Decimal fractions

In discussing the origins of decimal fractions, Dirk Jan Struik states that (p. 7):

"The introduction of decimal fractions as a common computational practice can be dated back to the Flemish pamphelet De Thiende, published at Leyden in 1585, together with a French translation, La Disme, by the Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin (1548-1620), then settled in the Northern Netherlands. It is true that decimal fractions were used by the Chinese many centuries before Stevin and that the Persian astronomer Al-Kāshī used both decimal and sexagesimal fractions with great ease in his Key to arithmetic (Samarkand, early fifteenth century)."

While the Persian mathematician Jamshīd al-Kāshī claimed to have discovered decimal fractions himself in the 15th century, J. Lennart Berggrenn notes that he was mistaken, as decimal fractions were first used five centuries before him by the Baghdadi mathematician Abu'l-Hasan al-Uqlidisi as early as the 10th century.

Real numbers

The Middle Ages saw the acceptance of zero, negative, integral and fractional numbers, first by Indian mathematicians and Chinese mathematicians, and then by Arabic mathematicians, who were also the first to treat irrational numbers as algebraic objects, which was made possible by the development of algebra. Arabic mathematicians merged the concepts of "number" and "magnitude" into a more general idea of real numbers, and they criticized Euclid's idea of ratios, developed the theory of composite ratios, and extended the concept of number to ratios of continuous magnitude. In his commentary on Book 10 of the Elements, the Persian mathematician Al-Mahani (d. 874/884) examined and classified quadratic irrationals and cubic irrationals. He provided definitions for rational and irrational magnitudes, which he treated as irrational numbers. He dealt with them freely but explains them in geometric terms as follows:

"It will be a rational (magnitude) when we, for instance, say 10, 12, 3%, 6%, etc., because its value is pronounced and expressed quantitatively. What is not rational is irrational and it is impossible to pronounce and represent its value quantitatively. For example: the roots of numbers such as 10, 15, 20 which are not squares, the sides of numbers which are not cubes etc."

In contrast to Euclid's concept of magnitudes as lines, Al-Mahani considered integers and fractions as rational magnitudes, and square roots and cube roots as irrational magnitudes. He also introduced an arithmetical approach to the concept of irrationality, as he attributes the following to irrational magnitudes:

"their sums or differences, or results of their addition to a rational magnitude, or results of subtracting a magnitude of this kind from an irrational one, or of a rational magnitude from it."

The Egyptian mathematician Abū Kāmil Shujā ibn Aslam (c. 850–930) was the first to accept irrational numbers as solutions to quadratic equations or as coefficients in an equation, often in the form of square roots, cube roots and fourth roots. In the 10th century, the Iraqi mathematician Al-Hashimi provided general proofs for numbers (rather than geometric demonstrations) as he considered multiplication, division, etc. for ”lines.” Using this method, he provided the first proof for irrational numbers. Abū Ja'far al-Khāzin (900-971) provides a definition of rational and irrational magnitudes, stating that if a definite quantity is:

"contained in a certain given magnitude once or many times, then this (given) magnitude corresponds to a rational number. . . . Each time when this (latter) magnitude comprises a half, or a third, or a quarter of the given magnitude (of the unit), or, compared with (the unit), comprises three, five, or three fifths, it is a rational magnitude. And, in general, each magnitude that corresponds to this magnitude (i.e. to the unit), as one number to another, is rational. If, however, a magnitude cannot be represented as a multiple, a part (l/n), or parts (m/n) of a given magnitude, it is irrational, i.e. it cannot be expressed other than by means of roots."

Many of these concepts were eventually accepted by European mathematicians some time after the Latin translations of the 12th century. Al-Hassār, an Arabic mathematician from the Maghreb (North Africa) specializing in Islamic inheritance jurisprudence during the 12th century, developed the modern symbolic mathematical notation for fractions, where the numerator and denominator are separated by a horizontal bar. This same fractional notation appears soon after in the work of Fibonacci in the 13th century.

Number theory

In number theory, Ibn al-Haytham solved problems involving congruences using what is now called Wilson's theorem. In his Opuscula, Ibn al-Haytham considers the solution of a system of congruences, and gives two general methods of solution. His first method, the canonical method, involved Wilson's theorem, while his second method involved a version of the Chinese remainder theorem. Another contribution to number theory is his work on perfect numbers. In his Analysis and synthesis, Ibn al-Haytham was the first to discover that every even perfect number is of the form 2n−1(2n − 1) where 2n − 1 is prime, but he was not able to prove this result successfully (Euler later proved it in the 18th century).

In the early 14th century, Kamāl al-Dīn al-Fārisī made a number of important contributions to number theory. His most impressive work in number theory is on amicable numbers. In Tadhkira al-ahbab fi bayan al-tahabb ("Memorandum for friends on the proof of amicability") introduced a major new approach to a whole area of number theory, introducing ideas concerning factorization and combinatorial methods. In fact, al-Farisi's approach is based on the unique factorization of an integer into powers of prime numbers.


The successors of Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (born 780) undertook a systematic application of arithmetic to algebra, algebra to arithmetic, both to trigonometry, algebra to the Euclidean theory of numbers, algebra to geometry, and geometry to algebra. This was how the creation of polynomial algebra, combinatorial analysis, numerical analysis, the numerical solution of equations, the new elementary theory of numbers, and the geometric construction of equations arose.

Al-Mahani (born 820) conceived the idea of reducing geometrical problems such as duplicating the cube to problems in algebra. Al-Karaji (born 953) completely freed algebra from geometrical operations and replaced them with the arithmetical type of operations which are at the core of algebra today.

Early Islamic geometry

Thabit ibn Qurra (known as Thebit in Latin) (born 836) contributed to a number of areas in mathematics, where he played an important role in preparing the way for such important mathematical discoveries as the extension of the concept of number to (positive) real numbers, integral calculus, theorems in spherical trigonometry, analytic geometry, and non-Euclidean geometry. An important geometrical aspect of Thabit's work was his book on the composition of ratios. In this book, Thabit deals with arithmetical operations applied to ratios of geometrical quantities. The Greeks had dealt with geometric quantities but had not thought of them in the same way as numbers to which the usual rules of arithmetic could be applied. By introducing arithmetical operations on quantities previously regarded as geometric and non-numerical, Thabit started a trend which led eventually to the generalization of the number concept. Another important contribution Thabit made to geometry was his generalization of the Pythagorean theorem, which he extended from special right triangles to all right triangles in general, along with a general proof.

In some respects, Thabit is critical of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, particularly regarding motion. It would seem that here his ideas are based on an acceptance of using arguments concerning motion in his geometrical arguments.

