17 votes
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Secrecy in Mathematics

In antiquity Archimedes kept his method of mechanical theorems about areas and volumes secret because, under Plato's influence, using lowly mechanics in glorious geometry was frowned upon at the time. ...
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9 votes
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Why are the symbols E, F, G, L, M, and N used for the coefficients of the fundamental forms?

See the paper by Gauss, Disquisitiones generales circa superficies curvas, from 1828. On page 24, we find: $$ E\,dp^2 + 2F\,dp\,dq + G\,dq^2 . $$ Since then everyone continued to use the letters $E,F,...
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7 votes
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Why is the letter $b$ used to represent the y-intercept in the equation of straight line?

The first known use of $b$ to represent the y-intercept in the equation of straight line is in Gaspard Monge's "Mémoire sur la Théorie des Déblais et des Remblais", Histoire de l'Académie ...
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6 votes

What mathematical expressions took a long time for a closed form to be found?

Euler's Pentagonal number theorem was discovered by Euler in 1775, published in 1783. In his paper Euler gave only heuristic arguments. The first rigorous proof was obtained by Jacobi in 1829. The ...
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5 votes

Secrecy in Mathematics

Sometimes, secret information has been deposited with a trusted organization. Example. In 1915, the Académie des Sciences in Paris gave the topic for its 1918 Grand Prix. The prize would be awarded ...
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  • 8,417
3 votes
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Which are the most ancient theorems that negate the existence of some deeply valued entity?

Some of the ancient examples. Irrationality of $\sqrt{2}$. Goes back to Pythagoreans, although they phrased it differently. The "highly desired entity" were two numbers (positive integers) ...
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3 votes

Discussions of why the Greeks "squared the..." geometrically

My article "Operationalism: An Interpretation of the Philosophy of Ancient Greek Geometry" https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10699-021-09791-4 discusses possible motivations for the ...
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3 votes
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Discussions of why the Greeks "squared the..." geometrically

Basically, Euclidean geometry was considered the purest math since it carried fewer flaws than the proposed number theory at the time since numbers used "natural numbers" (i.e., integers), ...
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1 vote

Where can I find the complete papers of abstracts published by P. G. Tait in Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh in 1880?

I am not sure about Q1., but Q2. is answered in Biggs, Norman L.; Lloyd, E. Keith; Wilson, Robin J. Graph theory 1736–1936. Oxford University Press (1976). Reprinted, with corrections (1977). Zbl 0335....
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