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

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17
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2answers
739 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
729 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
votes
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 ...
36
votes
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 ...
22
votes
0answers
511 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 ...
36
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8answers
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
votes
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
votes
1answer
303 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
votes
2answers
501 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
votes
2answers
469 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
624 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
votes
1answer
376 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
votes
0answers
131 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
373 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
800 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
votes
1answer
241 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
votes
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
votes
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
737 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
votes
3answers
272 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
votes
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
votes
1answer
748 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
votes
3answers
596 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
100 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 ...
13
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2answers
563 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
144 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
votes
2answers
543 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
vote
0answers
437 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
158 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
votes
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
votes
1answer
352 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
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
824 views

Who first defined _simply connected_, reference?

The following definition is due to Donald J. Newman: A connected open subset $D$ of the plane $\mathbb C$ is simply connected if and only if its complement $\widetilde D = \mathbb C \setminus D$ ...
69
votes
9answers
7k views

Analogues of P vs. NP in the history of mathematics

Recently I wrote a blog post entitled "The Scientific Case for P≠NP". The argument I tried to articulate there is that there seems to be an "invisible electric fence" separating the problems in P ...
6
votes
1answer
735 views

Source for Derogatory Quote About Graph Theory

(Edited in accordance with suggestions in comments.) I remember once I read a quote that sounded like "graph theory is the scum of topology" (please approximate). I can not find it on the web, and I ...
0
votes
3answers
570 views

Definition of Prime Numbers [duplicate]

The first time I heard of prime numbers, they were defined as natural numbers $n$ that can only be divided by 1 and themselves without remainder; later, when prime factorization was introduced, I ...
24
votes
1answer
5k views

Who made the famous error in calculation that 'wasted' the final years of his life?

Sorry, I am merely a Middle School maths teacher at an Australian secondary school. I remember reading years ago about a famous mathematician (18th or 19th Century?) who calculated table upon table of ...
9
votes
2answers
388 views

Historical quotation search: Equations/formulae in (Latin?) prose, before modern symbolic notation

I have been trying, without success, to find a vaguely-remembered quotation: the quadratic equation (or perhaps the quadratic formula), given in (Latin?) prose, along lines like “Consider that ...
10
votes
1answer
644 views

Why are they called Specht Modules?

I know that the simple modules of $\mathbb{C}S_n$ are called Specht Modules, and they are named after the German Mathematician Wilhelm Specht because he studied them, but I think these modules were ...
4
votes
1answer
508 views

Origin of “Woodin cardinal”

Sorry if this is a completely stupid question (I'm a not a set-theorist, though I've been doing some reading in the subject), but I was wondering, specifically, about the exact provenance of the name. ...
16
votes
2answers
616 views

Felix Klein on infinitesimals

This is a reference request prompted by some intriguing comments made by Felix Klein. In 1908, Felix Klein formulated a criterion of what it would take for a theory of infinitesimals to be ...
11
votes
2answers
500 views

Riemann's quote cited by Lakatos: what is the context?

"If only I had the theorems! Then I should find the proofs easily enough." This quote is generally attributed to Bernhard Riemann. In particular, on page 9 in Proofs and refutations by Imre ...
12
votes
0answers
448 views

How come Cartan did not notice the close relationship between symmetric spaces and isoparametric hypersurfaces?

Elie Cartan made fundamental contributions to the theory of Lie groups and their geometrical applications. Among those, we can list the introduction of the remarkable family of Riemannian symmetric ...
3
votes
2answers
282 views

Is there a source linking Robinson's work in wing theory with his theory of infinitesimals?

Abraham Robinson worked in applied mathematics for several decades. MathSciNet lists 12 articles by Robinson in wing theory. His production included the book Robinson, A.; Laurmann, J. A. Wing ...
5
votes
0answers
181 views

Did the notion of “angle” originate with Thales?

Thales (circa 600BC—roughly 50 years before Pythagoras, 200 years before Plato, and 300 years before Euclid) certainly knew and reasoned with the concept of a planar angle. Are there earlier ...
12
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0answers
256 views

Who stated and proved the “Hopf lemma” on bilinear maps?

If $A\otimes B\rightarrow C$ is a nondegenerate linear map, where $A, B, C$ are vector spaces over an algebraically closed field, then $\dim C\ge \dim A + \dim B -1$. Nondegenerate here means ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Original manuscript of Archimedes' cattle problem

Wikipedia states that [Archimedes' cattle problem] was discovered by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in a Greek manuscript containing a poem of forty-four lines, in the Herzog August Library in ...
2
votes
1answer
257 views

What are the Reasons for the Ambiguous Meaning of “Distribution” in Mathematics

The term "distribution" is commonly associated with statistics and, less commonly known, to generalized functions. Questions: what is known about the origin of the term in the two fields? are the ...