Ibrahim ibn Sinan ibn Thabit (born 908), who introduced a method of integration more general than that of Archimedes, and al-Quhi (born 940) were leading figures in a revival and continuation of Greek higher geometry in the Islamic world. These mathematicians, and in particular Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), studied optics and investigated the optical properties of mirrors made from conic sections.

Astronomy, time-keeping and geography provided other motivations for geometrical and trigonometrical research. For example Ibrahim ibn Sinan and his grandfather Thabit ibn Qurra both studied curves required in the construction of sundials. Abu'l-Wafa and Abu Nasr Mansur pioneered spherical geometry in order to solve difficult problems in Islamic astronomy. For example, to predict the first visibility of the moon, it was necessary to describe its motion with respect to the horizon, and this problem demands fairly sophisticated spherical geometry. Finding the direction of Mecca (Qibla) and the time for Salah prayers and Ramadan are what led to Muslims developing spherical geometry.

Algebraic and Analytic Geometry

In the early 11th century, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) was able to solve by purely algebraic means certain cubic equations, and then to interpret the results geometrically. Subsequently, Omar Khayyám discovered the general method of solving cubic equations by intersecting a parabola with a circle.

Omar Khayyám (1048–1122) was a Persian mathematician, as well as a poet. Along with his fame as a poet, he was also famous during his lifetime as a mathematician, well known for inventing the general method of solving cubic equations by intersecting a parabola with a circle. In addition he discovered the binomial expansion, and authored criticisms of Euclid's theories of parallels which made their way to England, where they contributed to the eventual development of non-Euclidean geometry. Omar Khayyam also combined the use of trigonometry and approximation theory to provide methods of solving algebraic equations by geometrical means. His work marked the beginnings of algebraic geometry and analytic geometry.

In a paper written by Khayyam before his famous algebra text Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, he considers the problem: Find a point on a quadrant of a circle in such manner that when a normal is dropped from the point to one of the bounding radii, the ratio of the normal's length to that of the radius equals the ratio of the segments determined by the foot of the normal. Khayyam shows that this problem is equivalent to solving a second problem: Find a right triangle having the property that the hypotenuse equals the sum of one leg plus the altitude on the hypotenuse. This problem in turn led Khayyam to solve the cubic equation x3 + 200x = 20x2 + 2000 and he found a positive root of this cubic by considering the intersection of a rectangular hyperbola and a circle. An approximate numerical solution was then found by interpolation in trigonometric tables. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that Khayyam states that the solution of this cubic requires the use of conic sections and that it cannot be solved by compass and straightedge, a result which would not be proved for another 750 years.

His Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra contained a complete classification of cubic equations with geometric solutions found by means of intersecting conic sections. In fact Khayyam gives an interesting historical account in which he claims that the Greeks had left nothing on the theory of cubic equations. Indeed, as Khayyam writes, the contributions by earlier writers such as al-Mahani and al-Khazin were to translate geometric problems into algebraic equations (something which was essentially impossible before the work of Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Ḵwārizmī). However, Khayyam himself seems to have been the first to conceive a general theory of cubic equations.

Omar Khayyám saw a strong relationship between geometry and algebra, and was moving in the right direction when he helped to close the gap between numerical and geometric algebra[42] with his geometric solution of the general cubic equations but the decisive step in analytic geometry came later with René Descartes.

Persian mathematician Sharafeddin Tusi (born 1135) did not follow the general development that came through al-Karaji's school of algebra but rather followed Khayyam's application of algebra to geometry. He wrote a treatise on cubic equations, entitled Treatise on Equations, which represents an essential contribution to another algebra which aimed to study curves by means of equations, thus inaugurating the study of algebraic geometry.

Non-Euclidean geometry

In the early 11th century, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) made the first attempt at proving the Euclidean parallel postulate, the fifth postulate in Euclid's Elements, using a proof by contradiction, where he introduced the concept of motion and transformation into geometry. He formulated the Lambert quadrilateral, which Boris Abramovich Rozenfeld names the "Ibn al-Haytham–Lambert quadrilateral", and his attempted proof also shows similarities to Playfair's axiom.

In the late 11th century, Omar Khayyám made the first attempt at formulating a non-Euclidean postulate as an alternative to the Euclidean parallel postulate, and he was the first to consider the cases of elliptical geometry and hyperbolic geometry, though he excluded the latter.

In Commentaries on the difficult postulates of Euclid's book Khayyam made a contribution to non-Euclidean geometry, although this was not his intention. In trying to prove the parallel postulate he accidentally proved properties of figures in non-Euclidean geometries. Khayyam also gave important results on ratios in this book, extending Euclid's work to include the multiplication of ratios. The importance of Khayyam's contribution is that he examined both Euclid's definition of equality of ratios (which was that first proposed by Eudoxus [disambiguation needed]) and the definition of equality of ratios as proposed by earlier Islamic mathematicians such as al-Mahani which was based on continued fractions. Khayyam proved that the two definitions are equivalent. He also posed the question of whether a ratio can be regarded as a number but leaves the question unanswered.

The Khayyam-Saccheri quadrilateral was first considered by Omar Khayyam in the late 11th century in Book I of Explanations of the Difficulties in the Postulates of Euclid.[65] Unlike many commentators on Euclid before and after him (including of course Saccheri), Khayyam was not trying to prove the parallel postulate as such but to derive it from an equivalent postulate he formulated from "the principles of the Philosopher" (Aristotle):

Two convergent straight lines intersect and it is impossible for two convergent straight lines to diverge in the direction in which they converge.

Khayyam then considered the three cases right, obtuse, and acute that the summit angles of a Saccheri quadrilateral can take and after proving a number of theorems about them, he (correctly) refuted the obtuse and acute cases based on his postulate and hence derived the classic postulate of Euclid. It wasn't until 600 years later that Giordano Vitale made an advance on the understanding of this quadrilateral in his book Euclide restituo (1680, 1686), when he used it to prove that if three points are equidistant on the base AB and the summit CD, then AB and CD are everywhere equidistant. Saccheri himself based the whole of his long, heroic and ultimately flawed proof of the parallel postulate around the quadrilateral and its three cases, proving many theorems about its properties along the way.

In 1250, Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī, in his Al-risala al-shafiya'an al-shakk fi'l-khutut al-mutawaziya (Discussion Which Removes Doubt about Parallel Lines), wrote detailed critiques of the Euclidean parallel postulate and on Omar Khayyám's attempted proof a century earlier. Nasir al-Din attempted to derive a proof by contradiction of the parallel postulate.[70] He was one of the first to consider the cases of elliptical geometry and hyperbolic geometry, though he ruled out both of them.

