**7**

votes

**2**answers

2k 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

**2**answers

866 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 $\widetilde D = \mathbb C \setminus D$
...

**73**

votes

**9**answers

8k 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

**1**answer

831 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

**3**answers

603 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 ...

**26**

votes

**1**answer

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 ...

**10**

votes

**2**answers

424 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

**1**answer

705 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

**1**answer

560 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

**2**answers

648 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 ...

**12**

votes

**2**answers

600 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

**0**answers

521 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

**2**answers

297 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

**0**answers

185 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**

votes

**0**answers

284 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 ...

**16**

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

275 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

422 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 ...

**9**

votes

**0**answers

259 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

1k 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 ...

**8**

votes

**3**answers

768 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 ...

**37**

votes

**3**answers

2k 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

919 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

311 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

487 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

434 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

2k 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 ...

**30**

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 ...

**43**

votes

**4**answers

4k 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

164 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
...

**60**

votes

**15**answers

6k 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

215 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

192 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

753 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 ...

**56**

votes

**22**answers

8k 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 ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

339 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

547 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

320 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 ...

**26**

votes

**1**answer

1k 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

2k 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 ...

**26**

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

592 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 ...

**14**

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

284 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
...

**18**

votes

**1**answer

581 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 ...

**13**

votes

**2**answers

878 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 ...

**6**

votes

**1**answer

352 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

670 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 ...