The area of study known as the history of mathematics is primarily an investigation into the origin of discoveries in mathematics and, to a lesser extent, an investigation into the mathematical methods and notation of the past.
Before the modern age and the worldwide spread of knowledge, written examples of new mathematical developments have come to light only in a few locales. The most ancient mathematical texts available are Plimpton 322 (Babylonian mathematics c. 1900 BC), the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (Egyptian mathematics c. 2000-1800 BC) and the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus (Egyptian mathematics c. 1890 BC). All of these texts concern the so-called Pythagorean theorem, which seems to be the most ancient and widespread mathematical development after basic arithmetic and geometry.
The study of mathematics as a subject in its own right begins in the 6th century BC with the Pythagoreans, who coined the term "mathematics" from the ancient Greek μάθημα (mathema), meaning "subject of instruction". Greek mathematics greatly refined the methods (especially through the introduction of deductive reasoning and mathematical rigor in proofs) and expanded the subject matter of mathematics. Chinese mathematics made early contributions, including a place value system. The Hindu-Arabic numeral system and the rules for the use of its operations, in use throughout the world today, likely evolved over the course of the first millennium AD in India and was transmitted to the west via Islamic mathematics. Islamic mathematics, in turn, developed and expanded the mathematics known to these civilizations. Many Greek and Arabic texts on mathematics were then translated into Latin, which led to further development of mathematics in medieval Europe.
From ancient times through the Middle Ages, bursts of mathematical creativity were often followed by centuries of stagnation. Beginning in Renaissance Italy in the 16th century, new mathematical developments, interacting with new scientific discoveries, were made at an increasing pace that continues through the present day.
Read more about History Of Mathematics: Prehistoric Mathematics, Babylonian Mathematics, Egyptian Mathematics, Greek Mathematics, Chinese Mathematics, Indian Mathematics, Islamic Mathematics, Medieval European Mathematics, Renaissance Mathematics, Future of Mathematics
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“We know only a single science, the science of history. One can look at history from two sides and divide it into the history of nature and the history of men. However, the two sides are not to be divided off; as long as men exist the history of nature and the history of men are mutually conditioned.”
—Karl Marx (18181883)
“The three main medieval points of view regarding universals are designated by historians as realism, conceptualism, and nominalism. Essentially these same three doctrines reappear in twentieth-century surveys of the philosophy of mathematics under the new names logicism, intuitionism, and formalism.”
—Willard Van Orman Quine (b. 1908)
“It would be naive to think that peace and justice can be achieved easily. No set of rules or study of history will automatically resolve the problems.... However, with faith and perseverance,... complex problems in the past have been resolved in our search for justice and peace. They can be resolved in the future, provided, of course, that we can think of five new ways to measure the height of a tall building by using a barometer.”
—Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.)