**129**

votes

**132**answers

28k views

### Fundamental Examples

It is not unusual that a single example or a very few shape an entire mathematical discipline. Can you give examples for such examples? (One example, or few, per post, please)
I'd love to learn about ...

**3**

votes

**0**answers

245 views

### Galois correspondence subgroups/subsystems

In this paper (1998) by M. Izumi, R. Longo, S. Popa, there is the following result (page 49) on compact groups:
Lemma 3.16. Let $G$ be a compact group and $Rep(G)$ the category of finite ...

**25**

votes

**21**answers

6k views

### What are some mathematical concepts that were (pretty much) created from scratch and do not owe a debt to previous work?

Almost any mathematical concept has antecedents; it builds on, or is related to, previously known concepts. But are there concepts that owe little or nothing to previous work?
The only example I know ...

**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 ...

**46**

votes

**19**answers

7k 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
...

**11**

votes

**4**answers

857 views

### “Epicycles” (Ptolemy style) in math theory?

By analogy:
The epicycles of Ptolemy explained the known facts in the sun system and in this sense were not "wrong". But they distracted from a better insight. From another viewpoint, everything fell ...

**19**

votes

**1**answer

715 views

### Steinhaus's Easter Egg Problem

The following is the text of Steinhaus's so-called Easter egg problem. According to this article of Roman Duda, this was recorded in the New Scottish Book around Easter 1955 and "Steinhaus offered an ...

**13**

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 ...

**9**

votes

**0**answers

404 views

### What was the answer to this paradox before Cantor? [migrated]

I do not remember the name/source of this paradox,but I remember I have discussed this with mathematicians and non mathematicians at least 5 times.
It goes like this:
"Every point of a line has ...

**16**

votes

**7**answers

1k views

### Are there any Algebraic Geometry Theorems that were proved using Combinatorics?

I'm collaborating with some algebraic geometers in a paper, and when writing the introduction I mentioned the interaction of Combinatorics and Algebraic Geometry, and gave some examples like the ...

**44**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### Did Gelfand's theory of commutative Banach algebras influence algebraic geometers?

Guillemin and Sternberg wrote the following in 1987 in a short article called "Some remarks on I.M. Gelfand's works" accompanying Gelfand's Collected Papers, Volume I:
The theory of commutative ...

**65**

votes

**24**answers

7k views

### Modern Mathematical Achievements Accessible to Undergraduates

While there is tremendous progress happening in mathematics, most of it is just accessible to specialists. In many cases, the proofs of great results are both long and use difficult techniques. Even ...

**29**

votes

**4**answers

3k views

### What, precisely, does Klein's Erlangen Program state?

People write that the Erlangen Program is a "program" (like the "Langlands Program"), i.e. a series of related conjectures, which in this case were all solved. There are various intuitive accounts, ...

**25**

votes

**7**answers

1k views

### Concise model of modern fiat money and its non-conservation

A confession: I have never really understood the basic model of fiat money and central banking, by which a central bank controls the money supply. By the standards of someone trained in mathematics, ...

**22**

votes

**4**answers

852 views

### Communal problem books

A certain class of books is defined as follows: (1) the book was kept for years in a cafe or mathematics library; (2) the primary contents are research problems and comments, handwritten by resident ...

**12**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Did Grothendieck write about modular forms?

This question might be astoundingly naive, because my understanding of modular forms is so meek. It occurred to me that the reason I was never able to penetrate into the field of modular forms, ...

**84**

votes

**20**answers

11k views

### Mathematical habits of thought and action which would be of use to non-mathematicians

Once again I come to MO for help with something I'm writing for the public.
Which habits of mathematicians -- aspects of the way we approach problems, the way we argue, the way we function as a ...

**26**

votes

**6**answers

1k views

### Means of Promoting Mathematics in Young Countries!

We all know mathematics is life, this question is for Mankind. It's mathoverflow here when some parts of the world we have mathunderflow! I think we can do something through ideas. A similar ...

**20**

votes

**1**answer

910 views

### Homeomorphism historically: When did it reach its modern formulation?

Q. When did the notion of homeomorphism reach its
modern formulation as a bicontinuous bijection, i.e., a
continuous bijection
between topological spaces whose inverse is also continuous?
...

**1**

vote

**1**answer

1k views

### Famous examples of PhD advisors younger than their student [closed]

What are the most famous examples of PhD advisors in mathematics, younger than their student?
(if possible put the date of birth and/or the difference in age).

**78**

votes

**6**answers

8k views

### what mistakes did the Italian algebraic geometers actually make?

It's "well-known" that the 19th century Italian school of algebraic geometry made great progress but also started to flounder due to lack of rigour, possibly in part due to the fact that foundations ...

**37**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### Did Bourbaki write a text on algebraic geometry?

Certainly Bourbaki never wrote an introduction to algebraic geometry: we would have heard about it, right?

**4**

votes

**1**answer

602 views

### Cricket and the Hardy-Littlewod maximal function

I'v read somewhere that one motivation for Hardy to define his maximal function is the game of cricket. But I can't see how they are related. Could anyone provide some more information on their ...

**8**

votes

**2**answers

437 views

### Discovery and Study of Conic Sections in Ancient Greece

Is there anything known about what drew the attention of ancient greek mathematicians to conic sections and, what were the models they used to study conic sections?
What I would like to know, is ...

**37**

votes

**32**answers

6k views

### Trichotomies in mathematics

Added. Thanks to all who participated! Let me humbly apologize to those who were annoyed (quite understandably) by this thread, deeming it nothing more than an exercise in futility. If you thought the ...

