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Questions tagged [mathematics]

For questions specific to the history of mathematics, the abstract study of topics encompassing quantity, structure, space, change, and other properties. General questions about mathematics are off-topic but might be asked on Mathematics Stack Exchange.

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14 votes
2 answers
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Who was the first person to get a more accurate measure of the earth's circumference than Eratosthenes?

When researching a paper on Eratosthenes for class I saw that one of his major accomplishments was the first more or less accurate measure of the earth's circumference,only between −2.4% and +0.8% off....
John Wants to find the Meek's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
523 views

Are there any confirmed accounts of ancient Greek or Roman mathematicians owning slaves?

I've stumbled upon this (admittedly, pretty old) question on Math.SE. It was proposed there that that question might have been more appropriate for this forum, but I don't believe anybody followed up ...
zipirovich's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
999 views

Was Pythagoras against traditional/contemporary Greek education?

There were, however, among the wise men some who despised the knowledge of the orators, lexicographers and schoolmasters, and cavilled at those who devoted themselves to these professions. To these ...
adadlookingthing's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
72 views

What did the study plan of a early 20th century mathematics major look like?

I am interested in what subjects and activities mathematics major were involved in the beggining of the 20th century. Most subjects mathematics majors study at an intermedium and advanced level now ...
Kham Bodrogi's user avatar
0 votes
0 answers
80 views

What was Vittoria Conti's date of birth and date of death?

What is the exact date of birth and exact date of death of Vittoria Conti? She was the first wife of Joseph-Louis Lagrange, a famous Italian-French mathematician. So far I have these vague dates: ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
209 views

Who placed first on entrance exam 1805 at École Polytechnique?

Wikipedia:Cauchy and Biography of Cauchy say that in 1805 Augustin Cauchy placed second of 293 applicants on the entrance exam at École Polytechnique. Who placed first?
Andris Krauze's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
208 views

In allegorical depictions of geometry, why show the earth as encircled by a snake?

Various early modern allegorical paintings or engravings show a personification of geometry with a globe of the earth with a snake, and sometimes with a frog. Here are some examples: (Only a detail of ...
Senex's user avatar
  • 554
1 vote
1 answer
217 views

What year did Isaac Newton die? [closed]

What is the year of death of Isaac Newton? Different sources provide info that it's either 1726 or 1727. On his tomb is written 1726, findagrave.com has it listed as 1727, Wikipedia even states: &...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 21
1 vote
1 answer
117 views

Date of birth and the date of death of Marguerite-Claudine Legendre?

What is the date of birth and the date of death of Marguerite-Claudine Legendre, a wife of Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752-1833)? Adrien-Marie Legendre is a famous French mathematician. According to a ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 21
-1 votes
1 answer
114 views

Where is Heinrich Martin Weber's grave located?

Where is Heinrich Martin Weber buried? His full name is perhaps: 'Heinrich Martin Georg Friedrich Weber', or 'Heinrich Martin Georg Weber' or as this historian amateurs site claims 'Martin Georg ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 27
-1 votes
1 answer
140 views

Where is Victor Puiseux's grave located?

Where is Victor-Alexandre Puiseux buried? He was a famous French mathematician. According to available information, he died in Frontenay, a very small village France in 1883. Here are his wiki links ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 27
1 vote
1 answer
138 views

Where is Ernst Kummer's grave located?

Where is Ernst Kummer buried? He was a famous mathematician, he died in 1893. I tried a search on the findagrave website, but there is no entry for his name. I also tried some ancestry and genealogy ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 27
1 vote
0 answers
93 views

Where is Robert Recorde's grave?

Where is buried Robert Recorde? He was a mathematician, he lived in today's England. He died in 1558 in London. I tried a search on the findagrave website, but there is no entry for his name. I have ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 131
0 votes
1 answer
155 views

Where is Henri Lebesgue's grave?

Where is Henri Lebesgue buried? Full name: Henri Léon Lebesgue He was a famous French mathematician. He died in 1941 in Paris, France. There is no entry for his name on findagrave.com
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 131
5 votes
1 answer
549 views

What is the location of August Ferdinand Möbius' grave?

Where is August Ferdinand Möbius (17 November 1790 – 26 September 1868) buried? He is a famous mathematician, he died in Leipzig, Germany. I tried a search on findagrave website, but there is no entry ...
Jane B.'s user avatar
  • 131
7 votes
1 answer
998 views

When did subtractive notation become common for Roman numerals?

The additive notation of Roman numerals for 4 and 9 is IIII and VIIII. The subtractive notation is IV and IX. Wikipedia doesn't go into detail about which form was known and popular during which ...
Daniel Darabos's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
134 views

Why did Gödel think the Viennese Academy of Sciences was founded earlier?

