The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction
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This Very Short Introduction explores the rich historical and cultural diversity of mathematical practice, ranging from the distant past to the present. Historian Jacqueline Stedall shows that mathematical ideas are far from being fixed, but are adapted and changed by their passage across periods and cultures. The book illuminates some of the varied contexts in which people have learned, used, and handed on mathematics, drawing on fascinating case studies from a range of times and places, including early imperial China, the medieval Islamic world, and nineteenth-century Britain. By drawing out some common threads, Stedall provides an introduction not only to the mathematics of the past but to the history of mathematics as a modern academic discipline.
www.oup.com/vsi Jacqueline Stedall THE HISTORY OF MATHEMATICS A Very Short Introduction Great Clarendon Street, Oxford ox2 6dp Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With
The lives of Harriot and Briggs offer a pertinent contrast between the older habits of patronage and the new lives of professional mathematicians, properly paid in return for clear responsibilities, particularly in teaching. The latter, of course, was the way of the future. Institutions, publications, and conferences The life of Joseph-Louis Lagrange, one of the finest mathematicians of the 18th century, epitomizes some of the new possibilities opening up to a talented mathematician in
institution of early 19th-century Paris. Anyone who has studied mathematics beyond school level will almost certainly be familiar with the names of Lagrange, Laplace, Legendre, Lacroix, Fourier, Ampère, Poisson, and Cauchy, all of whom taught or examined at the École Polytechnique in its early years. Further, the École published its lecture notes in ‘cahiers’ which were used as textbooks throughout France, especially by those aspiring to be accepted as students. Lagrange died in 1813. In the
Only after Fermat’s death, when some of his notes and papers were edited by his son Samuel, did the full statement of the theorem emerge, scribbled in the margin of Fermat’s copy of the Arithmetica of Diophantus. Before taking another step back in time to see what it was in Diophantus that inspired Fermat, we need to digress briefly to some mathematics, Fermat’s Last Theorem itself. The one bit of mathematics that almost everyone recalls from their schooldays is Pythagoras’ Theorem, which
Princeton, and Paris, in all of which he was part of flourishing mathematical communities. The mathematical clue that eventually gave direction to his interest in the Last Theorem was picked up from a casual conversation with a fellow mathematician in Princeton; when after five years he needed a fresh breakthrough, he attended an international conference in order to elicit the latest thinking on the subject; when he needed technical help with an important aspect of the proof, he broke his secrecy