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45
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18answers
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
1answer
283 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?
6
votes
1answer
367 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
2answers
283 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 ...
17
votes
1answer
592 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
7answers
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
9answers
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
1answer
451 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
1k 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
1answer
264 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
1answer
486 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
2answers
795 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
1answer
310 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
1answer
435 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
1answer
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
1answer
244 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
2answers
912 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
5answers
729 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
1answer
319 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
1answer
414 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
1answer
365 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
464 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
1answer
410 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
3answers
950 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
2answers
649 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
12answers
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
6answers
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
0answers
449 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" ...
16
votes
1answer
890 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
4answers
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? ...
35
votes
17answers
4k views

What are some deep theorems, and why are they considered deep?

All mathematicians are used to thinking that certain theorems are deep, and we would probably all point to examples such as Dirichlet's theorem on primes in arithmetic progressions, the prime number ...
4
votes
1answer
361 views

Where does the name “Reynolds operator” come from?

I always found it strange that, in the context of invariant and representation theory, averaging over the group is called the "Reynolds operator". As far as I know the work of Reynolds was in fluid ...
5
votes
2answers
426 views

When did the meaning of the term “metabelian” change?

I just realised that the meaning of the term "metabelian", when applied to groups, or Lie algebras, seems to have changed over years. (These days, it means that $[[G,G],[G,G]]$ is trivial, while in ...
2
votes
3answers
300 views

Good Books on the history of Zero

I am looking for books that discuss the origins of the zero, specifically the differences in the use and concept of the zero number among different civilizations (considering also the Mesoamerican ...
6
votes
1answer
624 views

What are current trends/questions in algebraic logic?

What are current trends/questions in algebraic logic? I mean the research developed by Paul Halmos. Could anyone give some references for the overview of its history? Any overview of its application ...
8
votes
1answer
303 views

historical antecedents of mathematical talks

Is there a general reference of how mathematical talks, say academic talks, evolve in history? Before the International Congress of mthematics, is there any antecedent of todays talks?
1
vote
1answer
232 views

What is the name of the following theorem: dimension of complex irreducible representation divides order of group

Who proved it? When? See also: Irreducible Degrees and the Order of a Finite Group http://planetmath.org/proofthatdimensionofcomplexirreduciblerepresentationdividesorderofgroup Why would dim ...
5
votes
1answer
255 views

Origins of Axiomatic Reasoning

Is there any evidence that axiomatic reasoning has been used prior to Thales of Milet (624-547BC), who is generally credited for the "invention" of axioms. In this context I understand axioms in the ...
24
votes
2answers
761 views

Origin and first uses of $\ell_p$ norms?

When exactly were $\ell_p$ norms first defined and used? (Here is what I know, or think I know: Lebesgue and/or Riesz had something to do with them, but in some sense they go back to Minkowski, since ...
11
votes
2answers
485 views

To what extent can fields be classified?

The study of algebraic geometry usually begins with the choice of a base field $k$. In practice, this is usually one of the prime fields $\mathbb{Q}$ or $\mathbb{F}_p$, or topological completions and ...
2
votes
1answer
158 views

English translation of Steinitz 1910?

Does there exist an English translation of Steinitz' 1910 work "Algebraische Theorie der Körper"? http://www.digizeitschriften.de/dms/img/?PPN=GDZPPN002167042
12
votes
3answers
903 views

When was the continuum hypothesis born?

The question Solutions to the Continuum Hypothesis states that the continuum hypothesis was posed by Cantor in 1890. In http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuum_hypothesis the year 1878 is quoted ...
10
votes
2answers
862 views

What might extraterrestrial mathematics look like? [closed]

In an extensive anthropological joint research project concerning the necessities in the development of life and civilisation my group is concerned with mathematics. This forum seems to be extremely ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Who introduced the terms “equivalence relation” and “equivalence class”?

Consider that the question does not concern the origin of the ideas of equivalence relation and equivalence class. It exactly concerns the origin of the terms "equivalence relation" and "equivalence ...
12
votes
2answers
725 views

An Euler-proof that cannot be repaired?

Ed Sandifer writes on Euler's wonderful work on prime numbers: The sum of the series of reciprocals of prime numbers $\frac{1}{2}+\frac{1}{3}+\frac{1}{5}+...$ is infinitely large, and is infinitely ...
14
votes
5answers
639 views

Historical use of figures in geometry

I was surprised to learn from John Stillwell's comment in answer to the question, "Can the unsolvability of quintics be seen in the geometry of the icosahedron?", that There is not a single ...
11
votes
2answers
509 views

Why did Voiculescu develop free probability?

I was recently asked why Voiculescu developed free probability theory. I am not very expert in this and the only answer I was able to provide is the classical one: he was challenging the isomorphism ...
1
vote
1answer
140 views

Understanding the rationale behind “batch means” estimation

Hello all, I am implementing an MCMC algorithm for my work, and I've come upon something in the literature which I just can't understand. Specifically, I am attempting to estimate the amount of ...
5
votes
1answer
152 views

How did Hankel determinants get the name Hankel-Hadamard?

My question concerns the name for determinants of Hankel-matrices $H = (s_{i+j})_{i,j = 0}^n$. In the classical textbook of Shohat and Tamarkin (1943) "The Problem of Moments", these determinants are ...
15
votes
2answers
941 views

Where did Sophus Lie write the group commutator for two one parameter groups

If $X,Y$ are vector fields and $\def\Fl{\operatorname{Fl}}\Fl^X_t$ and $\Fl^Y_t$ their local flows, let $[\Fl^X_t,\Fl^Y_t]:= \Fl^Y_{-t}\Fl^X_{-t}\Fl^Y_t\Fl^X_t$ denote the group commutator of the ...