**12**

votes

**2**answers

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

**1**answer

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 ...

**5**

votes

**1**answer

349 views

### Why does the gamma function use the symbol $\Gamma(\,)$?

I am aware of some of the history of the gamma function $\Gamma(z)$, partly through
a 2009(!) MO question "Who invented the gamma function?"—Euler, Bernoulli, etc.
My question does not seem to ...

**8**

votes

**0**answers

245 views

### From Frege to Gödel - German equivalent?

I know this question does not quite fit here, but I felt it could best be answered here. I recently stumbled upon the book From Frege to Gödel, which is a sourcebook containing some of the most ...

**16**

votes

**1**answer

791 views

### history of quaternion algebras

Who is responsible for the generalization of Hamilton's quaternions to other types of quaternion algebras, and when did this occur? In particular, Hamilton's quaternions are the 4-dimensional algebra ...

**7**

votes

**3**answers

595 views

### history of calculus of several variables

Everybody knows that Leibniz and Newton (or Newton and Leibniz, if you wish) invented calculus, i.e. they developed the notion of differentiability for a function of one real variable. But who had for ...

**28**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### Why aren't fields called “bodies” instead?

The discrepancy regarding the names of commutative division algebras in German and English has always startled me. In English they are called fields, whereas their original German name is Körper ...

**12**

votes

**4**answers

830 views

### What properties of knots lead Lord Kelvin to hypothesize that atoms were knots in the ether?

I've often heard that Lord Kelvin was one of the first people to study knot theory, as he hypothesized that atoms were knots in the ether. I assume that he had some compelling evidence for this fact.
...

**2**

votes

**2**answers

295 views

### Origin of the name “Torelli group”

The genus $g$ Torelli group $I_g$ is the kernel of the action of the mapping class group of a genus $g$ surface on the first homology group of the surface.
The first paper I am aware of that uses the ...

**5**

votes

**2**answers

473 views

### How was Christoffel a 'whimsical eccentric'?

I've seen several citations of a letter from Weierstrass, talking about his dispute with Kronecker, in which he refers to Christoffel as a 'whimsical eccentric' (presumably the German original is ...

**6**

votes

**1**answer

403 views

### Origin of the term “weight” in representation theory

In representation theory, there are the related concepts of weights and roots. Since both are kinds of generalised eigenvalues, and eigenvalues are roots of e.g. the characteristic polynomial, the ...

**12**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### History and motivation for Tannaka, Krein, Grothendieck, Deligne et al. works on Tannaka-Krein theory?

I am trying to wrap my mind around Tannaka-Krein duality and it seems quite mysterious for me, as well, as its history. So let me ask:
Question: What was the motivation and historical context for ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Did ancient mathematicians know Euler's characteristic for convex polyhedra?

The formula $V-E+F=2$ is so simple that I can't believe that it was really Euler (or perhaps Descartes) who first observed it (I mean the formula itself in some generality, not necessarily a valid ...

**18**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Where are Georg Cantor's Original Manuscripts?

Georg Cantor is famous for introducing transfinite numbers and set theory.
A main part of his mathematical point of view about this new type of "numbers" and this new "realm of mathematics" cannot be ...

**40**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### The Arnold – Serre debate

I have read (but I cannot now find where) that Arnold & Serre had a public debate on the value of Bourbaki. Does anyone have more details, or remember or know what was said?

**2**

votes

**1**answer

156 views

### why the difference between terms and propositional variables?

Reading some old logic texts (written around 1930) I noticed that these texts make no difference between propositional variables and terms.
They do make difference between identity and truthvalue
...

**55**

votes

**14**answers

5k views

### Mathematical research published in the form of poems

The article
Friedrich Wille: Galerkins Lösungsnäherungen bei monotonen Abbildungen,
Math. Z. 127 (1972), no. 1, 10-16
is written in the form of a lengthy poem, in a style similar to that
of the ...

**7**

votes

**0**answers

186 views

### Reference Request: Topological h-cobordism theorem in higher dimensions

I think this question on math.stackexchange is more appropriate on mathoverflow. Correct me, if you don't think so.
The h-cobordism theorem is true in the topological and in the smooth category in ...