His son, Sadr al-Din (sometimes known as "Pseudo-Tusi"), wrote a book on the subject in 1298, based on al-Tusi's later thoughts, which presented one of the earliest arguments for a non-Euclidean hypothesis equivalent to the parallel postulate. Sadr al-Din's work was published in Rome in 1594 and was studied by European geometers. This work marked the starting point for Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri's work on the subject, and eventually the development of modern non-Euclidean geometry. A proof from Sadr al-Din's work was quoted by John Wallis and Saccheri in the 17th and 18th centuries. They both derived their proofs of the parallel postulate from Sadr al-Din's work, while Saccheri also derived his Saccheri quadrilateral from Sadr al-Din, who himself based it on his father's work.

The theorems of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), Omar Khayyam and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi on quadrilaterals, including the Lambert quadrilateral and Saccheri quadrilateral, were the first theorems on elliptical geometry and hyperbolic geometry, and along with their alternative postulates, such as Playfair's axiom, these works marked the beginning of non-Euclidean geometry and had a considerable influence on its development among later European geometers, including Witelo, Levi ben Gerson, Alfonso, John Wallis, and Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri.


The early Indian works on trigonometry were translated and expanded in the Muslim world by Arab and Persian mathematicians, who enunciated a large number of theorems which freed the subject of trigonometry from dependence upon the complete quadrilateral, as was the case in Hellenistic mathematics due to the application of Menelaus' theorem. According to E. S. Kennedy, it was after this development in Islamic mathematics that "the first real trigonometry emerged, in the sense that only then did the object of study become the spherical or plane triangle, its sides and angles." Another important development was the subject's separation from astronomy. All works on trigonometry up until the 12th century treated it mainly as an adjunct to astronomy; the first treatment of trigonometry as a subject in its own right was by Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī in the 13th century.

Trigonometric functions

In the early 9th century, Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (c. 780-850) produced tables for the trigonometric functions of sines and cosine,[76] and the first tables for tangents. In 830, Habash al-Hasib al-Marwazi produced the first tables of cotangents as well as tangents. Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī (853-929) discovered the reciprocal functions of secant and cosecant, and produced the first table of cosecants, which he referred to as a "table of shadows" (in reference to the shadow of a gnomon), for each degree from 1° to 90°. By the 10th century, in the work of Abū al-Wafā' al-Būzjānī (959-998), Muslim mathematicians were using all six trigonometric functions, and had sine tables in 0.25° increments, to 8 decimal places of accuracy, as well as accurate tables of tangent values.

Jamshīd al-Kāshī (1393-1449) gives trigonometric tables of values of the sine function to four sexagesimal digits (equivalent to 8 decimal places) for each 1° of argument with differences to be added for each 1/60 of 1°. In one of his numerical approximations of π, he correctly computed 2π to 9 sexagesimal digits. In order to determine sin 1°, al-Kashi discovered the following triple-angle formula often attributed to François Viète in the 16th century:

\sin 3 \phi = 3 \sin \phi - 4 \sin^3 \phi\,.

Al-Kashi, alongside his colleague Ulugh Beg (1394-1449), gave accurate tables of sines and tangents correct to 8 decimal places. Taqi al-Din (1526-1585) contributed to trigonometry in his Sidrat al-Muntaha, in which he was the first mathematician to compute a highly accurate numeric value for sin 1°. He discusses the values given by his predecessors, explaining how Ptolemy (ca. 150) used an approximate method to obtain his value of sin 1° and how Abū al-Wafā, Ibn Yunus (ca. 1000), al-Kashi, Qāḍī Zāda al-Rūmī (1337-1412), Ulugh Beg and Mirim Chelebi improved on the value. Taqi al-Din then solves the problem to obtain the value of sin 1° to a precision of 8 sexagesimals (the equivalent of 14 decimals):

\sin 1^\circ = 1^P 2' 49'' 43''' 11'''' 14''''' 44''''''16''''''' \ (= 1/60 + 2/60^2 + 49/60^3 + \cdots)\,.

Laws and identities

Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī (853-929) formulated a number of important trigonometrical relationships such as:

\tan a = \frac{\sin a}{\cos a}

\sec a = \sqrt{1 + \tan^2 a }

In the 10th century, Abū al-Wafā' al-Būzjānī discovered the law of sines for spherical trigonometry:[78]

\frac{\sin A}{\sin a} = \frac{\sin B}{\sin b} = \frac{\sin C}{\sin c}.

Abū al-Wafā' also developed the following trigonometric formula:

\sin 2x = 2 \sin x \cos x \ 

Abū al-Wafā also established the angle addition identities, e.g. sin (a + b).[78] Also in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, the Egyptian astronomer Ibn Yunus performed many careful trigonometric calculations and demonstrated the following formula:

\cos a \cos b = \frac{\cos(a+b) + \cos(a-b)}{2}

Also in the 11th century, Al-Jayyani's The book of unknown arcs of a sphere introduced the general law of sines. In the 13th century, Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī, in his On the Sector Figure, stated the law of sines for plane and spherical triangles, discovered the law of tangents for spherical triangles, and provided proofs for these laws. Jamshīd al-Kāshī (1393-1449) provided the first explicit statement of the law of cosines in a form suitable for triangulation. As such, the law of cosines is known the théorème d'Al-Kashi in France.

Spherical trigonometry

Hellenistic methods dealing with spherical triangles were known, particularly the method of Menelaus of Alexandria, who developed Menelaus' theorem to deal with spherical problems. However, E. S. Kennedy points out that while it was possible in pre-lslamic mathematics to compute the magnitudes of a spherical figure, in principle, by use of the table of chords and Menelaus' theorem, the application of the theorem to spherical problems was very difficult in practice. In order to observe holy days on the Islamic calendar in which timings were determined by phases of the moon, astronomers initially used Menelaus' method to calculate the place of the moon and stars, though this method proved to be clumsy and difficult. It involved setting up two intersecting right triangles; by applying Menelaus' theorem it was possible to solve one of the six sides, but only if the other five sides were known. To tell the time from the sun's altitude, for instance, repeated applications of Menelaus' theorem were required. For medieval Islamic astronomers, there was an obvious challenge to find a simpler trigonometric method.

