The history of mathematics


If you have taken the first years of the history of college course – or read through a basic history textbook – you may have noticed a small gap. It is only a thousand years or so

a long time, the history of Western culture was told like this :. About the fifth century BC, mathematics, philosophy and science developed, thanks to the work of some very smart Greeks such as Thales, Plato, Archimedes and Aristotle. Then Rome over Greece and Rome fell, it went dark for a thousand years or so. Then came the Renaissance on, and thinkers like Galilei and Johannes Kepler took up where the Greeks had in fact disappeared

Thanks to new historical research -. And wider understanding of non-Western countries and very rich spiritual culture development east of the Urals – this picture of the history of mathematics, philosophy and science is changing, slowly. But still, the teachers all too often skip over one of the most interesting stories in intellectual history – the way that mathematics and logic, including the best insights Greek logician, became the property of the Muslim countries in the long twilight period, from Rome’s fall to the Renaissance when most Europeans could no longer read Greek. Without the work of these great scholars of Muslims, math today might be very different animals. The Islamic Arab Empire, beginning in the eighth century, the world intellectual capital, and Arabic became the language learning to rival Latin. Some of the best mathematical reasoning in the world was done here.

We might as well start with Muhammad ibn Musa al-Hwarizmi (9th century), the Persian astronomer deeply learned in mathematics scholar of ancient India. From his name (in Latin form) we get the word algorithm, and from one of the titles of his algebra. It is right that he should be associated with the history of algebra – after all, his books preserved most of the ancient world knew about algebra (in addition to the brilliant his innovations), and his work helped to spread the use of Arabic numerals (the numbers we know and use day) to the West, so algebra lot more feasible. (To understand why this is important, imagine trying to do algebra problems while using Roman numerals: XIIa times XXVb equals c No, thanks ?.)

Then there is Al-Karam, as 1000AD found proof by mathematical induction – one of the basic logical maneuvers in math. Poet Omar Khayyam, writing in the twelfth century, laid the foundation for not Euclidean geometry. During this period, Muslim mathematicians invented spherical trigonometry, figured out how to use places with Arabic numerals (although decimal itself had long been invented by Hindu mathematicians), and developed cryptography, algebraic calculus, analytic geometry, among other things.

As important as any of these contributions, however, was the rescue of Aristotle’s text from obscurity by Arab scholars. For a long time in the Middle Ages, Aristotle was considered by Western intellectuals as one great thinkers of the world – but most of them had not read it. Few of his works that had survived the twin falls of Greece and Rome were available in sometimes poor or rather free handed and wrong, Latin translations, and many of his most important works were not available at all. Here and survived Greek script, but almost no one, at this point, could read Greek. (Widespread teaching Greek had to wait for the Renaissance -. Even famously learned scholars as the poet Petrarch struggled over it)

The same went seminal works as Euclid’s Elements, best known treatise on geometry. During this long period, when it was thought that these brilliantly logical works were gone forever, Islamic scholars kept their own copies of the translation. When European scholars began to travel to Spain and Sicily (then under Muslim rule) in the 12th century, these works and others were rediscovered in the West, leading to great intellectual ferment, including the theology of Thomas Aquinas – and understanding of logic that helped discipline of mathematics to survive and can thrive again in Western countries.