51 votes
Accepted

Why do we call Tycho Brahe by his first name?

The short answer is that this is how he referred to himself. He was born Tyge Otteson Brahe but at the age of 15 (1561) changed 'Tyge' to Latinized 'Tycho', see Redd's biography of Tycho and Thoren's ...
Conifold's user avatar
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34 votes
Accepted

Emmy Noether or Emmy Nöther?

Taking a look at her 1933 paper in Mathematische Annalen one sees: Similarly for a 1923 paper: From a glance at a few other papers, she (or all the journals) used "Noether" for her last ...
Jon Custer's user avatar
  • 1,197
25 votes
Accepted

Why is one meter as long as it is?

This number has no significance. Its origin is historical. Originally the meter was defined as 1/40,000,000 part of the Paris meridian. Based on the measurement of this meridian, they made a standard ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
24 votes

What was the Big Bang model originally called?

Lemaitre, who proposed the first version of "Big Bang" in 1927, called it Primeval Atom hypothesis since late 1930s, notably in the 1950 book of this name. However, it was rather different ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 75.2k
21 votes

Why are étale morphisms called "étale"?

From Milne's site: There are two different words in French, "étaler", which means spread out or displayed and is used in "éspace étalé", and "étale", which is rare ...
anon's user avatar
  • 211
21 votes
Accepted

What is the origin of the negation ( ¬ ) operator from logic?

If vague resemblance is enough, then "$¬$" resembles "$-$", which denotes negation in arithmetic. Lambert in Sechs Versuche einer Zeichenkunst in der Vernunftlehre (1782) and Boole ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 75.2k
20 votes

What is the etymology behind sine, cosine, tangent, etc.?

Victor Katz is not a linguist and a lot of what he says in the quoted extract is wrong: for example that “Arabic is written without vowels” and that the word in question is spelt “jb”. In fact it is ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 3,445
17 votes
Accepted

Are there widely accepted math symbols using non-Latin alphabets or characters other than Greek and Hebrew?

The letter Ш (sha) of the Cyrillic alphabet is widely accepted in theoretical computer science as the symbol for the shuffle product, which gives the shuffle algebra. The same letter is also used to ...
user6530's user avatar
  • 3,850
16 votes

What is the etymology behind sine, cosine, tangent, etc.?

For sinus, see : Victor Katz, A History of Mathematics (3rd edition, 2008), apge 253 : The English word “sine” comes from a series of mistranslations of the Sanskrit jya-ardha (chord-half). ...
Mauro ALLEGRANZA's user avatar
16 votes
Accepted

What is the status of the three crises in the history of mathematics?

No, it is not widely accepted. The language of "crises" is rather obsolete and mostly reflects the attitudes of the early 20th century projected backwards. At that time, the contemporaries did indeed ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 75.2k
15 votes
Accepted

Why are canonical coordinates canonical?

Such coordinates were called canonical because they are those in which equations of motion (or, of the hamiltonian flow of a function $H$) take the “canonical form” $$ \frac{dq_i}{dt}=\frac{\partial H}...
Francois Ziegler's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

Who started calling the matrix multiplication "multiplication"?

The same person who introduced it, Cayley. Sylvester first used the term "matrix" (womb in Latin) for an array of numbers in 1848, but did not do much with it. Cayley started developing matrix algebra ...
Conifold's user avatar
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14 votes
Accepted

Etymology of "power" (math.)

Comments The correct source is Euclid : Book X, Def.2. For δυνάμει, it is a word used in Aristotle : see Potentiality and actuality and Aristotle's Metaphysics : Actuality and Potentiality : the ...
Mauro ALLEGRANZA's user avatar
14 votes
Accepted

Why is the letter $\vec{r}$ used for position?

The $r$ is for "radius", and in particular, describes the radial vector from the origin to the location described by the vector. This is sensible because some sort of polar or spherical coordinates ...
Zo the Relativist's user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

What is the origin of "an algebra" as in vector space with multiplication?

Actually, it happened in the reverse order, algebras came first, and vector spaces only later. For the vector space story see When did people start viewing a matrix as a linear transformation between ...
Conifold's user avatar
  • 75.2k
12 votes

Was the word 'gravity' an invention of Newton?