**2**

votes

**0**answers

170 views

### Does anyone know what is the right reference for the following simple lemma from harmonic analysis?

The lemma says that given $\lambda\geq 1$, $p\geq 1$, $a_j\geq 0$, for a collection of balls $\{B_j\}_{j\in\mathbb{N}}$ in $\mathbb{R}^n$, it holds
$$\|\sum_j a_j\chi_{\lambda B_j}\|_p\leq ...

**-2**

votes

**2**answers

652 views

### Accidental, unplanned breakthroughs in Mathematics [closed]

In math/physics, or generally in science, there are many moments where the success and the triumph come from the accidental, unplanned attempts. Moreover, there are some cases that originally having ...

**45**

votes

**18**answers

7k views

### Examples of major theorems with very hard proofs that have NOT dramatically improved over time

This question complement a previous MO question: Examples of theorems with proofs that have dramatically improved over time.
I am looking for a list of major theorems in mathematics whose proofs are ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

297 views

### Why did Alonzo Church choose the letter $\lambda$ as the “binding operator”?

Is there any known reason why Alonzo Church chose Greek $\lambda$ as the "binding operator" for the Lambda Calculus?

**7**

votes

**1**answer

415 views

### History of Jordan Canonical Form?

Can anyone suggest a reference that discusses the history of the Jordan canonical form? In particular, I am interested in:
When and how was it first stated? (I understand it was independently stated ...

**4**

votes

**2**answers

289 views

### Who first used the cross-ratio to describe shapes in hyperbolic geometry?

I was reading this Wikipedia article today:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape#Similarity_classes
and I realized that it strongly resembles the use of coss-ratios as "shape parameters" in hyperbolic ...

**25**

votes

**1**answer

829 views

### Institutional response to “Esquisse d'un programme”

It is well-known that Grothendieck's "esquisse d'un programme" was submitted in 1984 as part as the author's application for a permanent position of "Directeur de Recherche" at the C.N.R.S. (the main ...

**20**

votes

**7**answers

1k views

### Was lattice theory central to mid-20th century mathematics?

Four years ago, I read a book on the history of mathematics up to 1970 or so. It was very interesting up until the end. The last few chapters, though, were on lattices. The author claimed that ...

**25**

votes

**9**answers

2k views

### Are there some other notions of “curvature” which measure how space curves?

I am learning differential geometry and have a few questions on curvature. -- Background:
Gauss invented "Gauss curvature" to measure how surface curves.
Riemann gives an ingenious generalization ...

**9**

votes

**1**answer

482 views

### Well founded induction attributed to Noether

What I know as well founded induction, namely the rule
$$ \big(\forall y.(\forall z.z\lt y\Rightarrow\phi z)\Rightarrow\phi y\big)\Longrightarrow\big(\forall x.\phi x\big), $$
whose validity is the ...

**13**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Fourier transform of the unit sphere

The Fourier transform of the volume form of the (n-1)-sphere in $\mathbf R^n$ is given by the well-known formula
$$
\int_{S^{n-1}}e^{i\langle\mathbf a,\mathbf u\rangle}d\sigma(\mathbf u) = (2\pi)^{\nu ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

267 views

### History question: Roth's theorem on approximating algebraic numbers…before Roth

Roth's theorem has two universal quantifies, over irrational algebraic numbers $\alpha$ and over real $\epsilon>0$. Of course the theorem asserts in each instance that the inequality
...

**17**

votes

**1**answer

509 views

### What motivated Rademacher's contour along the Ford circles?

Apologies if this question isn't suitable for MathOverflow; I posted it on MSE here but it didn't get a response and it felt like it was on the cusp of being suitable for here.
After Ramanujan and ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

812 views

### How did Gauss and contemporaries think of modular forms?

Accounts of modular forms say that they were studied in the early 19th century, but then define modular forms using terminology that didn't exist until the 20th century. How did the earliest ...

**5**

votes

**1**answer

316 views

### Influence of Yau's solution to the Calabi Conjecture on the field of PDEs

I remember reading a long time ago(I can't recall where, unfortunately) that Yau's solution of the Calabi-Yau conjecture introduced new techniques that were very important for the field of partial ...

**14**

votes

**1**answer

451 views

### History of Koszul complex

This is a question about history of commutative algebra. I'm curios why Koszul complex from commutative algebra is called Koszul complex? All Koszul's early papers are about Lie algebras and Lie ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### What is the source of this E̶r̶d̶ő̶s̶ quote?

