45 votes

How did the Romans do division?

The short answer, according to Turner (1951), is: we don't know. The Romans were not interested in recording theoretical mathematics, so we don't have any written accounts how they did it. It is ...
the gods from engineering's user avatar
40 votes

How did the Romans do division?

The usage of using numerals for division neither existed nor was it necessary. Symbols were only used for recording results. This also explains why the romans used their system because it is easy for ...
Thorsten S.'s user avatar
  • 5,146
30 votes

How did the ancient Romans count with their fingers?

This page displays many Roman era testimonies that there was a system, and that it served to count at least up to the hundreds. I'll copy here the most important ones. Juvenal in his Satire X, 246 ...
Vincenzo Oliva's user avatar
28 votes

How did the ancient Romans count with their fingers?

All the sources clearly state that there is no actual record of how Romans performed mathematical calculations. However it is well established that the Romans knew of, and used, the abacus. It is ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
25 votes

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

The accuracy of Eratosthenes's calculations of the circumference being 252,000 stadia depends on assumptions about the modern equivalent of length of the stadion. The same issue applies to Posidonius'...
Henry's user avatar
  • 2,846
18 votes

How did Columbus calculate the size of the Earth?

Well, Columbus case is one hallmark how to cherry-pick your data to come to desirable conclusions. Columbus began with the values of the best sources available: from the Arabian astronomer al-...
Thorsten S.'s user avatar
  • 5,146
17 votes
Accepted

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

Yes, because owning slaves was so much the norm in ancient Greece that it would have been surprising if they had not. Biographical details are generally scarce, but we do have Diogenes Laertius, Lives ...
Frank Pennycook's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

Study of causal structures and dynamics in history?

There is an emerging trans-disciplinary field called cliodynamics which studies these ideas. There's an open access journal, Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution, a ...
John Dallman's user avatar
  • 31.6k
15 votes
Accepted

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

Wikipedia articles on the "History of Geodesy", "Earth's circumference", and so on give a thorough summary of potential candidates, but suggest that this question isn't going to be ...
Brian Z's user avatar
  • 20.8k
13 votes

Why are doughnuts toroidal?

An article from the Smithsonian magazine titled "The History of the Doughnut" also states that Captain Hanson Gregory invented the toroidal doughnut. The reason for the invention seems less clear. The ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
13 votes

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

See Joseph Needham's momumental work : Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth, Cambridge UP (1959), page 212-213: "Rather ...
Mauro ALLEGRANZA's user avatar
12 votes

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

As far as we know, Babylonians had no Pythagorean theorem and no theorems at all whatsoever. The major contribution of the Greeks was that "there are statements (which they called theorems) which can ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 38.9k
11 votes

Whatever happened to Turing's friend Arnold Murray?

It looks like you might want to read the book about Turing: Alan Turing : The Enigma by Andrew Hodges This is the book that the movie the Imitation Game was based on. In this book Hodges discusses ...
justCal's user avatar
  • 39.7k
11 votes
Accepted

When did subtractive notation become common for Roman numerals?

Romans used both additive and subtractive and this is true from late Etruscan times up to middle ages (1100 Arabic numbers spread into Europe). Roman numerals were never a stardandized notation system,...
James's user avatar
  • 2,655
10 votes

How many digits of Pi did the old Egyptians know?

The ancient Egyptians at the time of the Rhind Papyrus didn't really have the concept of Pi. The method they described for finding the area of a circle was to inscribe it within a square, and apply ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 119k
10 votes
Accepted

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

tl;dr This is not a real story but an illustrative description, probably invented in the 1930s. The first Indo-Arabian numerals came to Europe in the 10th century. They had a hard time at first. In ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

Has anyone created a binary calendar?

The core issue is that the purpose of a calendar is to track astronomical events, and in particular, their relations. The three that are universally tracked are the three that are obvious to anyone: ...
Gort the Robot's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

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

Is there any other evidence of this mathematical concept existing in Babylon before Pythagoras? Yes. As Wikipedia observes, the Plimpton 322 tablet … lists two of the three numbers in what are ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
9 votes

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

The poverty line in Republican Rome was not being able to own one slave. Sulla once qualified as being poor. Later in life he became dictator and very rich. But in his younger years he was anything ...
Jos's user avatar
  • 22k
8 votes

What is the earliest known writing associating the number three with the dimension of the world?

This is much more "obvious". It may well be even pre-historic. But since the question asks for written evidence: If you want mathematics, go like an Egyptian or Mesopotamian: A rectangular prism-...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

What does 'des' mean in ancient Egyptian?

Eric Peet, on page 117 of The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus offers what may be your explanation: So it would appear that des should describe the unit of liquid volume which would fill a des-jug, and ...
justCal's user avatar
  • 39.7k
8 votes

Who placed first on entrance exam 1805 at École Polytechnique?

Article "The "Ecole Polytechnique", 1794-1850: Differences over Educational Purpose and Teaching Practice" in The American Mathematical Monthly Vol. 112, No. 3 (Mar 2005), ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

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

I assume the translation in question is The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, which was indeed translated into French by Guo Shuchun and published in 2005. In fact, the first full English ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
7 votes

What nationality was "Egbert Van Kampen"?

As one can deduce from the information provided in A Forgotten Mathematician, he was Dutch, confirming the Wikipedia claim. According to 1, Egbertus Rudolf van Kampen, known as Egbert, was born ...
Moishe Kohan's user avatar
  • 6,315
7 votes

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

I am not sure about 1600, but there is a famous book on astronomy called Zhou bi suan jing, which is usually translated as "The Arithmetic Classic of the Gnomon and the Circular Paths of Heaven". It ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 38.9k
7 votes

Who is the author of Romanoff's theorem?

See Romanov's brief bio in the Wikipedia article here. Use Google translate if you cannot read Russian. Note that there appears to be a small error in the article. Namely, according to the book "...
Moishe Kohan's user avatar
  • 6,315
7 votes
Accepted

What year did Isaac Newton die?

When Newton died, the British started the new year on March 25 (Lady Day). In 1752, the UK switched to starting the New Year on January 1. Dates between January 1 and March 25 prior to 1752 happened ...
Mark Olson's user avatar
  • 7,724
6 votes
Accepted

Was late-medieval French education recalcitrant to math?

Medieval scholarship was essentially a "great books" endeavor, where paragons of intellect were held to have the last word on many subjects (consider Aristotle for natural science or Galen for ...
AlaskaRon's user avatar
  • 1,764
6 votes

Whatever happened to Turing's friend Arnold Murray?

Arnold was my uncle. He was convicted of homosexuality like Alan. I have read two books and they both have a different perspective of Arnold. He remained in Manchester and got married and had 2 kids. ...
Chris's user avatar
  • 69

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