**11**

votes

**2**answers

384 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 ...

**31**

votes

**13**answers

5k 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
...

**9**

votes

**1**answer

528 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.

**26**

votes

**6**answers

1k 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 ...

**37**

votes

**20**answers

6k views

### Mathematicians whose works were criticized by contemporaries but became widely accepted later

Gauss famously discarded Abel's proof that an algebraic equation of degree five or more cannot have a general solution (Abel himself had rejected divergent series as the work of the devil). Cantor's ...

**87**

votes

**26**answers

11k views

### Extremely messy proofs

Currently in my undergraduate courses I am being taught how to set up various machinery using slick, short proofs and then how to apply that machinery. What I am not being taught, largely, is what ...

**20**

votes

**0**answers

427 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 ...

**11**

votes

**3**answers

240 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 ...

**31**

votes

**5**answers

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**

votes

**26**answers

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. ...

**32**

votes

**2**answers

3k 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 ...

**72**

votes

**28**answers

7k views

### Examples of theorems misapplied to non-mathematical contexts

For something I'm writing -- I'm interested in examples of bad arguments which involve the application of mathematical theorems in non-mathematical contexts. E.G. folks who make theological arguments ...

**75**

votes

**19**answers

11k views

### Do you read the masters?

I often hear the advice, "Read the masters" (i.e., read old, classic texts by great mathematicians). But frankly, I have hardly ever followed it. What I am wondering is, is this a principle that ...

**6**

votes

**3**answers

843 views

### Original proof of Pappus' Hexagon Theorem

Does anyone know where I can find an english translation, preferrably online or in a book the library of a small liberal arts college would be likely to have, of the original proof of Pappus' hexagon ...

**58**

votes

**6**answers

7k views

### How to find ICM talks?

I am very interested in reading some and skimming through the list of invited talks at the International Congress of Mathematicians. Since the proceedings contain talks supposedly by top experts in ...

**10**

votes

**1**answer

292 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, ...

**16**

votes

**8**answers

2k views

### Do there exist modern expositions of Klein's Icosahedron?

Reading Serre's letter to Gray
, I wonder if now modern expositions of the themes in Klein's book
exist. Do you know any?

**25**

votes

**14**answers

7k views

### Great mathematicians born 1850-1920 (ET Bell's book ≲ x ≲ Fields Medalists)

When I was a teenager, I was given the book Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell, and I rather enjoyed it. I know that this book has been criticized for various reasons and I might even agree with some ...

**2**

votes

**1**answer

247 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

**2**answers

399 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 $M$) ...

**6**

votes

**3**answers

287 views

### Meaning of historical fluxion notation

I've noticed that in 18th century books on calculus writers would say that 'the fluxion of $ax$ is $a\dot{x}$' and 'the fluxion of $x^n$ is $n x^{n-1} \dot{x}$'. What does this extra '$\dot{x}$' at ...

**25**

votes

**3**answers

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 ...

**186**

votes

**72**answers

76k views

### Video lectures of mathematics courses available online for free

It can be difficult to learn mathematics on your own from textbooks, and I often wish universities videotaped their mathematics courses and distributed them for free online. Fortunately, some ...

**11**

votes

**2**answers

478 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 ...

**13**

votes

**1**answer

579 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 ...

**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 ...

**48**

votes

**26**answers

8k views

### What are some famous rejections of correct mathematics?

Dick Lipton has a blog post that motivated this question. He recalled the Stark-Heegner
Theorem: There are only a finite
number of imaginary quadratic fields
that have unique factorization. ...

**10**

votes

**3**answers

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 ...

**35**

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 ...

**18**

votes

**19**answers

5k 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 ...

**33**

votes

**17**answers

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 ...

**9**

votes

**3**answers

1k views

### What are hypergroups and hyperrings good for?

I came across the concept of a hyperring in two recent papers by Connes and Consani (From monoids to hyperstructures: in search of an absolute arithmetic and The hyperring of adèle classes). It's a ...

**7**

votes

**0**answers

568 views

### Original references for the homotopy groups pi_5 of SU(3) and pi_4 of SU(2)?

For revision of a paper (http://arxiv.org/abs/1008.1189), I'd like to
correct my references to the original work on aspects of the homotopy
groups pi_5 of SU(3) and pi_4 of SU(2). I'm not a ...

**5**

votes

**1**answer

226 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 ...

**3**

votes

**1**answer

362 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 ...

**16**

votes

**4**answers

679 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 ...

**6**

votes

**1**answer

617 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 ...

**28**

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 ...

**53**

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 ...

**58**

votes

**10**answers

8k views

### What is the oldest open problem in mathematics?

What is the oldest open problem in mathematics? By old, I am referring to the date the problem was stated.
Browsing Wikipedia list of open problems, it seems that the Goldbach conjecture (1742, every ...

**8**

votes

**1**answer

521 views

### Who was Hermann Künneth?

Question as in the title:
Who was Hermann Künneth? Where can I find some biographical information beyond what is available on Wikipedia?
The well-known Künneth formula, for example in the form of ...

**35**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### The origin of sets?

The history of set theory from Cantor to modern times is well documented. However, the origin of the idea of sets is not so clear. A few years ago, I taught a set theory course and I did some digging ...

**7**

votes

**0**answers

105 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 ...

**4**

votes

**1**answer

347 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

**1**answer

758 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 ...

**53**

votes

**29**answers

7k views

### (Preferably rare) Audio/Video recordings of famous mathematicians?

Terence Tao's homepage has a link to a collection of quotes, and one among them was Hilbert's famous "We must know, we will know" quote. This quote also had an audio link to it. Now although I'm not ...

**18**

votes

**1**answer

703 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 ...

**24**

votes

**2**answers

709 views

### Klein's Protocols: A window into our mathematical past

Klein's Protocols in over 8,000 pages recording seminars organized from 1872 to 1913 by Felix Klein and given by Klein, his colleagues, students and other invited speakers, including luminaries such ...

**52**

votes

**29**answers

5k views

### The half-life of a theorem, or Arnold's principle at work

Suppose you prove a theorem, and then sleep well at night knowing that future generations will remember your name in conjunction with the great advance in human wisdom. In fact, sadly, it seems that ...

**7**

votes

**1**answer

239 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 ...