Mathematician Karl Menger, a colleague of famous mathematician Kurt Gödel, says this on pages 222-223 of his book “Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium“: Meanwhile, ...
Keshav Srinivasan's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
510 views

Who is the author of Romanoff's theorem?

This is the theorem in mathematics. This link Romanoff's theorem provides that the first proof was around 1934 and the proof was by Nikolai Pavlovich Romanov. But when I searched for "Nikolai ...
W. Wongcharoenbhorn's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
147 views

Where can I find fully translated letters from János Bolyai and Farkas Bolyai?

The mathematicians János Bolyai occupies an interesting place in the history of mathematics for the development of hyperbolic geometry. Certain quotations from letters between him and his father (the ...
Naysh's user avatar
  • 129
4 votes
3 answers
1k views

Was the symbol post-classical Mayans used to represent zero really derived from a depiction of a turtle shell?

The Wikipedia page on Mayan numerals mentions the symbol for zero is an upside down turtle shell. It is not clear from the symbol itself that it is a turtle shell, and I'm not able to find any source ...
user1301930's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
228 views

What does 'des' mean in ancient Egyptian?

Looking at the pefsu problems of ancient Egyptian mathematical papyri, I am wondering what does the word des mean? It is usually used together with the word jug to form des-jug, but sometimes the ...
Michael Munta's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
807 views

Was game theory used during World War II?

The mathematical theory of game theory is about finding optimal srategies for games such as rock-paper-scissors. I have heard it claimed several times that game theory was used during World War II by ...
domotorp's user avatar
  • 411
-1 votes
1 answer
269 views

Is the diagram of the Egyptian trinity a copy of a pictogram on an obelisk?

Is this diagram of the Egyptian trinity a copy of a pictogram on an obelisk? It would be nice to know this and get some pictures of it and know more about the history of this particular obelisk.
Jakob's user avatar
  • 9
0 votes
1 answer
386 views

What is the Thalassic Age?

What is the Thalassic Age? What exactly happened during that time? This came from reading that Greeks during Hellenistic period conquered some areas in Phoenicia, Mesopotamia and Egypt and developed a ...
Gio's user avatar
  • 107
4 votes
1 answer
268 views

Why did ancient cultures (e.g. the Mesopotamians) use sexagesimal?

Why did ancient cultures, such as the Mesopotamians, use sexagesimal (base-60)? I've been doing some reading on this, and there seems to be no consensus. Of course, it's rare that there's perfect ...
MesopotamianMathematics's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
340 views

How were ancient Indian mathematical texts found to modern scholarship?

Unlike e.g. Greco-Roman or Chinese texts, which were written on relatively durable writing material, most ancient Indian literature was done on palm-leaf manuscripts, which typically don't survive ...
something's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
1k views

How was the first carpenter's square made?

A "square" is a tool, typically L or triangle shaped, that gives a craftsperson a quick and accurate 90° angle to use as a baseline in many important trades. It's easy to find a right angle if you ...
Pink Sweetener's user avatar
10 votes
0 answers
591 views

Do any of the commercially produced Hinton cubes still exist?

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, British mathematician Charles Howard Hinton developed a system for visualizing the fourth dimension in his books “A New Era of Thought” and “The Fourth Dimension”. ...
Keshav Srinivasan's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
93 views

Is there a source for the claim that the Oxford Calculators used math to analyze sin?

In Pythagoras' Trousers, Margaret Wertheim states we should note that the Oxford Calculators also attempted to apply mathematical analysis to qualities such as sin, charity, and grace. (54). ...
Nestor Aquino's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
804 views

Does anyone know of any examples of the Magnus effect in a real battle?

I've read a lot about the Magnus effect altering the trajectories of cannonballs and musketballs. Robins noticed it with Musket balls and Magnus with canonballs, but presumably they weren't the first ...
Tom Lancaster's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did the Babylonians know the Pythagorean Theorem before Pythagoras formulated it?

Came across a clip on TV from an (unidentified) BBC documentary showcasing the Plimpton 322 tablet, written in cuneiform c.1800 BC (1200 years before Pythagoras). The narrator says the tablet was ...
Samid's user avatar
  • 2,192
3 votes
0 answers
218 views

Who was Ahmad al-Barbir al-Tarabulusi, and did he write about an old number-based middle-eastern joke about homosexuality?

While reading the book From one to zero. A universal history of numbers by the French historian Georges Ifrah I came across a retelling about an old joke about homosexuality but I cannot find any ...
pipe's user avatar
  • 338
3 votes
4 answers
1k views

Has anyone created a binary calendar?

