Essay on Math History

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Mathematics starts with counting. It is not reasonable, however, to suggest that early counting was mathematics. Only when some record of the counting was kept and, therefore, some representation of numbers occurred can mathematics be said to have started. In Babylonia mathematics developed from 2000 BC. Earlier a place value notation number system had evolved over a lengthy period with a number base of 60. It allowed arbitrarily large numbers and fractions to be represented and so proved to be the foundation of more high powered mathematical development. Number problems such as that of the Pythagorean triples (a,b,c) with a2+b2 = c2 were studied from at least 1700 BC. Systems of linear equations were studied in the context of solving …show more content…
The 17th Century saw Napier, Briggs and others greatly extend the power of mathematics as a calculatory science with his discovery of logarithms. Cavalieri made progress towards the calculus with his infinitesimal methods and Descartes added the power of algebraic methods to geometry. Progress towards the calculus continued with Fermat, who, together with Pascal, began the mathematical study of probability. However the calculus was to be the topic of most significance to evolve in the 17th Century. Newton, building on the work of many earlier mathematicians such as his teacher Barrow, developed the calculus into a tool to push forward the study of nature. His work contained a wealth of new discoveries showing the interaction between mathematics, physics and astronomy. Newton's theory of gravitation and his theory of light take us into the 18th Century. However we must also mention Leibniz, whose much more rigorous approach to the calculus (although still unsatisfactory) was to set the scene for the mathematical work of the 18th Century rather than that of Newton. Leibniz's influence on the various members of the Bernoulli family was important in seeing the calculus grow in power and variety of application. The most important mathematician of the 18th Century was Euler who, in addition to work in a wide range of mathematical areas, was to invent two new branches, namely the calculus of variations and differential geometry. Euler

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