Namely, the following one
"All problems appeared once in the [American Mathematical] Monthly."
I remember reading it several years ago... When I first posed the question, I believed that I had ...

**7**

votes

**1**answer

251 views

### Analogy between Lagrange's Theorem and Rank-Nullity Theorem?

One can view view Lagrange's Theorem $$|G/H|=|G|/|H|$$ and the Rank-Nullity Theorem $$\dim(V/U)=\dim(V)-\dim(U)$$ as directly analogous. Does anyone know a high-level explanation of this analogy? I ...

**14**

votes

**2**answers

934 views

### Deligne Weil II

Deligne's Weil I has been published under the title "La conjecture de Weil: I" in 1974, and Weil II in 1980. So did Deligne know in 1974 that there would be a Weil II, and can one explain the period ...

**10**

votes

**5**answers

740 views

### What are good English-language sources for reading about the Luzin affair?

What are good English-language sources for reading about the Luzin affair?
I'm interested in the subject and am wondering about good historical sources.

**10**

votes

**1**answer

337 views

### Who is Petrov of the Petrov-Galerkin method?

I was not able to find the origin of the name Petrov in the Petrov-Galerkin method for the numerical approximation of PDEs.
Wikipedia refers to a certain Alexander G. Petrov, but it is still not ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

425 views

### “'Category' was defined in order to define 'functor', which was defined in order to define 'natural transformation'”

I am looking for the source (and original version) of the above oft-repeated quotation. Mac Lane mentions it in Categories for the Working Mathematician, attributing it to Eilenberg-Mac Lane; however, ...

**0**

votes

**1**answer

370 views

### What was the original/historical motivation for introducing Grothendieck (pre-)topologies

The title essentially explains it, but I'll give some background:
I'm giving a talk to some fellow grad students about the relative Picard functor which requires introducing Grothendieck ...

**9**

votes

**2**answers

482 views

### Origin of the Socle of a module

Where does the notation $\mbox{Soc}(M)$ (the sum of all simple submodules of a module $M$) first appear?

**6**

votes

**1**answer

425 views

### Where does the notation $\pi_1(X,x)$ for the fundamental group first appear?

I've spent the last half hour browsing Stillwell's translation of Poincaré's Analysis Situs and Dieudonné's History of Algebraic and Differential Topology, and I haven't found the source of this ...

**22**

votes

**3**answers

993 views

### What exactly does this diagram of Omar Khayyam represent?

Evidently Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) was quite the mathematician. He did groundbreaking work on finding geometric solutions to the cubic equation, which is all the more notable since he did not have a ...

**11**

votes

**2**answers

653 views

### Le Haut Commissariat qui surveille rigoureusement l'alignement de ses Grandes Pyramides

Yesterday I came across the following one-paragraph summary of the history of the Law of Quadratic Reciprocity in Roger Godement's Analyse mathématique, IV, p.313 (perhaps the only treatise on ...

**16**

votes

**12**answers

1k views

### Insightful books about elementary mathematics

What are some books that discuss elementary mathematical topics ('school mathematics'), like arithmetic, basic non-abstract algebra, plane & solid geometry, trigonometry, etc, in an insightful ...

**12**

votes

**6**answers

1k views

### The origins of forcing in mathematical logic and other branches of mathematics

As everyone knows, forcing was created by Cohen to answer questions in set theory.
Question 1. What are the first applications of set theoretic forcing in other branches of mathematical logic, like ...

**7**

votes

**0**answers

467 views

### Has anyone pursued Frege's idea of numbers as second-order concepts?

Gottlob Frege was a pivotal figure in the history of mathematical logic. He gave an analysis of numbers that proceeded along roughly the following lines, in his books "The Foundations of Arithmetic" ...

**18**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Arnold on Newton's anagram

Arnold, in his paper
The underestimated Poincaré, in Russian Math. Surveys 61 (2006), no. 1, 1–18
wrote the following:
``...Puiseux series, the theory which Newton, hundreds of years before ...

**6**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### Numerically computing $\int_0^1 \frac{1}{\sqrt{1-x^4}}dx$

In the book, "Pi and the AGM" by Borwein and Borwein, it is mentioned that Gauss computed the following integral to the eleventh decimal palce.
$\int_0^1 \frac{1}{\sqrt{1-x^4}}dx$
How did he do it? ...