Wondering if anyone has ever tried to make a calendar where everything is a power of 2, so maybe the day is divided into 16 and the hour is divided into 64, etc.
Lance's user avatar
  • 2,245
7 votes
2 answers
719 views

Teaching of Mathematics in Italy and in Germany in the fifteenth century

In is book Beyond numeracy, John Allen Paulos tells this story: A German merchant of the fifteenth century asked an eminent professor where he should send his son for a good business education. The ...
José Carlos Santos's user avatar
44 votes
2 answers
19k views

How did the ancient Romans count with their fingers?

This joke was supposed to be funny: A Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and shouts "Five beers, please!" But disregarding the funniness, it made me actually think about the real system ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.8k
6 votes
1 answer
277 views

Was 'Jade Mirror of the Four Unknowns' published in 1303, and how do we know?

Wikipedia gives the date for Chinese mathematician Zhu Shijie's Jade Mirror of the Four Unknowns (四元玉鉴, Siyuan yujian) as 1303, citing Elman, Benjamin A. (2005). On their own terms science in China, ...
Charles's user avatar
  • 1,055
-2 votes
2 answers
5k views

Are the proportions of a Christian cross based on a golden ratio? [closed]

I was just 3D modeling something and I noticed the intersection of two lines I made by multiplying one by the golden ratio looks exactly like the kind of cross I see on top of or in the window of a ...
Vane Voe's user avatar
  • 149
14 votes
1 answer
1k views

Did any Chinese scholars propose a heliocentric model?

After this related question, I now want to ask about the heliocentric model. Did any Chinese scholars propose a heliocentric model of the universe? The time period I'm interested is any time before ...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.3k
18 votes
3 answers
2k views

Before European influence circa 1600, did any Chinese believe the Earth was spherical, and did they ever try to measure it?

The Pythagorans, Aristotle, and Eratosthenese believed the Earth was spherical. Eratosthenes made a measure based on shadows at two cities on the same meridian. An Indian mathematician, Aryabhata, ...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.3k
3 votes
1 answer
383 views

After the Mongol Empire fell, did China really turn away from math and physics?

I came across this from the Wiki article on Chinese Mathematics: After the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty, China became suspicious of knowledge it used. The Ming Dynasty turned away from math and ...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.3k
4 votes
1 answer
301 views

What nationality was "Egbert Van Kampen"?

If you google a bit about the mathematician Egbert Van Kampen, almost all sources you'll find claim that he was born in Belgium in 1908. Does anyone have any reliable sources about this person's ...
O0123's user avatar
  • 174
0 votes
1 answer
787 views

How many digits of Pi did the old Egyptians know?

From "Rhind Papyrus" from 1600 BC we know that the Egyptians had an estimate for pi, namely 3.16, meaning they knew only 2 digits of pi. According to this article they knew more digits, at least 4 ...
Ole Petersen's user avatar
  • 1,883
8 votes
1 answer
303 views

When were Liu Hui's mathematical works first translated into English?

I'm researching Liu Hui who lived circa 220 AD to 260 AD. He independently solved many challenging mathematical problems, and was an amazing mathematician previously unknown to me. I came across this ...
NonCreature0714's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
604 views

Why are doughnuts toroidal?

I study maths and torii come up a bit, and same goes for physics with tokamak fusion reactors, for instance. In popular science talks, sometimes people say "torus" but most people are familiar with ...
Brayton's user avatar
  • 245
2 votes
2 answers
814 views

How was Galileo's approach to mathematics different than Descartes's approach?

According to Galileo "the world is written in the language of mathematics," and a natural philosopher must learn to read it. How did this approach differ from Descartes' notion of a mathematical ...
Smol A's user avatar
  • 21
58 votes
5 answers
18k views

How did the Romans do division?

How did Romans do division in their numeral system? Was it by repeated subtraction or did they know anything faster?
against very long user names's user avatar
6 votes
3 answers
602 views

How did Kolmogorov help protect Moscow in WW2?

I have been reading this blog post which mentions that: during World War II Kolmogorov applied his mathematical gifts to artillery problems, helping to protect Moscow from German bombardment. So,...
Dawny33's user avatar
  • 161
7 votes
3 answers
11k views

Whatever happened to Turing's friend Arnold Murray?

Whatever happened to Arnold Murray, Alan Turing's friend who was convicted for theft. I could not find any later information on Murray or any recorded interview of his reminiscence of Turing. Thanks.
user25418's user avatar
14 votes
3 answers
1k views

Study of causal structures and dynamics in history?

I was not really sure how to phrase this question, but ok, let me try nonetheless. My background is in natural sciences, but I have always been interested in history as well. Over past years I have ...
z.v.'s user avatar
  • 243
5 votes
4 answers
382 views

What symbolism is incorporated in this illustration for a book by Riccati?

The front cover of the book Opere (1761) by Jacopo Riccati, author of the celebrated Riccati equation, has the illustration depicted below. What is the symbolism incorporated in this illustration? (...
Tom Copeland's user avatar