Brief History of Mathematics – Part 1
A mathematician takes pride in the fact that his science, more than any other, is an exact science, and that hardly anything ever done in mathematics has proved to be useless. Mathematics is important for understanding sciences in Everyday Life. Mathematics is a progressive science, although it has had periods of slow growth. Mathematics according to Mathematician and Philosopher Bertrand Russel (1872-1970),
“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”
It would be better to know the History of the subject. The earliest known mathematics in Ancient India dates from 3000 – 2800 BC – Indus Valley Civilization, they used the decimal system, ratios, angles pi and decimal ratios in a uniform system of ancient weights and measures. The Indus Script has not yet been deciphered completely.
When did mathematics begin? Naive questions like this have their place in history.
We can classify chronology of development of Mathematics into several parts. In this article, we’ll go back to 30000 BC to 500 BC, as per the McTutor’s History of Mathematics. Next article will be on 500 BC to 1 AD and so on.
- About 30000BC: Palaeolithic peoples in central Europe and France record numbers on bones.
- About 25000BC: Early geometric designs used.
- About 5000BC: A decimal number system is in use in Egypt.
- About 4000BC: Babylonian and Egyptian calendars in use.
- About 3400BC: The first symbols for numbers, simple straight lines, are used in Egypt.
- About 3000BC: The abacus is developed in the Middle East and in areas around the Mediterranean.
- About 3000BC: Hieroglyphic numerals in use in Egypt.
- About 3000BC: Babylonians begin to use a sexagesimal number system for recording financial transactions. It is a place-value system without a zero-place value.
- About 2770BC: Egyptian calendar used.
- About 2000BC: Harappans adopt a uniform decimal system of weights and measures.
- About 1950BC: Babylonians solve quadratic equation.
- About 1900BC: The Moscow papyrus (also called the Golenishev papyrus) is written. It gives details of Egyptian geometry.
- About 1850BC: Babylonians know Pythagoras’s Theorem.
- About 1800BC: Babylonians use multiplication tables.
- About 1750BC: The Babylonians solve linear and quadratic algebraic equations, compile tables of square and cube roots. They use Pythagoras’s theorem and use mathematics to extend knowledge of astronomy.
- About 1700BC: The Rhind papyrus (sometimes called the Ahmes papyrus) is written. It shows that Egyptian mathematics has developed many techniques to solve problems. Multiplication is based on repeated doubling, and division uses successive halving.
- About 1400BC: About this date a decimal number system with no zero starts to be used in China.
- About 800BC: Baudhayana is the author of one of the earliest of the Indian Sulbasutras.
- About 750BC: Manava writes a Sulbasutra.
- About 600BC: Apastamba writes the most interesting Indian Sulbasutra from a mathematical point of view.
- 575BC: Thales brings Babylonian mathematical knowledge to Greece. He uses geometry to solve problems such as calculating the height of pyramids and the distance of ships from the shore.
- 530BC: Pythagoras of Samos moves to Croton in Italy and teaches mathematics, geometry, music, and reincarnation.
- About 500BC: The Babylonian sexagesimal number system is used to record and predict the positions of the Sun, Moon and planets.
- About 500BC: Panini’s work on Sanskrit grammar is the forerunner of the modern formal language theory.