Biographies, philosophy of mathematics, mathematics education, recreational mathematics, communication of mathematics

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19
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626 views

construction of nonmeasurable sets

I have a history question for which I've had trouble finding a good answer. The common story about nonmeasurable sets is that Vitali showed that one existed using the Axiom of Choice, and Lebesgue et ...
-7
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0answers
301 views

Why Adrian Vasiu did not get the fields medal? [closed]

Why Adrian Vasiu, brilliant as a mathematican, is socially unpopular at the mathematical society? Why he did not get the fields medal?
2
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1answer
296 views

Who defined and who coined “module”?

The title of my Q. says it all: QUESTION:   Who defined and who coined: module? Would it be Emmy Noether? EDIT   In view of @anon's and KConrad's answers, and as it could have been ...
11
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2answers
341 views

Who originated the standard symbols for Lie groups GL, SL, SU, etc.?

Who was first to use symbols GL, SL, O, SO, U, SU, Sp and their projective versions, and how did this notation become standard? The notation appears in fairly modern form in Weyl's "The Classical ...
1
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0answers
101 views

First Description of how to Remove Radicals from Equations

Who first described the technique of removing radicals as indicated in the answers to questions Tools for Removing Radicals from Equations and Rewrite sum of radicals equation as polynomial equation ? ...
4
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1answer
336 views

The ten martini problem - reason for name

Why is the problem called the ten martini problem? Sounds like an interesting name for people who drink.
6
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1answer
160 views

Finiteness as a motivation for compactness

Another history question, and I am not sure if I will get any answers. (If anyone knows of a good history of math list to use for this question I would be happy for any tips. The one I used to post to ...
11
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3answers
989 views

How were formulas / images added to books in post-printing-press / pre-digital times?

I have seen that Euclid's Elements was written 300 BC and first set in type in 1482. Are there scans of that old versions available? How were formulas / images added to the books created with ...
4
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2answers
615 views

Salvaging Leibnizian formalism?

Can one justify Leibniz's formalism in a suitable algebraic or topological context? We have published some papers recently where we argue that Leibniz's formalism for the calculus wasn't ...
29
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1answer
3k views

A topologist is not a mathematician - a small question

Years ago I read about a topologist who was to enter the states as an immigrant and was asked a question about his profession. He indicated he was a topologist, but as this was not included on the ...
2
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0answers
66 views

History of limit point compact -/-> compact example

A standard example in elementary topology (e.g. Munkres) of a space which is limit-point compact (every infinite subset of the space has a limit point) but not compact is the minimal uncountable ...
5
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1answer
95 views

Origins of the Jacobi matrix

I have several questions concerning history of Jacobi matrices. Does anybody know why the Jacobi matrix (=symmetric tridiagonal matrix) is named by Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi? What was his contribution ...
1
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0answers
97 views

Default Orientation of Vectors [closed]

When I started studying math in 1982 in Germany, there seemed to have been a change in the choice of the default orientation of vectors; while it was row-vectors till then, it changed to ...
12
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2answers
573 views

Maximal ideals are prime (history answer please!)

Please can someone tell me the history of the simple argument that any maximal ideal of a commutative ring or distributive lattice is prime? (It is understood that we have found the maximal one using ...
9
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3answers
824 views

When did coordinate plane “as we know it” come into play?

This is a historical question that needs some background to make sense. Let me start with the longer version of the question: When did negative numbers, algebra and coordinate plane come together? ...
2
votes
2answers
109 views

Where can I find a translation of Caspar Wessel's “Om directionens analytiske betegning?”

I found a listing on Google books for a book containing the desired English translation, together with some biographical information on Wessel, and entitled On the Analytical Representation of ...
16
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2answers
656 views

History of the connection between Riemann surfaces and complex algebraic curves

As noted in the question "Links between Riemann surfaces and algebraic geometry", there are strong connections between Riemann surfaces and algebraic geometry - for example, compact Riemann surfaces ...
12
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2answers
655 views

Did Cauchy think that uniform and pointwise convergence were equivalent?

