How Did Math Start? – The Ancient Origins of Mathematics

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Origin of Mathematics

Origin of Mathematics

Mathematics is believed to have existed since the ancient times. Although people used certain mathematical methods to solve their everyday problems, there were neither proofs nor any logical explanations for their methods at that time.

The story of mathematics begin with the seemly simple everyday practical activities of the early man.

Early Civilizations

The Early Man required Numbers for counting the fruits they have collected from trees, the everyday fish catch and for counting the cattle they had. That was the beginning of Arithmetic.

Early Man catching fish

The Early men begin agriculture and measured the area of land under cultivation. That’s Geometry.

Early Man Agriculture

The Grain harvested from the cultivation was measured in volumes of grain. That was the origin of Mensuration.

Grains Harvesting from Land

Egyptian Civilization

Egyptians divided the day into 24 hours, made calendars and used them to predict the seasons.

Measurements for the Construction of Great Pyramids; Building huge ships and their navigation in oceans were done using Trigonometry.

The Construction of Great Pyramids

The Egyptians depended on the seasonal flooding of the river Nile in Egypt to bring fertility to their land under cultivation. And every year it was necessary to check the correct portion of land under cultivation for setting correct tax.

seasonal flooding of the river Nile

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus is one of the earliest evidence of mathematics used in ancient Egypt. It is a form of a book written on a thick paper made of pith of the papyrus plant, which was once abundant across the delta of Nile.

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus describes solutions to many mathematical problems. It contained a collection of arithmetic and algebraic problems, geometry problems, mensuration problems and many other solutions to the complex problems.

The value for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter of the circle was also described in the Papyrus.

Babylonian civilization

Babylonians had their own system of numbers based on the unit of 60 which allowed calculations of very large numbers.

The use of this system can be still found in 60 Seconds making a minute and 360 degrees to the circle.

Babylonians system of numbers using 60 as base

The Calculations of Babylonians were very advanced when compared to Egyptian civilization but they still had no proofs or any logical explanation for their problems.

The Beginning of Mathematics

The People in the Greek island of Samos were waiting for a man who had been wandering abroad for 34 years with priests and Magi (followers of Zoroastrianism).

The man named Pythagoras transformed the numbers from being a useful tool into the central principle of life and called his new philosophy as μαθηματικά or Mathematics.

Pythagoras can be considered as a combination of Einstein and a Maharshi. He believed that the whole heaven is number and Harmony.

connection between number and music

He also discovered the connection between number and music by showing that the pitch of the note depends on the length of the string that produces it.

He is best known for the Pythagoras theorem which states that the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides of a triangle.

square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides of a triangle.

Terrifying Problem

Antiphon the Sophist tried determining the area of a circle by filling it with triangles. Then he would add up the areas of triangles to get the area of a circle but the only problem was the space left over could fit in an infinite number of triangles.

Many Greek mathematicians failed to explain this Paradox until the man who is best remembered for running naked in the streets shouting Eureka solved the problem by his method of compression.

Instead of using infinitely small triangles, he first inserted a polygon inside a circle and then input compression which placed polygons outside the circle.

compression placed polygons outside the circle.

Now by counting the number of sides of the polygon, he could easily find the area of the circle.

This great mathematician Archimedes was the intimate of King Hieron of Syracuse.

He is famous for inventions such as Lever and pulley. He also built large parabolic mirrors to focus the sun rays on the enemy fleet and set them on fire.

I could move the Earth if given the right place to stand.

 

Archimedes often used to forget his food and neglect everything when he used to trace geometric figures on almost everything he could find.

It was Believe that this great mathematician was killed by the Romans when he was deeply emerged in his drawings of circles, unaware that the city had been raided by Romans.

Archimedes of Syracuse killed by a Roman soldier despite orders that he was not to be harmed.

As the soldier came in to deliver his fatal blow, Archimedes asked: “Wait until I have finished my problem.”

Birth of New Mathematics

“Nature and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night” God said, Let Newton be ! and All was Light.” – Pope wrote, in a famous couplet intended as Newton’s epitaph

Issac Newton

Issac Newton was the discoverer of the infinitesimal calculus which is very useful in various fields such as physics, engineering, economics, statistics, and medicine.

To be Continued…

Awards in Mathematics

1. The Fields Medal is a prize awarded to mathematicians under 40 years of age at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) that takes place every four years.

Fields Medal is often described as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics

2. The Wolf Prize in Mathematics, instituted in 1978, recognizes lifetime achievement.

3. The Abel Prize, instituted in 2003 is a major international award.

4. The Chern Medalwas introduced in 2010 to recognize lifetime achievement.

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