1902 Encyclopedia > Algebra > History of Algebra: Introduction

(Part 2)


(i) Introduction

At what period and in what country algebra was invented? Is a question that has been much discussed. Who were the earliest writers on the subject? What was the progress of its improvement? And lastly, by what means and at what period was the science diffused over Europe? It was a common opinion in the 17th century that the ancient Greek mathematicians must have possessed an analysis of the nature of modern algebra, by which they discovered the theorems and solutions of the problems which we so much admire in their writings; but that they carefully concealed their instruments of investigation, and gave only the results, with synthetic demonstrations.

This opinion is, however, now exploded. A more intimate acquaintance with the writings of the ancient geometers has shown that they had an analysis, but that it was purely geometrical, and essentially different from our algebra.

Although there is no reason to suppose that the great geometers of antiquity any aid in their discoveries from the algebraic analysis, yet we find that at a considerably later period it was known to a certain extent among the Greeks.

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Algebra - Table of Contents

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