Hi everyone, I know that you maybe a little disappointed by this choice, right? Some will say it is not really an invention to be excited to read its story. Alright, for the letter “M” I had lots of great inventions to talk about such as Magnets, Microchip, Microprocessor, Microscope, Mobile phones, Microwave, Missiles, Mirrors, Money, Morse Codes, … etc. But, I as I thought about it I found out that there are “M” discoveries that too important to look away. When I thought of that I found three major discoveries in our history with such magnitude: Mathematics, Music and Medicine. So, I went for the greatest discovery of all times, the most important science in the universe, the best miracle of God and the mother of every science that ever or will be existed.
Of course one blogpost will never be enough to tell the story of Mathematics, so I will try to be brief as much as possible and to include the major incidents in Mathematical history. At the end, I will give you links to more resources about the timeline of mathematics through ages.
Previously, we mentioned some inventions with roots dating back to ancient civilizations like Computers, Batteries, … etc. So, it is more than logical to be sure that if these inventions have some roots back in that far away time, then Mathematics must be dating back further.
Mathematics definition in most dictionaries is “The Science of Numbers”. So, to trace Mathematics timeline we should know when were numbers first introduced to our worlds. And when we talk about numbers then we are talking about counting systems, right?
Two possibilities for the origin of counting have been posited. One is that counting spontaneously arose throughout the world more or less independently from place to place, tribe to tribe. The other is that counting was invented just once and it spread throughout the world from that source. The latter view, maintained by Abraham Seidenberg, is based upon a remarkable number of similarities of number systems throughout the world. For example, that odd numbers are male and even numbers are female seems to be virtually universal. (Of course this distinction has been lost in modern times.)
The idea of the “number” concept evolving gradually over time is supported by the existence of languages which preserve the distinction between “one”, “two”, and “many”, but not of numbers larger than two.
The roots of counting were not as simple as you may think, for some the concept of two times two equals fours is advanced beyond comprehension, while for others counting past three is very complex.
It is mostly agreed that (to this day) the counting system discovery is dating back 50,000 years. The humanoids living in Europe and the Middle East before human, going back as far as 130,000 years, were the “NEANDERTHALS”. They were definitely not modern human, but brains larger than “Homosapiens” or modern human. They were intelligent enough to build shelters, use fire, and make sophisticated tools and bury their dead with flower. They probably participated in religious rituals. In April 1996 Osear Todkoph of Hindenburg University discovered a 50,000 year old Mastodon tusk which had sixteen aligned holes in the surfaces. He believes it was a musical instrument which proves that Neanderthals participated in music – a very human characteristic. Could they count? We don’t how, so we must wait to see if some lucky archaeologist discovers direct evidence.
But the oldest direct evidence of a counting system is the Lebombo Bone. In the 1970’s during the
excavations of Border Cave, a small piece of the fibula of a baboon, the Lebombo bone, was found marked with 29 clearly defined notches, and, at 37,000 years old, it ranks with the oldest mathematical objects known. The bone is dated approximately 35,000 BC and resembles the calendar sticks still in use by Bushmen clans in Namibia.
Before we leave the counting system, we want to discuss one of the biggest discoveries in Math in particular and Science in general. It may be one of the greatest discoveries of all times. It is the ZERO.
It is confirmed that the zero (as we know it today) was invented by the Persian mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, in his “Keys of the Sciences” suggested that a little circle should be used in calculations if no number appeared in the tens place. The Arabs called this circle “sifr,” or “empty.” Zero was crucial to al-Khowarizmi, who used it to invent algebra (Algebra comes from the Arabic word al-jabr an ancient medical term meaning “the reunion of broken parts.”) in the ninth century. Al-Khowarizmi also developed quick methods for multiplying and dividing numbers, which are known as algorithms — a corruption of his name.
The word zero came via French zéro from Venetian zero, which (together with cypher) came via Italian zefiro from Arabic صفر, ṣafira = “it was empty”, ṣifr = “zero”, “nothing”. The first known English use was in 1598.
But in ancient and prehistoric civilizations, they also used to represent the value of “nothing” but in different
ways. By 1740 BCE the Egyptians had a symbol for zero in accounting texts. The symbol nfr, meaning beautiful, was also used to indicate the base level in drawings of tombs and pyramids and distances were measured relative to the base line as being above or below this line. Other civilizations had their ways of representing “nothing” as well.
Every culture on earth has developed some mathematics. In some cases, this mathematics has spread from one culture to another. Now there is one predominant international mathematics, and this mathematics has quite a history. It has roots in ancient Egypt and Babylonia, then grew rapidly in ancient Greece. Mathematics written in ancient Greek was translated into Arabic. About the same time some mathematics of India was translated into Arabic. Later some of this mathematics was translated into Latin and became the mathematics of Western Europe. Over a period of several hundred years, it became the mathematics of the world.
There are other places in the world that developed significant mathematics, such as China, southern India, and Japan, and they are interesting to study, but the mathematics of the other regions have not had much influence on current international mathematics. There is, of course, much mathematics being done these and other regions, but it is not the traditional math of the regions, but international mathematics.
But we can agree that the best and most major contributions to Math was done by the Greek Civilization.
According to Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, mathematics as an organized science did not exist before the classical Greeks of the period from 600 to 300 BC entered upon the scene.
Arguably the most famous theorem in all of mathematics, the Pythagorean Theorem has an interesting history. Known to the Chinese and the Babylonians more than a millennium before Pythagoras lived, it is a “natural” result that has captivated mankind for 3000 years. More than 300 proofs are known today.
(The diagram is that used by Euclid in his proof given 2300 years ago.)
As we said, Mathematics evolved through history and different civilizations. The most notable ones are: Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Medieval European mathematics, Renaissance mathematics.
We listed the most key civilizations in the evolution of mathematics, but WHO are the key persons who helped revolutionize the science?
Of course I will not be able to list all notable names (I may forget some) but I will try to do my best. Fortunately, this website lists the greatest mathematicians of all times.The list includes Newton, Archimedes, Euler, Poincaré, Lagrange, David Hilbert, Euclid, Leibniz, Neumann, Pythagoras, Alan Turing, Fibonacci, al-Khwarizmi, … etc. Other sites mentions a living mathematician genius Andrew Wiles for his proof of Fermat’s last theorem.
We can also mention some key turning points in Mathematics such as:
The innovative Italians of the Renaissance (fourteenth through sixteenth century) are widely acknowledged to be the fathers of modern accounting.
Which was invented by al-Khwarizmi as we mentioned earlier.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (b. 1646, d. 1716) was a German philosopher, mathematician, and logician who is probably most well known for having invented the differential and integral calculus (independently of Sir Isaac Newton).
A graph is a pictorial representation of statistical data or of a functional relationship between variables. William Playfair (1759-1823) is generally viewed as the inventor of most of graphical forms used to display data, including: line plots, bar chart, and pie chart.
Logarithms and the Decimal Point
John Napier was the Scottish mathematician who invented logarithms and the decimal point.
That was only a brief (as brief as I could do) of the very long timeline of Mathematics. It should be mentioned that every period there are a set of mathematical problems that are defined as major goals for mathematicians around the world to solve. The mathematical challenges for the 21st century are already announced with a prize of 1,000,000$ for each problem. This trend is based on the effort of David Hilbert, a leading mathematician of the turn of the century. In 1900 he addressed the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris, and described 23 important mathematical problems.