Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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423 views

What is the etymology of lower case p as the operator for the negative of the common logarithm?

In high school we were taught that the formula for pH is the negative of the common logarithm of hydrogen ion concentration: pH = -log[H+]. It wasn't until I took organic chemistry that the "acid ...
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253 views

First use of litte $o_p$ (little $o$ in probability) notation?

I have a follow up question from my previous question on math.SE, where I asked about the First use of little $o$ notation - for those who want to check - the answer goes back to Landau ($1909$), this ...
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1answer
382 views

Who came up with the link between the spectrum of an operator and the poles of a meromorphic function?

From Dieudonné's "History of Functional Analysis" I learned that Picard in 1893 gave a characterization of an eigenvalue of the Laplacian as the simple pole of a meromorphic function. Is there an ...
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150 views

Why are rings called rings?

I copied the question from https://math.stackexchange.com/q/61497/378968 because I think it is more suitable for this site and I think an answer to this question here could do better than: Hilbert ...
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Why are canonical coordinates canonical?

Canonical coordinates are coordinates $q_i$ and $p_i$ in phase space that are used in the Hamiltonian formalism. The canonical coordinates satisfy the fundamental Poisson bracket relations: \...
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Analysis vs Synthesis in Greek Mathematics

I am trying to understand the difference in "analysis" and "synthesis" as used by the ancient Greek mathematicians. Most sources characterize synthesis as working from givens to a desired conclusion, ...
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1answer
57 views

What is the connection between Lamarck's Mediterranean mussel and the province of Gallia?

The scientific name of the Mediterranean Mytilus is Mytilus galloprovincialis, with Lamarck being reported as the creator. I wonder where this name comes from, in particular what is the (supposed) ...
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1answer
123 views

Coordinate axis - Why the name “axis”?

In "natural life" "axis" is often used in terms of an axis of rotation. But in the mathematical sense, it's more used like a ruler. One could say an axis in "natural life" sense has something to do ...
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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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1answer
107 views

Who originated the biological senses of palindrome and pseudopalindrome?

One would think that when DNA biology uses the word palindrome it would mean approximately the same thing as palindrome in other contexts. As I understand it, this is not true. Whereas, a normal ...
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426 views

Grassmann Formula

I'm in my first year of Mathematics at the University. Recently, we've learnt about Grassmann Formula and when I was making a little research on the internet, I couldn't find a single reference ...
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Why is the thermoelectric figure of merit denoted by $ZT$?

Why is the thermoelectric figure of merit denoted by $Z T$? Does $Z T$ come from the abbreviation of words in some language? Update: So far, $T$ has been figured out — it is the temperature, to make ...
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Why do English volume units use base 2?

I would post this on Quora, since it is more of a "just wondering" sort of question, except that I much prefer StackExchange's platform: As weird as Imperial units generally are, English volume units ...
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1answer
107 views

Were integrals really called solution curves (or vice versa)?

For some reason I recall hearing that around the time Euler wrote his Calculus books (1768-1770), or even before then, what we call integrals now were called solution cuvres (or even possibly the ...
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What is the etymology behind sine, cosine, tangent, etc.?

I heard somewhere that it was actually a mistake in translation. What's the correct story?
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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 \triangleq ...
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240 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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309 views

When was the convention for the indefinite integral $\int\frac{1}{x}dx$ changed?

In Europe, in the 20th century, $\int\frac{1}{x}dx$ equalled $\ln{x}+C$. (I have references from Poland for 1930-1947 and the UK for the 1960s and 1970s). Now, if one mentions $\int\frac{1}{x}dx=\ln{...
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131 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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292 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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Why is one of Maxwell's equations named after Ampère? Who first named it after Ampère?

Ampère never wrote down what is confusingly called "Ampère's circuital law," not even the form without the displacement current term, as Ampère never dealt with the field concept.* Maxwell derived $$\...
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944 views

Origin of “Spline” word

I was studying interpolation by Splines in numerical analysis and started to wonder the word's origin. I've found that it was a system used in technical drawings using weights but couldn't find why ...
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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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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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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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103 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&...
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870 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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215 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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479 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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1answer
383 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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What is the origin of “an algebra” as in vector space with multiplication?

What is the origin of calling a vector space over a field $F$ endowed with multiplication an algebra? Tried searching, but not surprisingly Google likes to drop the article and just bring me to the ...
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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, ...
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Who attached Buniakovsky's name to the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality?

From time to time one sees insistence that the inequality name "Cauchy-Schwarz" should include Buniakovsky. This is based on a paragraph in a note to the St Petersburg Academy from 1859, where ...
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What is the origin of “ortho-,” “meta-,” “para-,” in chemistry?

The prefix "ortho-" means straight or right; "meta-" means beyond or after; "para-" means beside or along. How, then, did ortho-, meta- and para- come to refer to the carbon positions one, two, and ...
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71 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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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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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
533 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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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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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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Etymology of “power” (math.)

Having done some searches on the internet, seems like the term "power" is a mistranslation. The Wikipedia article links to an article in the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive where it is written ...
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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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915 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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Jordan called isomorphisms (iso.) and homomorphisms “iso. holoedriques” and “iso. meriedriques” respectively; translation of holoe/meried-driques?

Stillwell mentions in his Elements of Algebra: The first to use the term "isomorphism" was Jordan, in his Traite des Substitutions [1870], the first textbook on group theory...Jordan used the word "...
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495 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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67 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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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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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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871 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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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 ...