**11**

votes

**4**answers

685 views

### Brandt's definition of groupoids (1926)

The definition of a category is usually attributed to Mac Lane and Eilenberg (1945). What seems to be less known is that the german mathematician Heinrich Brandt has developed the notion of a groupoid ...

**0**

votes

**1**answer

458 views

### The most cited paper in Mathematics [closed]

I am wondering about the most cited papers/books in Mathematics. I always had the impression that the number of citations in the mathematical community is several orders of magnitude below the number ...

**14**

votes

**2**answers

507 views

### Scott-Solovay unpublished paper on ``Boolean valued models of set theory''

I have read some papers from 1970$^{th}$, and in some of them, the paper of Scott and Solovay on ``Boolean valued models of set theory'' is given as a main reference, with many references to the ...

**53**

votes

**13**answers

10k views

### Logic in mathematics and philosophy

What are the relations between logic as an area of (modern) philosophy and mathematical logic.
The world "modern" refers to 20th century and later, and I am curious mainly about the second half of ...

**16**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### History of Gauss' Law

Does any one know actual references for the discovery of Gauss' Law (a corollary of the Divergence Theorem)?
The entry in Wikipedia for Divergence Theorem says it was discovered by
...

**9**

votes

**1**answer

324 views

### History of Tarski's problems on free groups

As is known, Tarski posed his questions about first-order theories of non-abelian free groups around 1945. However, the questions were not published in his papers or books.
What is the original ...

**11**

votes

**3**answers

625 views

### Riemann's formula for the metric in a normal neighborhood

I would love to understand the famous formula $g_{ij}(x) = \delta_{ij} + \frac{1}{3}R_{kijl}x^kx^l +O(||x||^3)$, which is valid in Riemannian normal coordinates and possibly more general situations.
...

**55**

votes

**32**answers

35k views

### Why do we teach calculus students the derivative as a limit?

I'm not teaching calculus right now, but I talk to someone who does, and the question that came up is why emphasize the $h \to 0$ definition of a derivative to calculus students?
Something a teacher ...

**8**

votes

**0**answers

161 views

### History of preservation theorems in forcing theory

For my honours thesis, I am studying a general preservation theorem using a framework provided by Shelah. I am mainly concerned about revised countable support iteration of $\dot{S}$-semiproper ...

**0**

votes

**0**answers

84 views

### Filmed lectures by Hassler Whitney

Are there any filmed lectures by outstanding American mathematician Hassler Whitney, besides the two Einstein Chair lectures below?
Old lectures, from the 1940s onwards, would be particularly ...

**24**

votes

**2**answers

801 views

### Authorship of Grothendieck universes

Universes seem to first enter Grothendieck's work in SGA 1, which is credited to Grothendieck, and a lengthy discussion is in the chapter on Prefaisceaux (presheaves) in SGA 4. That chapter is ...

**51**

votes

**2**answers

1k views

### History of $\frac d{dt}\tan^{-1}(t)=\frac 1{1+t^2}$

Let $\theta = \tan^{-1}(t)$. Nowadays it is taught:
1º that
$$
\frac{d\theta}{dt} = \frac 1{dt\,/\,d\theta} = \frac 1{1+t^2},
\tag1
$$
2º that, via the fundamental theorem of calculus, this is ...

**39**

votes

**18**answers

5k 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 ...

**3**

votes

**1**answer

812 views

### Who coined “mob” and “clan” and why these words?

A mob is a word used for a topological semigroup which is a Hausdorff space. A clan is a compact connected mob with a two-sided identity element.
Who used these words with these meanings first and ...

**43**

votes

**4**answers

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 ...

**5**

votes

**1**answer

161 views

### Did Lucas discover Lucas circles?

MathWord's article on Lucas circles traces the name to a little-known 1973 publication. These interesting circles have found their way into several 21st century publications, including the online ...

**2**

votes

**0**answers

102 views

### Examples of Geometric Constructions in Higher Dimensions

The classical problem of geometric construction seems to be restricted to planar Euclidean Geometry with straight edge and compass as the only admissible "construction-tools".
I would like to ...

**3**

votes

**1**answer

219 views

### Was $\Sigma x$ used as quantifier?

Kurt Gödel in 1931 used $x\Pi a$ where we in contemporary notation would use $(\forall x) A$ or $(x)A$, and $Ex a$ where we would use $(\exists x) A$. I believe that I remember that $\Sigma xA$ has ...

**26**

votes

**6**answers

6k views

### A question regarding a claim of V. I. Arnold

In his Huygens and Barrow, Newton and Hooke, Arnold mentions a notorious teaser that, in his opinion, "modern" mathematicians are not capable of solving quickly. Then, he adds that the exception that ...

**18**

votes

**14**answers

2k 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 ...

**58**

votes

**35**answers

6k views

### Books about history of recent mathematics

I draw on this question to ask something that has always been a pet peeve of mine. It is very easy to find books about the history of mathematics, much less so if one wants books about the recent (say ...

**24**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### more on “Transalgebraic Theories” (a 19th century yoga)?

Among the talks at occasion of the Galois Bicentennial, one is about "Transalgebraic Theories". Unfortunately I found only this article describing that fascinating idea as " an extremely powerful ...

**5**

votes

**2**answers

207 views

### History of the orientation of Cartesian coordinates in drawing

Is there any actual historical example in which a Cartesian plane with all four quadrants has been used, but with all axes marked with positive numbers? [Please see Sawyer's paper below for a ...

**8**

votes

**2**answers

254 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 ...

**0**

votes

**1**answer

253 views

### History of Poincare conjecture in higher dimension [closed]

As far as I know, when Poincare formulated his well known conjecture, the original statement was the follwoing: if a closed manifold has the same homology groups as the sphere it is homoeomorphic to ...