Questions tagged [terminology]

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

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106 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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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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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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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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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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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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445 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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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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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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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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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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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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956 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 ...
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Why is there no named unit for momentum but there is one for energy?

Momentum and energy play very similar roles in mechanics, each being changed by the application of force over a interval. For energy the interval is in space and for momentum it is in time. Both have ...
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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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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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“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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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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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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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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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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Was the term “manifold” (or its German equivalent) chosen with the verb “to fold” in mind?

Recently I came across several papers of Monge and Lagrange, around the end of the 18th century, considering developable surface as 'folded' planes, using specifically the word "plié" (i.e. folded). ...
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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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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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Did anybody know Pi well enough in 1592 to celebrate Pi day?

Pi to 7 decimal digits is: 3.1415926 Many people are familiar with Pi day. Celebrated on March 14 as per American date format, the holiday brings attention to the fact that the date resembles the ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What is the origin of the term recombination?

During the introductory lecture to a cosmology course I'm currently taking, there was a brief discussion of some of the "highlights" of the Big Bang model. One of these is, of course, recombination. ...
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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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How did the term “Michel electron” come about?

The Michel electron is what we call the electron produced from muon decay, and it's named after Louis Michel. I mention this in a paper I'm writing, and I was told that I need to cite it. I can't find ...