A Brief History of Numbers by Leo Corry

By Leo Corry

The area round us is saturated with numbers. they're a basic pillar of our sleek society, and accredited and used with not often a moment inspiration. yet how did this situation emerge as? during this publication, Leo Corry tells the tale at the back of the assumption of quantity from the early days of the Pythagoreans, up till the flip of the 20th century. He offers an summary of the way numbers have been dealt with and conceived in classical Greek arithmetic, within the arithmetic of Islam, in ecu arithmetic of the center a while and the Renaissance, throughout the clinical revolution, throughout to the maths of the 18th to the early twentieth century. concentrating on either foundational debates and sensible use numbers, and exhibiting how the tale of numbers is in detail associated with that of the belief of equation, this ebook presents a worthwhile perception to numbers for undergraduate scholars, lecturers, engineers, expert mathematicians, and a person with an curiosity within the background of arithmetic.

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They are estimated to have been written around 1500 BCE: 276: 33 2 2 2 2 2 2 ||| ||| 2 4622: 4444 3 3 3 3 3 3 || 2 2 It is important to keep in mind that the Egyptian culture we are discussing here spanned a period of more than 2000 years, and hence it is obvious that the hieroglyphic signs underwent many transformations. The signs displayed here are just meant to be representative. Still, the basic ideas of the system remained constant. Hieroglyphs were relatively easy to carve on stone, and hence they are commonly found on the walls of temples and graves, or on decorative utensils like vases.

Also Archimedes of Syracuse (ca. 287–ca. 212 BCE) devoted some thought to developing ways for writing large numbers, and his contributions to this issue are know to us via a rather curious treatise, Sand Reckoner. Rather than focusing on tens of thousands 104 as a possible starting point, Archimedes adopted its square 108 , and on this base he introduced a special quasi-positional approach. He put the strength of this method to the test by way of a thought experiment of sorts in which he counted the amount of grains of sand needed to fill up the universe (meaning by this the “universe” as it was then conceived, of course).

90, and then additional symbols for the values 100, 200, . . , 900. Any number up to 9999 could be written as a concatenation of the relevant symbols. The number 5234, to take one concrete example, is written as , which is a combination of the signs = 4, = 30, = 200 and = 5000. As the system is non-positional, the particular order in which the symbols are written is irrelevant. Moreover, in such a non-positional system, there is no direct need for the idea of zero (or of a symbol for it). 1 It is indeed easier to write hieratic symbols than hieroglyphs on a papyrus, but this does not mean that it is easier to perform arithmetic with them.

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