I've heard that Cauchy thought he'd proved that pointwise and uniform convergence are equivalent. Is this a historical fact? If it is indeed true, I was wondering if anyone had a reference.
30
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6answers
2k views

Negative impact of wrong or non-rigorous proofs

The recent talks of Voevodsky (for example, http://www.math.ias.edu/~vladimir/Site3/Univalent_Foundations_files/2014_IAS.pdf), which describe subtle errors in proofs by him as well as others, as well ...
35
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16answers
6k views

Rediscovery of lost mathematics

Archimedes (ca. 287-212BC) described what are now known as the 13 Archimedean solids in a lost work, later mentioned by Pappus. But it awaited Kepler (1619) for the 13 semiregular polyhedra to be ...
20
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0answers
447 views

History of the Proj construction in algebraic geometry

Projective geometry was introduced by fifteenth century Renaissance painters (like Alberti, da Vinci and Dürer) in the guise of perspective theory, although one could argue that Pappus was already ...
33
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5answers
3k views

What recent programmes to alter highly-entrenched mathematical terminology have succeeded, and under what conditions do they tend to succeed or fail?

I think we all occasionally come across terminology that we'd like to see supplanted (e.g. by something more systematic). What I'd like to know is, under what circumstances is it reasonable to believe ...
27
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26answers
4k views

Mathematicians who made important contributions outside their own field? [closed]

It is often said that scientists who cross disciplinary borders can make unexpected discoveries thanks to their fresh view of the problems at hand. I am looking for mathematicians who did just that. ...
33
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2answers
4k views

How did “normal” come to mean “perpendicular”?

How and when did the word "normal" acquire this meaning? When I first thought of this, I couldn't really come up with any explanation that wasn't complete speculation -- pretty much all I was able to ...
10
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1answer
298 views

Elements of the method of forcing in some papers of N. N. Luzin

In the paper Eléments de la méthode de forcing dans quelques travaux de N. N. Lousin. (French) [Elements of the method of forcing in some papers of N. N. Luzin] Amphora, 469–479, Birkhäuser, ...
7
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2answers
458 views

Survey of the history of calculus?

Boyer 1939 is a nice readable survey of the history of the calculus, but it's showing its age. Discussing the notion of instantaneous velocity, he has: Mathematics knows no minimum interval of ...
9
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2answers
418 views

Origin of the term “generic” in set theory

In set theory, in particular the context of forcing, if $M$ is a model of $\sf ZFC$ and $P\in M$ is a partial order, we say that $G\subseteq P$ is a generic filter (or $M$-generic or generic over $M$) ...
25
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3answers
2k views

Who invented diagrammatic algebra?

There is a strong and growing trend to do mathematics via diagrammatic algebra, which involves constructing and manipulating equations whose elements are diagrams drawn in the plane. The manipulations ...
13
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1answer
594 views

Who first dubbed them “expander graphs”?

Expander graphs ("sparse graphs that have strong connectivity properties") burst onto the mathematical scene around the millennium, but I have not been successful in tracing the origin of (a) the ...
3
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1answer
367 views

Levi's book on Leibnizian calculus

Raphael Levi learned from Leibniz at a late stage in Leibniz's career. This might be a definite advantage for understanding Leibniz. Leibniz did not elaborate some of the philosophical principles ...
7
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0answers
115 views

Origin of Lie Product Formula

I'm interested in where Lie wrote down the Lie Product formula (for finite matrices) (the precursor of the Trotter product formula; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie_product_formula). With a ...
5
votes
1answer
352 views

What was Seifert's contribution to the Seifert-van Kampen theorem?

The Seifert-van Kampen theorem is the classical theorem of algebraic topology that the fundamental group functor $\pi_1$ preserves pushouts; more often than not this is referred to simply as the van ...
7
votes
1answer
773 views

Is there a “big program” in mathematics at the moment? [closed]

I apologize in the event that you should find this question off topic. Please feel free to delete it if that is the case. Years ago, I studied undergrad mathematics at university. The understanding ...
5
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1answer
231 views

When was the word “stable” first used to describe stable homotopy theory?