In the early 9th century, Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī was an early pioneer in spherical trigonometry and wrote a treatise on the subject. In the 10th century, Abū al-Wafā' al-Būzjānī discovered the law of sines for spherical trigonometry. In the 11th century, Al-Jayyani (989–1079) of Al-Andalus wrote The book of unknown arcs of a sphere, which is considered "the first treatise on spherical trigonometry" in its modern form. It "contains formulae for right-handed triangles, the general law of sines, and the solution of a spherical triangle by means of the polar triangle." This treatise later had a "strong influence on European mathematics", and his "definition of ratios as numbers" and "method of solving a spherical triangle when all sides are unknown" are likely to have influenced Regiomontanus. In the 13th century, Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī developed spherical trigonometry into its present form,and listed the six distinct cases of a right-angled triangle in spherical trigonometry. In his On the Sector Figure, he also stated the law of sines for plane and spherical triangles, and discovered the law of tangents for spherical triangles.

Other advances

The method of triangulation, which was unknown in the Greco-Roman world, was also first developed by Muslim mathematicians, who applied it to practical uses such as surveying and Islamic geography, as described by Abu Rayhan Biruni in the early 11th century. Biruni employed triangulation techniques to measure the size of the Earth and the distances between places (see Mathematical geography and geodesy section).

In the late 11th century, Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) solved cubic equations using approximate numerical solutions found by interpolation in trigonometric tables (see Geometric algebra and Algebraic and analytic geometry sections). Jamshīd al-Kāshī (1393-1449) provided the first explicit statement of the law of cosines in a form suitable for triangulation.


Integral calculus

Around 1000 AD, Al-Karaji, using mathematical induction, found a proof for the sum of integral cubes. The historian of mathematics, F. Woepcke, praised Al-Karaji for being "the first who introduced the theory of algebraic calculus." Shortly afterwards, Ibn al-Haytham (known as Alhazen in the West), an Iraqi mathematician working in Egypt, was the first mathematician to derive the formula for the sum of the fourth powers, and using an early proof by mathematical induction, he developed a method for determining the general formula for the sum of any integral powers. He used his result on sums of integral powers to perform an integration, in order to find the volume of a paraboloid. He was thus able to find the integrals for polynomials up to the fourth degree, and came close to finding a general formula for the integrals of any polynomials. This was fundamental to the development of infinitesimal and integral calculus. His results were repeated by the Moroccan mathematicians Abu-l-Hasan ibn Haydur (d. 1413) and Abu Abdallah ibn Ghazi (1437-1514), by Jamshīd al-Kāshī (c. 1380-1429) in The Calculator's Key, and by the Indian mathematicians of the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics in the 15th-16th centuries.

Differential calculus

In the 12th century, the Persian mathematician Sharaf al-Dīn al-Tūsī was the first to discover the derivative of cubic polynomials, an important result in differential calculus. His Treatise on Equations developed concepts related to differential calculus, such as the derivative function and the maxima and minima of curves, in order to solve cubic equations which may not have positive solutions. For example, in order to solve the equation \ x^3 + a = bx, al-Tusi finds the maximum point of the curve \ bx - x^3 = a. He uses the derivative of the function to find that the maximum point occurs at x = \sqrt{\frac{b}{3}}, and then finds the maximum value for y at 2(\frac{b}{3})^\frac{3}{2} by substituting x = \sqrt{\frac{b}{3}} back into \ y = bx - x^3. He finds that the equation \ bx - x^3 = a has a solution if a \le 2(\frac{b}{3})^\frac{3}{2}, and al-Tusi thus deduces that the equation has a positive root if D = \frac{b^3}{27} - \frac{a^2}{4} \ge 0, where D is the discriminant of the equation.

Applied Mathematics

Geometric Art and Architecture

Geometric artwork in the form of the Arabesque was not widely used in the Middle East or Mediterranean Basin until the golden age of Islam came into full bloom, when Arabesque became a common feature of Islamic art. Euclidean geometry as expounded on by Al-Abbās ibn Said al-Jawharī (ca. 800-860) in his Commentary on Euclid's Elements, the trigonometry of Aryabhata and Brahmagupta as elaborated on by Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (ca. 780-850), and the development of spherical geometry by Abū al-Wafā' al-Būzjānī (940–998) and spherical trigonometry by Al-Jayyani (989-1079) for determining the Qibla and times of Salah and Ramadan, all served as an impetus for the art form that was to become the Arabesque.

Recent discoveries have shown that geometrical quasicrystal patterns were first employed in the girih tiles found in medieval Islamic architecture dating back over five centuries ago. In 2007, Professor Peter Lu of Harvard University and Professor Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University published a paper in the journal Science suggesting that girih tilings possessed properties consistent with self-similar fractal quasicrystalline tilings such as the Penrose tilings, predating them by five centuries.

Mathematical Astronomy

An impetus behind mathematical astronomy came from Islamic religious observances, which presented a host of problems in mathematical astronomy, particularly in spherical geometry. In solving these religious problems the Islamic scholars went far beyond the Greek mathematical methods. For example, predicting just when the crescent moon would become visible is a special challenge to Islamic mathematical astronomers. Although Ptolemy's theory of the complex lunar motion was tolerably accurate near the time of the new moon, it specified the moon's path only with respect to the ecliptic. To predict the first visibility of the moon, it was necessary to describe its motion with respect to the horizon, and this problem demands fairly sophisticated spherical geometry. Finding the direction of Mecca and the time of Salah are the reasons which led to Muslims developing spherical geometry. Solving any of these problems involves finding the unknown sides or angles of a triangle on the celestial sphere from the known sides and angles. A way of finding the time of day, for example, is to construct a triangle whose vertices are the zenith, the north celestial pole, and the sun's position. The observer must know the altitude of the sun and that of the pole; the former can be observed, and the latter is equal to the observer's latitude. The time is then given by the angle at the intersection of the meridian (the arc through the zenith and the pole) and the sun's hour circle (the arc through the sun and the pole).

The Zij treatises were astronomical books that tabulated the parameters used for astronomical calculations of the positions of the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets. Their principal contributions to mathematical astronomy reflected improved trigonometrical, computational and observational techniques. The Zij books were extensive, and typically included materials on chronology, geographical latitudes and longitudes, star tables, trigonometrical functions, functions in spherical astronomy, the equation of time, planetary motions, computation of eclipses, tables for first visibility of the lunar crescent, astronomical and/or astrological computations, and instructions for astronomical calculations using epicyclic geocentric models. Some zījes go beyond this traditional content to explain or prove the theory or report the observations from which the tables were computed.

