functions?

I have always had a hard time explaining to my students the term one-to-one. After making sure my students understand "in", "sur" and "bi", the Bourbaki terms, injective, surjective and bijective make ...
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130 views

Separability and second countability is the same thing to Halmos

I was browsing through Paul Halmos' classic book on measure theory from 1950, when I came by the following definition of separability on page 3 in the chapter on prerequisites: Today a separable ...
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1answer
449 views

Where did Master equations come from, and why are there so many of them?

The Wikipedia article about the Master equations describes pretty well how many there are and what kind of equations are called "Master equations". Does anyone know where the term originates, why ...
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1answer
65 views

Origin of use of “quotient” to describe structures induced by equivalence classes

I'm sure this question has been asked somewhere, but I have been unable to find it. Why is it that when we have some set $X$ with an equivalence relation $\equiv$, and $X$ has some structure (e.g. a ...
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1answer
234 views

What is the origin of the use of “g” for a Riemannian metric?

I am asking about the reason for the use of this letter, if known, as well as the initial occasion of its use. Ideas that have been suggested concerning the former include: That it stands for ...
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1answer
324 views

Modern usage of alchemical symbols

As far as I know, not many (if any) alchemical symbols have survived in modern nomenclature of science, either in chemistry or any other. I think $\LaTeX$ doesn't even support most of them! I know ...
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Who said $\pi$ is a constant since it is not even a real number?

EDIT: (130116) I don't mean it is complex or imaginary nor it is negative also, I tried hard to conceive it on the real line number (positive X-axis), by obvious means, a little idea came to me?, "...
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1answer
885 views

Origin of the word “vector” [closed]

I would like to know the history and the original meaning of the word "vector". Thank you for any hints.
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149 views

What was the evolution of “basis” and “generating set” in algebra?

Today, I've heard someone speak of a basis (of an ideal), meaning a generating set. All the time, I was fine with the term Gröbner-basis, but when it comes without the prefix, it's a bit funny, since ...
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691 views

Why does the start of the calendar year not correspond to a natural event?

Why is Jan. 1, the start of a new year, several days after the Winter Solstice, instead of coinciding with a solstice or equinox or other natural annual event? Note: The question does not ask why ...
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337 views

Historical roots of the justification for the rule for multiplication of negative numbers

As a follow up question with respect to : Who wrote down minus times minus is equal to plus? and to : Historically, how did people define multiplication for negative numbers?, it can be interesting to ...
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12k views

Who invented the integers?

I know that Kronecker claimed it was God's doing, and that even prehistoric humans used some ways of counting. But I am curious where the idea of a sequence of numbers stretching out into infinity ...
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347 views

What did Dedekind's The Nature and Meaning of Numbers contribute to the founding of Set Theory?

As best as I can tell Dedekind's paper was published in 1887 already several years after Cantor's flurry of papers on Set Theory between 1879-1883. With this in mind my central questions are: 1) What ...
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63 views

Origin of the expression “Open problem”

Google Ngram shows that the expression "open problem" started to be in use around the end of the 19th century. My question is then 2-fold: Who coined the expression? Wikipedia doesn't seem to know. ...
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1answer
67 views

How can I be sure that a certain term ocurred first in a certain textbook?

The German Wikipedia article "Bernoulli-Verteilung" ("Bernoulli distribution") claims that the term "Bernoullian trials" occurs first in the textbook "Introduction to Mathematical Probability" by J.V. ...
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650 views

When did the names of scientists first become the names of scientific units?

Many scientific units are named after scientists, for example Tesla for magnetic flux, Farad for capacitance and Newtons for force. When did the tradition of naming scientific units begin?
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10k views

“Calories” vs “calories”

Why was it decided to differentiate kcals from calories with a capital 'C'? It seems kind of odd to me. 1 Cal = 1 kcal = 1000 cal What were the reasons ...
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1answer
766 views

Why is the Sophie Germain Identity called thus?

Several authors (z.B.: Arthur Engel in his Problem-Solving Strategies, Alexander Bogomolny in this entry of the Cut the Knot website) refer to the following (straightforward) consequence of the ...
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211 views

Is $\Gamma^i_{jk}$ the Christoffel symbol or the Christoffel symbols?

