## A Historical Perspective of Mathematical Discovery

Astrolabe: ancient device used to calculate the position of celestial objects

All of the knowledge in mathematics didn't just pop up in textbooks overnight. It had to come from somewhere! And behind every discovery is a mathematician, philosopher, inventor, or civilization that re-imagined possibilities in our world by using innovative thinking.

Some of the results of this hard work has ended up in our modern textbooks. However, there is a continuing story of fascinating discovery often missing in textbooks that portrays the struggles and adventures behind those who helped shape today's knowledge.

This website highlights some of those stories and frames them in a historical context for you to see how incredible thinkers in our past helped change our world. It will also depict how those discoveries are used in very practical ways today.

It is important to realize while learning about mathematical discoveries that they mostly took place in living conditions much different from ours, and many revolutionary ideas developed in response to the needs of the times. In other situations, mathematical processes were developed that seemed to have no practical function whatsoever, only later to be found to have considerable applications after other discoveries or inventions were made that enabled people to make use of the math.

Some of the results of this hard work has ended up in our modern textbooks. However, there is a continuing story of fascinating discovery often missing in textbooks that portrays the struggles and adventures behind those who helped shape today's knowledge.

This website highlights some of those stories and frames them in a historical context for you to see how incredible thinkers in our past helped change our world. It will also depict how those discoveries are used in very practical ways today.

It is important to realize while learning about mathematical discoveries that they mostly took place in living conditions much different from ours, and many revolutionary ideas developed in response to the needs of the times. In other situations, mathematical processes were developed that seemed to have no practical function whatsoever, only later to be found to have considerable applications after other discoveries or inventions were made that enabled people to make use of the math.

Another point that should be noted is that mathematicians have always to some degree been dependent on and limited by the physical tools available to them. Therefore, as greater technology developed to represent numerical notations and display numerical properties in more advanced fashions, the type of mathematics that could be conceived of and performed increased.
For example, the stunning and infinitely detailed Mandelbrot Set, pictured to the right, could never have been realized for the beautiful imagery and complexity it contains without the development of computers to display it. |

This website recounts mathematical discoveries and uses of mathematics mostly in chronological order, and occassionally prioritizes the grouping of information by topic. References for the information found on each page are also listed at the bottom of the page if you need to look up a particular topic in more detail.

**Author: Jonathan Sack (2012)**