In observational astronomy, Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī's Zij al-Sindh (830) contains trigonometric tables for the movements of the sun, the moon and the five planets known at the time. Al-Farghani's A compendium of the science of stars (850) corrected Ptolemy's Almagest and gave revised values for the obliquity of the ecliptic, the precessional movement of the apogees of the sun and the moon, and the circumference of the earth.Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī (853-929) discovered that the direction of the Sun's eccentric was changing, and studied the times of the new moon, lengths for the solar year and sidereal year, prediction of eclipses, and the phenomenon of parallax. Around the same time, Yahya Ibn Abi Mansour wrote the Al-Zij al-Mumtahan, in which he completely revised the Almagest values. In the 10th century, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (Azophi) carried out observations on the stars and described their positions, magnitudes, brightness, and colour and drawings for each constellation in his Book of Fixed Stars (964). Ibn Yunus observed more than 10,000 entries for the sun's position for many years using a large astrolabe with a diameter of nearly 1.4 meters. His observations on eclipses were still used centuries later in Simon Newcomb's investigations on the motion of the moon, while his other observations inspired Laplace's Obliquity of the Ecliptic and Inequalities of Jupiter and Saturn's.

In the late 10th century, Abu-Mahmud al-Khujandi accurately computed the axial tilt to be 23°32'19" (23.53°), which was a significant improvement over the Greek and Indian estimates of 23°51'20" (23.86°) and 24°, and still very close to the modern measurement of 23°26' (23.44°). In 1006, the Egyptian astronomer Ali ibn Ridwan observed SN 1006, the brightest supernova in recorded history, and left a detailed description of the temporary star. He says that the object was two to three times as large as the disc of Venus and about one-quarter the brightness of the Moon, and that the star was low on the southern horizon. In 1031, al-Biruni's Canon Mas’udicus introduced the mathematical technique of analysing the acceleration of the planets, and first states that the motions of the solar apogee and the precession are not identical. Al-Biruni also discovered that the distance between the Earth and the Sun is larger than Ptolemy's estimate, on the basis that Ptolemy disregarded annular eclipses.

During the "Maragha Revolution" of the 13th and 14th centuries, Muslim astronomers realized that astronomy should aim to describe the behavior of physical bodies in mathematical language, and should not remain a mathematical hypothesis, which would only save the phenomena. The Maragha astronomers also realized that the Aristotelian view of motion in the universe being only circular or linear was not true, as the Tusi-couple showed that linear motion could also be produced by applying circular motions only. Unlike the ancient Greek and Hellenistic astronomers who were not concerned with the coherence between the mathematical and physical principles of a planetary theory, Islamic astronomers insisted on the need to match the mathematics with the real world surrounding them which gradually evolved from a reality based on Aristotelian physics to one based on an empirical and mathematical physics after the work of Ibn al-Shatir. The Maragha Revolution was thus characterized by a shift away from the philosophical foundations of Aristotelian cosmology and Ptolemaic astronomy and towards a greater emphasis on the empirical observation and mathematization of astronomy and of nature in general, as exemplified in the works of Ibn al-Shatir, Ali Qushji, al-Birjandi and al-Khafri. In particular, Ibn al-Shatir's geocentric model was mathematically identical to the later heliocentric Copernical model.

Mathematical geography and geodesy

The Muslim scholars, who held to the spherical Earth theory, used it in an impeccably Islamic manner, to calculate the distance and direction from any given point on the earth to Mecca. This determined the Qibla, or Muslim direction of prayer. Muslim mathematicians developed spherical trigonometry which was used in these calculations.

Around 830, Caliph al-Ma'mun commissioned a group of astronomers to measure the distance from Tadmur (Palmyra) to al-Raqqah, in modern Syria. They found the cities to be separated by one degree of latitude and the distance between them to be 66 2/3 miles and thus calculated the Earth's circumference to be 24,000 miles. Another estimate given by Al-Farghānī was 56 2/3 Arabic miles per degree, which corresponds to 111.8 km per degree and a circumference of 40,248 km, very close to the currently modern values of 111.3 km per degree and 40,068 km circumference, respectively.

In mathematical geography, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, around 1025, was the first to describe a polar equi-azimuthal equidistant projection of the celestial sphere. He was also regarded as the most skilled when it came to mapping cities and measuring the distances between them, which he did for many cities in the Middle East and western Indian subcontinent. He often combined astronomical readings and mathematical equations, in order to develop methods of pin-pointing locations by recording degrees of latitude and longitude. He also developed similar techniques when it came to measuring the heights of mountains, depths of valleys, and expanse of the horizon, in The Chronology of the Ancient Nations. He also discussed human geography and the planetary habitability of the Earth. He hypothesized that roughly a quarter of the Earth's surface is habitable by humans, and also argued that the shores of Asia and Europe were "separated by a vast sea, too dark and dense to navigate and too risky to try" in reference to the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī is considered the father of geodesy for his important contributions to the field, along with his significant contributions to geography and geology. At the age of 17, al-Biruni calculated the latitude of Kath, Khwarazm, using the maximum altitude of the Sun. Al-Biruni also solved a complex geodesic equation in order to accurately compute the Earth's circumference, which were close to modern values of the Earth's circumference. His estimate of 6,339.9 km for the Earth radius was only 16.8 km less than the modern value of 6,356.7 km. In contrast to his predecessors who measured the Earth's circumference by sighting the Sun simultaneously from two different locations, al-Biruni developed a new method of using trigonometric calculations based on the angle between a plain and mountain top which yielded more accurate measurements of the Earth's circumference and made it possible for it to be measured by a single person from a single location.

Mathematical physics

Ibn al-Haytham's work on geometric optics, particularly catoptrics, in "Book V" of the Book of Optics (1021) contains the important mathematical problem known as "Alhazen's problem" (Alhazen is the Latinized name of Ibn al-Haytham). It comprises drawing lines from two points in the plane of a circle meeting at a point on the circumference and making equal angles with the normal at that point. This leads to an equation of the fourth degree. This eventually led Ibn al-Haytham to derive the earliest formula for the sum of the fourth powers, and using an early proof by mathematical induction, he developed a method for determining the general formula for the sum of any integral powers, which was fundamental to the development of infinitesimal and integral calculus. Ibn al-Haytham eventually solved "Alhazen's problem" using conic sections and a geometric proof, but Alhazen's problem remained influential in Europe, when later mathematicians such as Christiaan Huygens, James Gregory, Guillaume de l'Hôpital, Isaac Barrow, and many others, attempted to find an algebraic solution to the problem, using various methods, including analytic methods of geometry and derivation by complex numbers. Mathematicians were not able to find an algebraic solution to the problem until the end of the 20th century.