The word "stable" has many uses in mathematics, but in the context of stable homotopy theory, one might take it to mean one of two things: Homotopy groups stabilize after taking suspensions ...
36
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4answers
3k views

History of “without loss of generality”

"Without loss of generality" is a standard in the mathematical lexicon, and I am writing to ask if anyone knows where the expression was popularized. (The idea has been around since antiquity, I'm ...
11
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3answers
2k views

Why are smooth numbers called “smooth”?

"Adleman refers to integers which factor completely into small primes as “smooth” numbers." (ME Hellman, JM Reyneri. Advances in Cryptology, 1983: citation link.) Does anyone know what is the ...
16
votes
4answers
691 views

Who first used the multiplication operator version of spectral theory

This is another history question. Hilbert phrased the spectral theorem in terms of resolutions of the identity. While this remained the form of Stone and von Neumann, they did also have the ...
11
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3answers
251 views

Origin of number theoretic invariants associated to hyperbolic 3-manifolds

I've been studying number theoretic methods of classifying hyperbolic 3-manifolds for over a year now. In particular, there is are the trace field, invariant trace field, quaternion algebra, and ...
50
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8answers
4k views

Have you solved problems in your sleep? [closed]

I have hit upon major (for me—relative to my trivial accomplishments) insights in my research in various sleep-deprived altered states of consciousness, e.g., long solo car-drives extending ...
18
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1answer
715 views

Reference for Diagonalization Trick

There is a standard trick in analysis, where one chooses a subsequence, then a subsequence of that... and wants to get an eventual subsubsequence of all of them and you take the diagonal. I've always ...
2
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3answers
546 views

The Hidden Aspect of Set Theory [closed]

This question is inspired by a similar question at the beginning of Kunen's new book, "Set Theory". Many mathematicians believe they are exploring a "real" universe. In such a Platonic point of ...
1
vote
1answer
96 views

Original sources for two theorems by Bass, Matlis and Papp

It is an interesting fact that a commutative ring $R$ is noetherian if and only if direct sums of injective $R$-modules are injective, and if and only if every injective $R$-module is a direct sum of ...
12
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2answers
547 views

What was the Question that led Euler to his Investigations on Polyhedra?

The question that led Euler to his investigations on graphs is the well-known question related to the seven bridges of Königsberg, and that story is a must in every introduction to graph theory. ...
4
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1answer
134 views

What is the early history of the concepts of probabilistic independence and conditional probability/expectation?

In the 1738 second edition of The Doctrine of Chances, de Moivre writes, Two Events are independent, when they have no connexion one with the other, and that the happening of one neither forwards ...
7
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2answers
513 views

$\aleph$ looks like $\mathbb N$?

We all know the notation $\aleph_\lambda$ for the $\lambda$th (or, I guess, $\lambda+1$st) infinite cardinal number; in particular $\aleph_0$ is the cardinality of the the set of natural numbers ...
1
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0answers
424 views

Is it possible to give a fair assessment of the influence of Bourbaki's “Eléments de mathématique”? [closed]

Well, I apologize if this "soft-question" (related to the "Arnold-Serre" debate) is considered as irrelevant for MO, and for possible misunderstandings in the two earlier versions of this post (which ...
1
vote
1answer
156 views

First Parameterized Subset of Primes that was Related to a Mathematical Result

To my knowledge, Fermat primes, i.e. primes of the form $2^{2^n}+1$ were the first to play a role in a mathematical result, namely in the characterization of constructible regular n-gons. Gauss ...
22
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2answers
1k views

Was Vinogradov's 1937 proof of the three-prime theorem effective?

Was Vinogradov's first proof of the three-prime theorem effective? Reasons for my question: Vinogradov presented his proof in 1937 in a monograph; the English translation by K.F. Roth and A. ...
10
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1answer
284 views

Who first resolved Hilbert's 20th problem?

Hilbert's 20th problem concerns the existence of solutions to the fundamental problem in the calculus of variations. I understand that Hilbert, Lesbesgue and Tonelli were pioneers in this area. In ...
6
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2answers
945 views

Ramanujan's tau function

Why was Ramanujan interested in the his tau function before the advent of modular forms? The machinery of modular forms used by Mordel to solve the multiplicative property seems out of context until I ...