Gravitas is the latin word used by Medieval natural philosophers to translate the Aristotelian heaviness, i.e. the quality of a body "having weight" (pondus): Let us then apply the term ‘heavy’ (...
Mauro ALLEGRANZA's user avatar
12 votes
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Why do we say "Matrices" and "Vertices", but "Complexes" rather than "Complices"?

Because unlike vertex, matrix or simplex, that came directly from Latin and have primarily mathematical uses, complex was borrowed through French around 1650s, with the meaning "a whole comprised of ...
Conifold's user avatar
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12 votes
Accepted

First use of "Spur" (trace) for linear maps / matrices

Comments by user njuffa (Thank You!) lead me to what I believe is what I was looking for: R. Dedekind: Über die Discriminanten endlicher Körper. In: Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der ...
Torsten Schoeneberg's user avatar
12 votes
Accepted

On early US patriotism to choose quark color charge labels

According to the best source, "red, white, and blue" were proposed in honour of France, not the United States. As discussed in the answer to "Quantum chromodynamics - an origin of the ...
David Bailey's user avatar
  • 1,222
11 votes
Accepted

When was the term "corollary" first used in proofs?

"Corollary" is similar to the word "bonus": a little extra (i.e. an extra proposition coming from a demonstration). The term Euclid uses is πόρισμα "porism," which ...
Michael E2's user avatar
  • 1,861
11 votes

Are there widely accepted math symbols using non-Latin alphabets or characters other than Greek and Hebrew?

There are several non-alphabetic symbols, the best known is the integral sign $\int$ and the Weierstrass $P$-function $\wp$. To be sure their origins are letters of Latin alphabet, but they are ...
Alexandre Eremenko's user avatar
11 votes

Are there widely accepted math symbols using non-Latin alphabets or characters other than Greek and Hebrew?

It is sometimes asserted that $\varnothing$ for the empty set was introduced by Bourbaki using a Danish and Norwegian letter. EDIT: The source is the Weil autobiography, cited in Jeff Miller's ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
  • 10.3k
11 votes

Emmy Noether or Emmy Nöther?

“Goethe” is not an “anglicization” of “Göthe” or indeed of “Göte”; it is the way the poet spelt his own name. The overriding principle is that everyone is entitled to spell his or her name as he or ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 3,445
10 votes

Who attached Buniakovsky's name to the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality?

Some reflections of J. Michael Steele (cf. The Cauchy-Schwarz Master Class. Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 10-12) on this matter: THE PACE OF SCIENCE -- THE DEVELOPMENT OF EXTENSIONS ...
José Hdz. Stgo.'s user avatar
10 votes

Origins and history of branched covering

The theory of branched (or ramified) coverings has its origins in continuation of analytic functions and the attempts to find maximal analytic continuations of a given function. However, certain ...
Margaret Friedland's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

Who first considered the $f$ in $f(x)$ as an object in itself, and who decided to call it a function?

Cantor 1895 is predated at least by Dedekind in §2 of Was sind und was sollen die Zahlen? (1888) (translation): 21. Erklärung *). Unter einer Abbildung $\varphi$ eines Systems $S$ wird ein Gesetz ...
Francois Ziegler's user avatar
10 votes

Why is it called the butterfly effect?

SEE for more Ed Lorenz in 1963 wrote One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull's wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
  • 10.3k
10 votes
Accepted

Who coined the term "iff" for "if and only if"?

As Francois Ziegler notes, Kelley attributes it to Halmos. In the past (before Halmos), definitions might be given in the form A group is called abelian if $xy=yx$ for all $x,y$. ...and every ...
Gerald Edgar's user avatar
  • 10.3k
10 votes
Accepted

Who coined the term ''Born's rule''?

I wonder why the insistence on the (English) word rule, especially as German wikipedia translates / redirects it to interpretation. Isn’t it enough for your purposes to see it stated, named and ...
Francois Ziegler's user avatar
10 votes

How influential was the Kerala school to European development in Calculus?

In my work with primary sources in such authors as Fermat and Leibniz, I have occasionally come across references to earlier works by Arab mathematicians, but have never seen references to work by the ...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
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