Ibn al-Haytham also produced tables of corresponding angles of incidence and refraction of light passing from one medium to another show how closely he had approached discovering the law of constancy of ratio of sines, later attributed to Snell. He also correctly accounted for twilight being due to atmospheric refraction, estimating the Sun's depression to be 19 degrees below the horizon during the commencement of the phenomenon in the mornings or at its termination in the evenings.

Ibn al-Haytham systematically endeavoured to mathematize physics in the context of his experimental research and controlled testing, which was oriented by geometric models of the structural mathematical principles that governed physical phenomena, particularly in relation to the explication of the behaviour and nature of vision and light.[126] Ibn al-Haytham also advanced in his Discourse on Place (Qawl fi al-makan) a geometrical understanding of place as mathematical space that is akin to the 17th century conceptions of extensio by Descartes and analysis situs by Leibniz. Ibn al-Haytham established his geometrical thesis about place as space in the context of his mathematical refutation of the Aristotelian physical definition of topos as a boundary surface of a containing body (as argued in Book delta [IV] of Aristotle's Physics).

Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (973-1048), and later al-Khazini (fl. 1115-1130), were the first to apply experimental scientific methods to the statics and dynamics fields of mechanics, particularly for determining specific weights, such as those based on the theory of balances and weighing. Muslim physicists applied the mathematical theories of ratios and infinitesimal techniques, and introduced algebraic and fine calculation techniques into the field of statics.

Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ma'udh, who lived in Al-Andalus during the second half of the 11th century, wrote a work on optics later translated into Latin as Liber de crepisculis, which was mistakenly attributed to Alhazen. This was a "short work containing an estimation of the angle of depression of the sun at the beginning of the morning twilight and at the end of the evening twilight, and an attempt to calculate on the basis of this and other data the height of the atmospheric moisture responsible for the refraction of the sun's rays." Through his experiments, he obtained the accurate value of 18°, which comes close to the modern value.

In 1574, Taqi al-Din estimated that the stars are millions of kilometres away from the Earth and that the speed of light is constant, that if light had come from the eye, it would take too long for light "to travel to the star and come back to the eye. But this is not the case, since we see the star as soon as we open our eyes. Therefore the light must emerge from the object not from the eyes."

Other fields


In the 9th century, al-Kindi was a pioneer in cryptanalysis and cryptology. He gave the first known recorded explanation of cryptanalysis in A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages. In particular, he is credited with developing the frequency analysis method whereby variations in the frequency of the occurrence of letters could be analyzed and exploited to break ciphers (i.e. crypanalysis by frequency analysis). This was detailed in a text recently rediscovered in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul, A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages, which also covers methods of cryptanalysis, encipherments, cryptanalysis of certain encipherments, and statistical analysis of letters and letter combinations in Arabic. Al-Kindi also had knowledge of polyalphabetic ciphers centuries before Leon Battista Alberti. Al-Kindi's book also introduced the classification of ciphers, developed Arabic phonetics and syntax, and described the use of several statistical techniques for cryptoanalysis. This book apparently antedates other cryptology references by several centuries, and it also predates writings on probability and statistics by Pascal and Fermat by nearly eight centuries.

Ahmad al-Qalqashandi (1355-1418) wrote the Subh al-a 'sha, a 14-volume encyclopedia which included a section on cryptology. This information was attributed to Taj ad-Din Ali ibn ad-Duraihim ben Muhammad ath-Tha 'alibi al-Mausili who lived from 1312 to 1361, but whose writings on cryptology have been lost. The list of ciphers in this work included both substitution and transposition, and for the first time, a cipher with multiple substitutions for each plaintext letter. Also traced to Ibn al-Duraihim is an exposition on and worked example of cryptanalysis, including the use of tables of letter frequencies and sets of letters which can not occur together in one word.

Mathematical Induction

The first known proof by mathematical induction was introduced in the al-Fakhri written by Al-Karaji around 1000 AD, who used it to prove arithmetic sequences such as the binomial theorem, Pascal's triangle, and the sum formula for integral cubes. His proof was the first to make use of the two basic components of an inductive proof, "namely the truth of the statement for n = 1 (1 = 13) and the deriving of the truth for n = k from that of n = k - 1."

Shortly afterwards, Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) used the inductive method to prove the sum of fourth powers, and by extension, the sum of any integral powers, which was an important result in integral calculus. He only stated it for particular integers, but his proof for those integers was by induction and generalizable.

Ibn Yahyā al-Maghribī al-Samaw'al came closest to a modern proof by mathematical induction in pre-modern times, which he used to extend the proof of the binomial theorem and Pascal's triangle previously given by al-Karaji. Al-Samaw'al's inductive argument was only a short step from the full inductive proof of the general binomial theorem.

Arabic manuscript from the 12th century depicting the Brethren of Purity.

Medieval European Mathematics

Medieval European interest in mathematics was driven by concerns quite different from those of modern mathematicians. One driving element was the belief that mathematics provided the key to understanding the created order of nature, frequently justified by Plato's Timaeus and the apocryphal biblical passage (in the Book of Wisdom) that God had ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight

Early Middle Ages

Boethius provided a place for mathematics in the curriculum when he coined the term quadrivium to describe the study of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. He wrote De institutione arithmetica, a free translation from the Greek of Nicomachus's Introduction to Arithmetic; De institutione musica, also derived from Greek sources; and a series of excerpts from Euclid's Elements. His works were theoretical, rather than practical, and were the basis of mathematical study until the recovery of Greek and Arabic mathematical works.


In the 12th century, European scholars traveled to Spain and Sicily seeking scientific Arabic texts, including al-Khwarizmi's The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing, translated into Latin by Robert of Chester, and the complete text of Euclid's Elements, translated in various versions by Adelard of Bath, Herman of Carinthia, and Gerard of Cremona.

These new sources sparked a renewal of mathematics. Fibonacci, writing in the Liber Abaci, in 1202 and updated in 1254, produced the first significant mathematics in Europe since the time of Eratosthenes, a gap of more than a thousand years. The work introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe, and discussed many other mathematical problems.

The fourteenth century saw the development of new mathematical concepts to investigate a wide range of problems. One important contribution was development of mathematics of local motion.

Thomas Bradwardine proposed that speed (V) increases in arithmetic proportion as the ratio of force (F) to resistance (R) increases in geometric proportion. Bradwardine expressed this by a series of specific examples, but although the logarithm had not yet been conceived, we can express his conclusion anachronistically by writing: V = log (F/R). Bradwardine's analysis is an example of transferring a mathematical technique used by al-Kindi and Arnald of Villanova to quantify the nature of compound medicines to a different physical problem.

