Patterns in Numbers
The history of mathematics is a history of people fascinated by numbers. A driving force in mathematical development has always been the need to solve practical problems. However, man's innate curiosity and love of pattern has probably had an equal part in its development. Most written records of early mathematics that have survived to modern times were actually lists of mathematical problems i.e. recreational mathematics. Examples: the Rhind Papyrus, (circa 1700 BC), a series of 87 problems, was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs; Diophantus' Arithmetica (circa 250 BC), a collection of 130 mathematical problems with numerical solutions of determinate equations. (Fermat's Last Theorem was found written in the margin of a copy of this book.)
The Pythagoreans (circa 6th century BC) were a secret society who
considered numbers sacred and tried to find relations between numbers and nature. For
example, they developed the musical scales as number ratios.
A recent example of mathematics being advanced with no apparent practical purpose was the proving of Fermat's Last Theorem. This 350 year old theorem is simple to state but has occupied countless mathematicians untold hours of work. It was finally proved by Professor Andrew Wiles in 1994, after nearly 8 years of work. There are no integers that will make this equation true if n is greater then 2. (If n = 2, we have the Pythagorean triples).
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This page was last updated Monday November 02, 2009
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