For years, I have been perplexed that the expression $\Gamma^i_{jk}$ is often referred to in the plural as "the Christoffel symbols", although sometimes it is referred to in the singular as "the ...
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1answer
54 views

What was the system for naming scientific ideas / inventions?

I'm interested in tracing the history of the word "Optical Illusion." See these two questions History of optics and https://english.stackexchange.com/q/260495/129806 It seems Greek and Latin words ...
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434 views

What word meaning “random” was used before the word “random” got popularized?

In the What is Random? vlog of the Vsauce channel, Michael says (start from 3:25): In the 1300s, random meant running or at great speed. Later, it would be used to describe things that have no ...
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1answer
235 views

When was the term “union” first used?

I found out that the symbol for union, ∪, was created in 1895 by Giuseppe Peano in his Formulario Mathematico but of course the use of the word "union" in mathematics was older. Do you have a ...
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1answer
217 views

What are the most famous examples of theory rebranding?

This question was sparked by the observation that the rebranding of the field called "neural networks" into "deep learning" is quite impressive. I wonder whether there have been similar renamings in ...
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1answer
382 views

When was the term “field” first used in maths?

My understanding is that the term "field" in science was first used in physics, while the mathematical term, at least the algebraic one, was more recent. Does anybody know when the first occurrence ...
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315 views

Why does the statute mile have the length that it has?

Why was our (statute) mile established as it was? This happened in 1593, by the order of Elizabeth I which said: "A Mile ſhall contain eight Furlongs, every Furlong forty Poles, and every Pole ...
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1answer
140 views

Do the words 'graphing' a function and 'graph' theory have a common ancestor?

When saying graph in mathematics, it can be either a graph of a function, or a graph in graph theory. However mathematically they have nothing in common. How did they get the same name? I know graph ...
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379 views

Why do we call a linear mapping “linear mapping”?

According with the book Classic Algebra by P.M.Cohn for historical reasons we call a linear mapping "linear mapping". What are the historical reasons that created the term "linear mapping"?
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188 views

From the perspective of etymology, why was the word “magma” chosen to describe a set with a single binary operation defined on it?

According to Wikipedia, the choice of vocabulary was made partially to avoid overloading the term "groupoid". However, that still does not explain etymologically speaking, "magma" was chosen instead ...
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464 views

Is it true that Leibniz introduced “constant,” “variable,” and “function”?

I read in a not always reliable source (David Foster Wallace's Everything and More, p.104), that Leibniz introduced the terms constant, variable, and function, the latter as an alternative to Newton's ...
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348 views

Contributions to chemistry from medieval Arabia

A lot of chemical terms such as alcohol, aldehyde, sugar/azucar, amalgam etc. are of Arabic origin. Did Arabic chemistry in medieval times achieve any scientific insights still valid today (such as '...
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276 views

Origin of “dust” in cosmology?

In cosmology, "dust" refers to a pressureless perfect fluid, which essentially means a continuum of nonrelativistic material particles, such as galaxies. This is a picturesque and unusual piece of ...
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124 views

Origin of the Hankel contour?

Who was the first to publish a Hankel contour integral? See notes in my answer to the MO-Q How does one motivate the analytic continuation of the Riemann zeta function?.
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274 views

Why don't we name the Higgs boson a “higgson”?

We have fermions (named after Fermi) and bosons (named after Bose). Why don't we name the particle corresponding to the Higgs field a "higgson"? The superpartner particle (sparticle) of the Higgs ...
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4k views

Why was delta ($\Delta$) chosen to represent change of a quantity?

In many fields, it's common for $\Delta$ (the Greek letter delta) to represent a change or difference. Math uses it, physics uses it, engineering uses it, etc. Why was $\Delta$ chosen for this? I ...
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Who was the first to use the phrase “the standard model” of something?

I was doing some reading on stellar structure, and I noticed the phrase "the standard solar model" used to describe the structure of the Sun, and stars in general. It reminded me of the Standard Model ...
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908 views

How did we come up with the name “atomic bomb”?

At first, my initiate question was: What is the difference between an atomic and a nuclear bomb?: Nuclear bombs are of two types — those that depend on fission, like atomic bombs, and those that ...