One of the 14th-century Oxford Calculators, William Heytesbury, lacking differential calculus and the concept of limits, proposed to measure instantaneous speed "by the path that would be described by [a body] if... it were moved uniformly at the same degree of speed with which it is moved in that given instant".

Heytesbury and others mathematically determined the distance covered by a body undergoing uniformly accelerated motion (today solved by integration), stating that "a moving body uniformly acquiring or losing that increment [of speed] will traverse in some given time a [distance] completely equal to that which it would traverse if it were moving continuously through the same time with the mean degree [of speed]".

Nicole Oresme at the University of Paris and the Italian Giovanni di Casali independently provided graphical demonstrations of this relationship, asserting that the area under the line depicting the constant acceleration, represented the total distance traveled. In a later mathematical commentary on Euclid's Elements, Oresme made a more detailed general analysis in which he demonstrated that a body will acquire in each successive increment of time an increment of any quality that increases as the odd numbers. Since Euclid had demonstrated the sum of the odd numbers are the square numbers, the total quality acquired by the body increases as the square of the time.

Early modern European mathematics

The development of mathematics and accounting was intertwined during the Renaissance. While there is no direct relationship between algebra and accounting, the teaching of the subjects and the books published often intended for the children of merchants who were sent to reckoning schools (in Flanders and Germany) or abacus schools (known as abbaco in Italy), where they learned the skills useful for trade and commerce. There is probably no need for algebra in performing bookkeeping operations, but for complex bartering operations or the calculation of compound interest, a basic knowledge of arithmetic was mandatory and knowledge of algebra was very useful.

Luca Pacioli's "Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità" (Italian: "Review of Arithmetic, Geometry, Ratio and Proportion") was first printed and published in Venice in 1494. It included a 27-page treatise on bookkeeping, "Particularis de Computis et Scripturis" (Italian: "Details of Calculation and Recording"). It was written primarily for, and sold mainly to, merchants who used the book as a reference text, as a source of pleasure from the mathematical puzzles it contained, and to aid the education of their sons. In Summa Arithmetica, Pacioli introduced symbols for plus and minus for the first time in a printed book, symbols that became standard notation in Italian Renaissance mathematics. Summa Arithmetica was also the first known book printed in Italy to contain algebra.

Driven by the demands of navigation and the growing need for accurate maps of large areas, trigonometry grew to be a major branch of mathematics. Bartholomaeus Pitiscus was the first to use the word, publishing his Trigonometria in 1595. Regiomontanus's table of sines and cosines was published in 1533.

17th century

The 17th century saw an unprecedented explosion of mathematical and scientific ideas across Europe. Galileo, an Italian, observed the moons of Jupiter in orbit about that planet, using a telescope based on a toy imported from Holland. Tycho Brahe, a Dane, had gathered an enormous quantity of mathematical data describing the positions of the planets in the sky. His student, Johannes Kepler, a German, began to work with this data. In part because he wanted to help Kepler in his calculations, John Napier, in Scotland, was the first to investigate natural logarithms. Kepler succeeded in formulating mathematical laws of planetary motion. The analytic geometry developed by René Descartes (1596–1650), a French mathematician and philosopher, allowed those orbits to be plotted on a graph, in Cartesian coordinates. Simon Stevin (1585) created the basis for modern decimal notation capable of describing all numbers, whether rational or irrational.

Building on earlier work by many predecessors, Isaac Newton, an Englishman, discovered the laws of physics explaining Kepler's Laws, and brought together the concepts now known as infinitesimal calculus. Independently, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, in Germany, developed calculus and much of the calculus notation still in use today. Science and mathematics had become an international endeavor, which would soon spread over the entire world.

In addition to the application of mathematics to the studies of the heavens, applied mathematics began to expand into new areas, with the correspondence of Pierre de Fermat and Blaise Pascal. Pascal and Fermat set the groundwork for the investigations of probability theory and the corresponding rules of combinatorics in their discussions over a game of gambling. Pascal, with his wager, attempted to use the newly developing probability theory to argue for a life devoted to religion, on the grounds that even if the probability of success was small, the rewards were infinite. In some sense, this foreshadowed the development of utility theory in the 18th–19th century.

18th century

The most influential mathematician of the 1700s was arguably Leonhard Euler. His contributions range from founding the study of graph theory with the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem to standardizing many modern mathematical terms and notations. For example, he named the square root of minus 1 with the symbol i, and he popularized the use of the Greek letter π to stand for the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. He made numerous contributions to the study of topology, graph theory, calculus, combinatorics, and complex analysis, as evidenced by the multitude of theorems and notations named for him.

Other important European mathematicians of the 18th century included Joseph Louis Lagrange, who did pioneering work in number theory, algebra, differential calculus, and the calculus of variations, and Laplace who, in the age of Napoleon did important work on the foundations of celestial mechanics and on statistics.

19th century

Throughout the 19th century mathematics became increasingly abstract. In the 19th century lived Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855). Leaving aside his many contributions to science, in pure mathematics he did revolutionary work on functions of complex variables, in geometry, and on the convergence of series. He gave the first satisfactory proofs of the fundamental theorem of algebra and of the quadratic reciprocity law.

This century saw the development of the two forms of non-Euclidean geometry, where the parallel postulate of Euclidean geometry no longer holds. The Russian mathematician Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky and his rival, the Hungarian mathematician Janos Bolyai, independently defined and studied hyperbolic geometry, where uniqueness of parallels no longer holds. In this geometry the sum of angles in a triangle add up to less than 180°. Elliptic geometry was developed later in the 19th century by the German mathematician Bernhard Riemann; here no parallel can be found and the angles in a triangle add up to more than 180°. Riemann also developed Riemannian geometry, which unifies and vastly generalizes the three types of geometry, and he defined the concept of a manifold, which generalize the ideas of curves and surfaces.

The 19th century saw the beginning of a great deal of abstract algebra. Hermann Grassmann in Germany gave a first version of vector spaces, William Rowan Hamilton in Ireland developed noncommutative algebra. The British mathematician George Boole devised an algebra that soon evolved into what is now called Boolean algebra, in which the only numbers were 0 and 1 and in which, 1 + 1 = 1. Boolean algebra is the starting point of mathematical logic and has important applications in computer science.

Also, for the first time, the limits of mathematics were explored. Niels Henrik Abel, a Norwegian, and Évariste Galois, a Frenchman, proved that there is no general algebraic method for solving polynomial equations of degree greater than four. Other 19th century mathematicians utilized this in their proofs that straightedge and compass alone are not sufficient to trisect an arbitrary angle, to construct the side of a cube twice the volume of a given cube, nor to construct a square equal in area to a given circle. Mathematicians had vainly attempted to solve all of these problems since the time of the ancient Greeks.

Abel and Galois's investigations into the solutions of various polynomial equations laid the groundwork for further developments of group theory, and the associated fields of abstract algebra. In the 20th century physicists and other scientists have seen group theory as the ideal way to study symmetry.

In the later 19th century, Georg Cantor established the first foundations of set theory, which enabled the rigorous treatment of the notion of infinity and has become the common language of nearly all mathematics. Cantor's set theory, and the rise of mathematical logic in the hands of Peano, L. E. J. Brouwer, David Hilbert, Bertrand Russell, and A.N. Whitehead, initiated a long running debate on the foundations of mathematics.

The 19th century saw the founding of a number of national mathematical societies: the London Mathematical Society in 1865, the Société Mathématique de France in 1872, the Circolo Mathematico di Palermo in 1884, the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in 1883, and the American Mathematical Society in 1888. The first international, special-interest society, the Quaternion Society, was formed in 1899, in the context of a vector controversy.

20th century

The 20th century saw mathematics become a major profession. Every year, thousands of new Ph.D.s in mathematics are awarded, and jobs are available in both teaching and industry. In earlier centuries, there were few creative mathematicians in the world at any one time.

As in most areas of study, the explosion of knowledge in the scientific age has led to specialization: by the end of the century there were hundreds of specialized areas in mathematics and the Mathematics Subject Classification was dozens of pages long[87]. More and more mathematical journals were published and, by the end of the century, the development of the world wide web led to online publishing.

In a 1900 speech to the International Congress of Mathematicians, David Hilbert set out a list of 23 unsolved problems in mathematics. These problems, spanning many areas of mathematics, formed a central focus for much of 20th century mathematics. Today, 10 have been solved, 7 are partially solved, and 2 are still open. The remaining 4 are too loosely formulated to be stated as solved or not.

Notable historical conjectures were finally proved. In 1976, Wolfgang Haken and Kenneth Appel used a computer to prove the four color theorem. Andrew Wiles, building on the work of others, proved Fermat's Last Theorem in 1995. Paul Cohen and Kurt Gödel proved that the continuum hypothesis is independent of (could neither be proved nor disproved from) the standard axioms of set theory. In 1998 Thomas Callister Hales proved the Kepler conjecture.

Mathematical collaborations of unprecedented size and scope took place. An example is the classification of finite simple groups (also called the "enormous theorem"), whose proof between 1955 and 1983 required 500-odd journal articles by about 100 authors, and filling tens of thousands of pages. A group of French mathematicians, including Jean Dieudonné and André Weil, publishing under the pseudonym "Nicolas Bourbaki," attempted to exposit all of known mathematics as a coherent rigorous whole. The resulting several dozen volumes has had a controversial influence on mathematical education.

Differential geometry came into its own when Einstein used it in general relativity. Entire new areas of mathematics such as mathematical logic, topology, and John von Neumann's game theory changed the kinds of questions that could be answered by mathematical methods. All kinds of structures were abstracted using axioms and given names like metric spaces, topological spaces etc. As mathematicians do, the concept of an abstract structure was itself abstracted and led to category theory. Grothendieck and Serre recast algebraic geometry using sheaf theory. Large advances were made in the qualitative study of dynamical systems that Poincaré had began in the 1890s. Measure theory was developed in the late 19th and early 20th century. Applications of measures include the Lebesgue integral, Kolmogorov's axiomatisation of probability theory, and ergodic theory. Knot theory greatly expanded. Quantum mechanics led to the deveopment of functional analysis. Other new areas include , Laurent Schwarz's distribution theory, fixed point theory, singularity theory and René Thom's catastrophe theory, model theory, and Mandelbrot's fractals.

The development and continual improvement of computers, at first mechanical analog machines and then digital electronic machines, allowed industry to deal with larger and larger amounts of data to facilitate mass production and distribution and communication, and new areas of mathematics were developed to deal with this: Alan Turing's computability theory; complexity theory; Claude Shannon's information theory; signal processing; data analysis; optimization and other areas of operations research. In the preceding centuries much mathematical focus was on calculus and continuous functions, but the rise of computing and communication networks led to an increasing importance of discrete concepts and the expansion of combinatorics including graph theory. The speed and data processing abilities of computers also enabled the handling of mathematical problems that were too time-consuming to deal with by pencil and paper calculations, leading to areas such as numerical analysis and symbolic computation. Some of the most important methods and algorithms discovered in the 20th century are: the simplex algorithm, the Fast Fourier Transform and the Kalman filter.

At the same time, deep insights were made about the limitations to mathematics. In 1929 and 1930, it was proved the truth or falsity of all statements formulated about the natural numbers plus one of addition and multiplication, was decidable, i.e. could be determined by algorithm. In 1931, Kurt Gödel found that this was not the case for the natural numbers plus both addition and multiplication; this system, known as Peano arithmetic, was in fact incompletable. (Peano arithmetic is adequate for a good deal of number theory, including the notion of prime number.) A consequence of Gödel's two incompleteness theorems is that in any mathematical system that includes Peano arithmetic (including all of analysis and geometry), truth necessarily outruns proof, i.e. there are true statements that cannot be proved within the system. Hence mathematics cannot be reduced to mathematical logic, and David Hilbert's dream of making all of mathematics complete and consistent died.

One of the more colorful figures in 20th century mathematics was Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan (1887–1920) who, despite being largely self-educated, conjectured or proved over 3000 theorems, including properties of highly composite numbers, the partition function and its asymptotics, and mock theta functions. He also made major investigations in the areas of gamma functions, modular forms, divergent series, hypergeometric series and prime number theory.

Paul Erdős published more papers than any other mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators. Mathematicians have a game equivalent to the Kevin Bacon Game, which leads to the Erdős number of a mathematician. This describes the "collaborative distance" between a person and Paul Erdős, as measured by joint authorship of mathematical papers.

21st century

In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute announced the Millennium Prize Problems, and in 2003 the Poincaré conjecture was solved by Grigori Perelman.

Most mathematical journals now have online versions as well as print versions, and many online-only journals are launched. There is an increasing drive towards open access publishing, first popularized by the arXiv.

Future of Mathematics

There are many observable trends in mathematics, the most notable being that the subject is growing ever larger, computers are ever more important and powerful, the application of mathematics to bioinformatics is rapidly expanding, the volume of data to be analyzed being produced by science and industry, facilitated by computers, is explosively expanding...

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